Feeling A Bit Burnt Out Lately?
The struggles of “Autumn Burnout” and What can you do about it?
Have you been feeling a bit burned out lately?
If the answer is yes, that’s okay, you’re not alone. I too have been feeling a bit burned out recently and so have many people I see and follow…
In this article I’m going to talk about the idea of “Autumn Burnout'' and what we can do about it.
I have noticed in myself over the years that I tend to feel burnt out or really burn out on two occasions during the year: in the autumn and late spring/beginning of summer.
I first burned out in November of 2017 and it was one of the worst experiences of my life until then - and probably up until now. And then something similar happened last year.
In November 2021 I had my first major burnout episode in almost 4 years. It was no joke: It was almost as challenging as the first burnout in 2017, but because I had some experience of what burnout feels like and what I can do to deal with it, I was a bit less “traumatic” and challenging and I was able to better deal with it and come out of it quicker. But it still left some long-term consequences, some of which I still feel today.
I wrote about this experience in the article below:
The Autumn Burnout
There’s something to this transition period from summer to autumn and then from autumn to winter.
Maybe it’s the shock to the system that comes with season changes - the so-called Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Maybe it’s the increased pressures and demands that come after a more relaxing summer time.
Maybe it’s the friction and fight in us. Our biology wants us to follow the natural flow of seasons and calm down and relax but for us autumn is time to be productive after the summer of recharging and relaxing.
But it could also be our personality and our professional endeavor. I see it in myself and other “solopreneurs”, people with great purpose and people who tend to give it their best all the time: we give so much all the time that we remain empty, exhausted and burnt out.
All of these aspects create tension in us, which causes us to be stressed and put us in that sympathetic, fight or flight mode and state. And if we ignore the warning signs and we keep going, it eventually causes us to burn out.
My Struggles with “Autumn Burnout”
There are a lot of symptoms and struggles that burnout brings - I've talked about them in my previous articles here on Conquering Burnout, but in this one I’m going to touch on a couple that I struggled with the most recently.
Inability to do X
The first struggle that I’ve experienced in the last period is the fact that I would like to do something, but I can’t - I’ve been physically or mentally unable to do it.
For me what’s been hurting me the most, is the lack of physical and mental energy to do my work, to work out and do fun stuff outside work.
I really, genuinely want to work out regularly, do more work each day to take my business and Conquering Burnout to the next level and have time and energy left to do things that I like and enjoy doing: hanging out with friends, playing video games, reading good books, going on hikes, etc.
It hurts me emotionally and spiritually and it’s been really challenging at times…
Hard to Keep Going
The second struggle is that it's hard to keep going when you feel you don't have anything left to give.
Like Claire DeNike wrote in her article on Medium:
“Dealing with burnout is tough. It’s hard to keep going when you feel like you’ve got nothing left to give. But eventually, you reach a breaking point where you just can’t go on anymore. And that’s when it’s time to hit the reset button.”
The extract above is on point. When you’re stressed out and on the verge of burnout, you feel like you can't keep going: that’s the warning sign that you should stop and take a step back. But if you keep going and push through the warning signs, you’ll fall into that burned out state where you literally won’t be able to keep going - you’ll physically and mentally be unable to.
Highs and Lows of Burnout
One of the mental challenges of burnout is also feeling frustrated and disappointed due to stagnation and lack of progress.
I’ve been having good periods when I’ve been feeling really good and well, almost without a sign of burnout, but then these periods are followed by a period of a few bad days that don't seem to get better no matter what I do.
This "polarity" of feeling good and then worse without knowing the real reason behind it, is super frustrating…
I know and feel that I can do and be better, but it seems that I can't find my true self: my energy, my motivation, my drive and belief in myself. I feel that I have a greater purpose, but I feel down, frustrated and disappointed because can't reach it
I’ll talk more about this concept of Polarity of Burnout in the future newsletters, so subscribe if you haven’t already so you don’t miss it.
On days that I feel stressed out or burned out, I also feel a lot of mental pressures.
I have a very strong internal judge since my early teens. I can be very tough and strict with myself: I’m judging myself, making myself feel like I'm a failure, the worst, a piece of shit, etc.
This has partly served me well in the past in sports, study and work: it pushed me to overcome problems and challenges, but at the same time it’s hot burning fuel - particularly if you’re burned out. If you’re burned out, pushing yourself past the fatigue and tiredness is the recipe for failure: maybe it could help in the short run, but in the long run it will make things worse!
Besides mental pressures, the feelings that I'm obsessing about on my hard and bad days are the feelings of guilt and shame. I feel a lot of guilt and shame that I can't figure my shit out, that I'm on the edge of burnout and that I brought myself to the edge of burnout once again I let myself and others around me down.
If we’re not careful, these feelings and emotions can push us down into a vicious cycle of: mental pressures to push -> we push through tiredness and fatigue -> we’re more tired, fatigued and burned out -> more mental pressures to push …
Fear and Anxiety
When you’re burned out or on the edge of burning out, you experience a lot of fear and anxiety about the present and the future.
In the last period, I’ve been experiencing a lot of fear: fear that I might never be healthy again and that I will never get over burnout, fear that I don't know what to do and how will I get out of this state and fear around the physical body: how much can I do so that I don't worsen my condition, but enough that I can strengthen my body and recover.
