I was suffering from burnout at the age of twenty-four.
Looking back, it wasn’t a matter of if I would run into that brick wall, but when.
My father-in-law had passed away a few months earlier and his loss had hit us all hard. Being the only in-law made me feel not just responsible for the well-being of my boyfriend at the time, but for his mother and brother as well. At work, my boss had been transferred and I was doing most of her work on top of my own. Being highly perfectionistic and having a huge sense of responsibility ensured I was pulling more than my weight there as well. Combined with a traffic-packed commute, playing house for the first time, and suffering from hypoglycemia I didn’t discover until years later at my naturopath, it was disaster waiting to happen. And happen it did.
My burnout taught me a lot. I can’t say I’m glad it happened, but I am grateful for the insights that intense period brought me and the changes it forced me to make in my life and the way I lived it.
If you haven’t experienced a burnout you can’t really understand what it’s like. I got worse before I got better. When I stopped pushing through and no longer functioned on adrenaline, I started to feel how tired I truly was.
TRUTH: When you’re slowly burning out, you don’t see it coming. You don’t realize what’s truly happening; it’s such a gradual process. You get used to the changes in your body, the lowering of your energy, the sneaky increase in brain fog.
I know I thought I was doing fine up until the point I wasn’t. Though my parents had warned me, I had blatantly ignored their concerns. Mostly because I didn’t see the problem. I still got lots done—I was doing fine. Right?
I want you to be able to recognize the early signs of a burnout so you can hit the brakes before you teeter across the edge and damage your body. Before you deplete your reserve to the point you’ll need a lot of time to recharge and recover.
I also know some of you will ignore this. Perhaps because you have to hit the wall head first before you’re ready to make changes. Maybe because you think you’re indestructible or because you believe you have no other option than to keep going. If that’s you, please give yourself the courtesy of at least taking a break long enough to wonder whether you are doing too much for too long already.
Anyway, I promised you the first signs of burnout. Here we go.
- When you wake up you feel sluggish, as if you are wading through mud.
- You regularly catch a cold and it takes a long time for it to go away.
- You feel like you are always tired and forever catching up.
- At the end of the day or week you often experience a headache.
- There are moments when you suddenly feel drained, as if someone removed your battery.
- You often get ill on vacation.
- You find it hard to stay focused and to concentrate.
- You are forgetting things or experiencing short-term memory dysfunction.
- You have “mind-fog” that slows you down.
- You have trouble falling asleep because you keep thinking about all the things you still need to do or should have done differently.
- You experience mood swings and can get angry for no apparent reason.
- You are easily irritated.
- You cry more easily than usual.
- You sometimes know you are being unreasonable but you can’t seem to help yourself (and afterwards you feel bad for being such a b*tch).
- You find it more difficult than usual to get grounded and centered.
- Your energy feels heavy.
This is an abbreviated version of the list of signs I share in my book Radiant.
If any of these signs sound familiar, it means you are losing energy you do not need to lose. These signs also mean you are putting a strain on your physical body. Which is acceptable for a short period, but if you put too much stress on your body for too long, you might end up with chronic problems.
If you recognize more than three signs on this list, consider this your wake-up call! It is time to start listening to your body and rearrange your priorities. Your health demands it.
A good place to start to get a grip on your energy and how you feel is my book Radiant: How to Have All the Energy You Need to Live a Life You Love.
Have a wonderfilled day full of energy!
PS Radiant is filled with practical tips to help you prevent or recover from burnout and gain more energy so you can live a happier, healthier and fuller life!