Fatigue, migraines, loss of appetite and an immune system which betrayed my, previously celebrated, record of minimal sick days. It was official. Burnout had caught me in its exhaustive clutch.
Anxiety which I previously only felt in awkward social situations crept into other areas of my life and contaminated spaces where I usually had confidence, and my levels of self-doubt rose to an all time high, taking my stress levels along with it.
What a positive way to enter this blog post, eh!
But working in a job where I bent over backwards to ensure that everything ran smoothly, only to be met with belittling comments in both passing and meetings in place of thanks, had worn me down. My mind told me to leave after three months, yet I stayed for a year because I wanted to see through the rebrand that I had ignited I’m an idiot.
But eventually I left that role and the very next day I embarked upon a road trip around France before I came back and moved onto work-pastures new. I jumped straight in at the deep end, as I always do, and got stuck in with a website redesign, a complete content rewrite (on an industry I knew next-to-nothing about) and organised a charity event (which I had never done before) and all of this took place whilst I was buying and destroying (or “renovating” as it’s more commonly known) my first property.
So it’s fair to say that come September: I was exhausted.
My life revolved around checking things off a to-do list. There was no spontaneity and my days become filled with monotonous routine, to the point that I would get home at 6:30pm and be asleep by 8:30pm. The only thing that kept me awake during daylight hours was an excessive amount of coffee. This wasn’t how I wanted to live my life, which is why when September rolled around I couldn’t have been more ready for a trip.
(And the end of this pity party disguised as a post introduction).
You would have seen me write about this coastal Portuguese beauty if you hung around these parts in 2015, but two years after my first visit I was back again, armed with family, sun cream and a Kindle full of books. I didn’t have any plans whatsoever. All I knew is that I was back and there was gelato and a much-needed dose of warm coastal air waiting for me.
Yet despite my excitement in going away, when we got to the villa I literally spent days unable to move.
Gone was my sense of adventure. Gone was my distaste for sunbathing and my hate of doing nothing.
I didn’t feel like doing anything which, considering my favourite gelato shop was two minutes down the road, was baffling. And so I withdrew from all thoughts and put the possibility of day trips and explorations on the back burner. I declined invites to water parks (and jeez do I love a water park) and I indulged in utter laziness. I swam, (so I guess not complete laziness), I rested, I sunbathed, I read. I did nothing and it made me realise how much I had needed did that, and how damaging it had been for me to be so continuously busy.
I’ve seen an abundance of blog posts lately where people address how obsessed everyone has become with being ‘busy’ and I see so many people use their lack of time as a symbol of status. But until this moment I had never been one of those people. I always took time to ensure I had more time to myself then I did with other people and I made sure that I put my emotional well-being first. So it was a bit of a shock to discover that I’d tipped the scales in the wrong direction because I worked so hard to avoid becoming this person again, yet three years later I was back in the same position: burnt out and bummed about it.
It turns out that assuming burnout only exists if you are the busiest of persons in all the land, is a bit silly. Because I’ve started to realise that burnout doesn’t just come when you work extortionate amounts of hours. It comes when you stop practicing self-care and taking time for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you deplete your physical or your emotional stock, once it’s gone the results are the same. You a shadow of who you used to be. Still the same person, just a little bit less so. Less happy. Less optimistic. Less energetic. Less ‘You’. Or at least that’s what happened with me anyway.
Last year I published 22 blog posts. TWENTY TWO. In a year where I had more to say than ever, I said less. Because I just couldn’t be bothered. Part of me wants to hide behind the excuse of being busy, but truth be told it wasn’t the lack of time – it was the lack of energy. I just didn’t have the energy to be me, and it stayed that way until four and a half days into my trip to Portugal.
After four days of early nights, late mornings and pretending the world outside of the villa didn’t exist, I felt happiness returning. Not the neutral feeling that I accepted as happiness just because it wasn’t sadness, but actual joy.
I had honestly never been more happy to discover that I wasn’t tired of life, I was just tired. Especially after months of feeling like there was something wrong with me. And so on day four and a half, armed with a belly full of breakfast, I went for a walk. I walked aimlessly along Carvoeiro’s coastline nipping up and down the rock formations, stopping only to admire the view or rehydrate (it was hella hot). I got a healthy dose of sea breeze and Vitamin D and by the time it came for me to sleep, my mind was racing. But for the first time in a long time – I felt optimistic. I could picture my future again. I cared.
That was back in September and it’s only now, in January 2018, that I actually feel like I’m almost on the other side. I went to sleep that night determined to recover and stop myself from falling into old patterns. The only difference was that unlike previous times when I dangled on the edge, this time I didn’t notice until it was too late and I wasn’t able to pull myself back so quickly. I don’t know what damages the soul to the point of physical deflation, all I know is that it’s not a nice experience.
So, because I don’t want anybody to feel this way and because those those who can’t
follow their own advice do, teach, I thought I’d put together the following;
Top Tips For Recovering From Burnout:
#1: Realise that there’s not an instant cure
It took 7 months for me to hit crisis level and it wasn’t until I did that I realised that I was suffering from burnout. It then took another four and a half months to get back to operational. I’d say I’m about 80% of the way there and closing fast, but still. It takes time and there’s no instant cure, all you can do is take steps to make it better.
#2: Identify what’s causing you to feel that way
For me it wasn’t how busy life got, I can deal with that. It’s that I neglected to give myself what I needed when things got busy. If you find that life is working for you right now, know that you can make it better.
It takes time but making small changes now can help you avoid big impacts further down the line.
#3: Lean In
Talk to family or friends when you need support. Cancel plans when you need to and be honest about your reasons why (your friends will understand). Stay in when you’d rather do something in your comfort zone than outside it and know that although sometimes you feel it, you’re not alone.
Emotionally, physically or spiritually. Whatever you need to reenergise.
#5: Look after yourself.
It sounds obvious but look after yourself and make time for the things that make you, you. Sometimes when we find that we’re running low on zest for life we stop doing the things we love to conserve energy. But this approach is so problematic as stopping the things you love, often increases the rate in which your zest for life decreases. So take time for you. Whether it’s spent on reading, writing, running, partying, sleeping or taking a holiday – don’t stop doing the things you enjoy.