It wasn't as if I woke up one day and no longer felt well. I know this was a long and drawn out process getting to the point of a breakdown. I had been working, juggling personal commitments, and trying to be at every networking event or conference to find that next opportunity.
My wallet was getting drained and so was I.
It was no surprise that one day my upper right side of my body began seething with pain. I had no health insurance at the time, so I had to make a 50/50 shot decision of whether it was benign or whether my organs were shutting down. Alas, it was Shingles, but still, Shingles at my age? My body was yelling "Help!"
My late-night work sessions, work travel, and efforts at creating a 100% perfect, error-free career came to a halt. I started having night terrors, I couldn't focus, I began to question whether I wanted to be on the planet anymore.
What was happening to me?
Basically, I, like many others before me, did not listen to my body and mind. I kept moving full speed ahead without thinking of the consequences. Mindfulness was not in my vocabulary during this time.
We romanticize working late into the night, pulling in those extra hours, and making that extra money, but for what? If you are unhealthy because you let your body down, then that extra money won't mean much.
I am not saying do not strive for greatness, but greatness should be greatness in work and in self, in terms of self-love, self-care, and self-compassion. Knowing your limits, what serves you, and what feels right for you are all factors in greatness, not how much you can put on your plate before you crash and burn.
We cannot continue to harm our mind, body, and soul, just to fall into the rat race. We need to love ourselves more and be able to say, "Not today," or "I need to take some time for me," or even “Realistically, this will take ____ to complete,” when handed an unreasonable due date for work.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
Take a breather, make a cup of tea, turn off the notifications, and evaluate what you are doing. If work does not feel right, begin to figure out if you need a change in your job. If relationships do not feel right, evaluate if the effort is worth the aggravation and sadness. If life, in general, doesn’t feel right, take the time to be mindful of what no longer serves you and take inventory of the small things that do make you smile -- focus on those things.
It may not happen right away but listen to your body when things start to not feel right.
Oh, as for me? Life after burnout meant letting go of all unneeded stress, having to say no to work commitments (even at the loss of some cash), and seeking professional help. This did not take days, or even weeks, this took months, and I am still sifting through the remnants of my burnout, but I have made it to another point where I can reflect and help others.
If you are feeling burned out, here’s what I suggest:
Don't be afraid to back away from plans
Create small goals in your daily life to celebrate
Eliminate the extra baggage in your life that does not serve you
Seek out those you know will help you and love you through good and bad times
Don't let pride or fear hold you back from getting help