There has also been a lot of anxiety: the anxiety of not knowing that is causing the symptoms and feelings of burnout and if I will never get over burnout and be fully healthy again.
This one is particularly true with highly sensitive people and empaths - which I am one.
As highly sensitive people and empaths, we feel a lot: we feel emotions in other people, we take from our surroundings, we feel what’s happening in our body.
It feels like everything is amplified and turned up to the max.
We feel and take in so much but if we don’t know how to process this feelings and emotions, or we fake emotions to much or don’t allow ourselves to feel them, we will accumulate these feelings and emotions and store them in our body, which can cause a variety of problems - from physical tension, stress, digestion problems and energy imbalance - which can cause problems with energy and burnout.
When you’ve felt, accumulated and stored feelings and emotions for too long, what happens is that you can’t feel anymore: you become “numb”. You feel like you’re in your own bubble and you don’t really feel and know what’s happening around you, which can be quite emotionally and mentaly scary and challenging.
Lately I’ve been also feeling like my soul is empty: that I need to recharge my spiritual battery.
I think it’s partly because I’m not able to do what I want to, like I mentioned in the first point.
It’s partly because I’ve been lacking the sense of community and true connections: being around people that share the same interests and passions as me, being around people that know me, feel me, understand me and accept me the way I am.
It’s also partly because I lack the fuel of passion and purpose: I miss the feeling and sense of working towards an important goal, I miss the feeling of mission and doing things that I feel a lot of passion and purpose for.
So if you put everything that you’re struggling with one on top of the other you have the recipe for the ultimate struggle. It can be very challenging and tough: trust me, I “gnow”, the past few weeks haven’t been easy for me…
But even though it feels like too much and that we might never get out of the struggles, the good news is that there are simple things that you can try and incorporate in your diet, lifestyle and mindset that will help you overcome and bounce from the challenging periods.
What can we do about Autumn Burnout?
Here are some ways and tools that you can try and incorporate into your life to prevent burnout this autumn or bounce from autumn burnout if you’ve been suffering from it.
1. Support your body
Support your body with nutrition and lifestyle practices. Eat good quality food, choose some supplements, sleep well, get enough rest and get all of the 7 types of rest.
2. Adjust your lifestyle and lower the expectation for yourself
We have to realize and be aware of the fact that we cannot beat Mother Nature. Evolutionarily, autumn and winter are periods in the year to calm down, rest, sleep and rejuvenate, so we need to adjust our lifestyle accordingly.
Slow down and feel the changing seasons. Spend more time in nature and with people you care about. Spend less time on social media. Invest and work on yourself.
Besides that, there are a lot of ways to break the cycle of high expectation, including exploring the reasons behind them, trying to be more patient and compassionate with yourself, practicing Mindfulness and Meditation, developing a Self-Love practice, etc.
In the future when I’ll notice I’ve gotten caught in a snare of high expectations, I’ll try to remind myself of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Fourth Agreement: “Always do your best!”
Something magical happens when you lower the expectation of yourself and let go of the results and outcomes: the more we want something to happen, the less likely we are to actually achieve it.
3. Lower Mental Pressures
Over the years, I have discovered some patterns that are behind my mental pressures on my bad days. For me, some of the causes and underlying reasons behind mental pressures are:
Too much caffeine and I need to lower my caffeine intake,
I’m overworked: I need to step away from my work,
I have some underlying gut issues (food indigestion, parasite, bacteria die off, food intolerances, etc),
Feeling that I’m not enough and that I have and need to prove yourself (the root cause is I don't love yourself),
Ego: it feels threatened and wants to keep me safe.
Once you realize the patterns and cause behind mental pressures, you get the opportunity to work on them and resolve them.
4. Tame Fear and Anxiety
There are many different ways to tame fear and anxiety:
mindfulness and meditation practice,
spending time in nature,
finding stillness and flow,
supplements (Mg, ashwagandha, rhodiola, l-theanine…),
exposure to fear and anxiety etc.
Below are also two exercises that I found very useful for managing fear in my own life:
5. Empty the emotional tank
It’s crucial to find ways to release stored and accumulated emotions: the more we experience them and store them in our body, the more we have to clean and detox from them.
As I see it, there are two parts to physical and emotional release and detoxification: physical release and emotional release. More about how to do it in the article below:
6. Support your soul and spirit
The cause of feeling empty and tired is not just in our physical well-being, but also in spiritual well-being.
Work on developing and improving your spiritual energy that comes with cultivating joy and happiness, good and right vibrations and frequency, manifesting our new reality and cutting out bad energy from our lives. Harness the power of passion, purpose and mission for our lives. Create and be part of a community of like minded people who support you, accept you and love you unconditionally. Establish and strengthen the spiritual connection to “higher power”: whether that’s connection to God, Saints, your Soul, your Higher Self, Dhrahma, etc…
Give yourself some grace
Dealing with burnout and healing from it can be very challenging at times so remind yourself that it’s okay not to be okay sometimes. It’s okay to feel tired, empty, frustrated, unmotivated and down. Give yourself permission to feel it and to just be.
And also remind yourself and give yourself hope: