The struggles and lessons of relapsing into burnout
My story of how I burned out again, how the burnout felt, how I overcame it and lessons I learned
The last weekend was a hard one for me — extremely hard. I had been pushing myself too much and I broke down. I was sure that I burned out once again. Although it was very difficult and painful, I managed to get through it and learn valuable lessons.
This is my story of how I burned out, how it felt, how I overcame it and what lessons I learned.
When the body says, “Enough!”
In the last weeks I’d been pushing myself too much — too hard and for too long.
I was in a vicious circle of stress. I was constantly in that low-level, chronically activated state without fully stopping, without completely relaxing and recovering. I was working 6 days a week at my job. I was working on my side hustle. My sleep quality wasn’t very good and my recovery was compromised.
I accumulated a lot of tightness in my body — especially in the abdominal area. Because of this my digestion wasn’t working optimally and it was sucking my energy to digest the food and thus causing me chronic stress.
I was also — consciously and unconsciously — putting a lot of mental pressure on myself and I was operating out of that state of “I have to do everything” instead of “I get to do everything” which created a lot of negative energy and vibrations and pushed me down the negative slippery slope.
In the weeks leading up to last weekend I experienced some warning signs that were telling me that I should have slowed down: I had anxiety and fear at night, a sense of being in a hyped-up state during the day, stomach aches, and low recovery metrics on my Whoop which won’t improve no matter what I did.
I slowed down a bit but I couldn’t stop completely and recover properly.
When you find yourself in that vicious cycle of stress — in that chronic low-level activation mode — it’s very hard to get out of because you just keep going. Your body and nervous system become addicted to being in that activated stress state. And if you keep operating in this state for too long, something breaks: at that point you have no choice but to slow the f*** down and pay the price of your actions.
That was exactly what happened to me this previous weekend. I crashed and it felt like I burned out.
What does burnout feel like?
Previous weekend I broke down. Sunday was the worst. It was brutal.
During the night I had a strong heartbeat, I couldn’t stop my racing mind and I had trouble sleeping and had a bad insomnia. In the morning I couldn’t wake up and get out of bed. During the day I was in a deep fatigue and I couldn’t do anything physical. I was unable to concentrate or focus on any mental task.
I knew these symptoms since I had experienced them before: four years ago when I first burned out.
The worst thing were the anxiety and fear. I thought it was the end for me: that I had burned out and that this would become my new reality. Since the fatigue felt so extreme, I got really anxious and scared that my adrenals — the glands responsible for production of stress hormones and corticosteroids — really broke and I developed adrenal fatigue which is so hard to recover and get out of.
I also felt a lot of guilt and shame since I should have known better. I blamed myself that it was all my fault since I ignored the warning signs and I’m now paying the price of my actions.
The night is darkest just before dawn
When you’re in that deep darkness, it’s really hard to not focus on problems and not focus on the negative, to be grateful and optimistic. It’s very hard to see a way out since fear and anxiety make you feel and believe that this is going to last forever.
On Sunday night I found some relief. I went into a hot bath, meditated, begged and prayed to the Divine — to the God, Universe, Creation, which I rarely do — to help me, to help me get out of this state and help me overcome this.
Later that night as I was going through my journal entries from the previous dark days, I realised that hopefully I would need just one really good night of sleep to recover and feel better. The realisation brought me some relief and I was able to go to sleep calmer.
Then on Monday I was — thankgod! — feeling better.
Recovering from burnout
It’s difficult to say whether it was just deep fatigue, release of stored and accumulated stress or really burnout — but it felt like burnout.
It felt like burnout that I experienced for the first time 4 years ago and which left me with many consequences that I still struggle with to this day: problems with energy, fatigue and mental health, damaged gut and impared digestion, weak adrenals and hormonal imbalance, trauma and fear of burnout.
Even though I currently feel better, I don’t feel 100%.
I still have a harder time waking up. My mind is still a bit blurry during the day and racing at night. I have a harder time concentrating and focusing on mental tasks. I feel more fatigued than usual.
Burnout is like sickness: you need some time to fully recover. You need to give your adrenals time and space to recharge and recover so that they can do their job — production of hormones (cortisol, adrenaline, norepinephrine) which are vital for our overall well-being — properly once again.
How to recover from burnout?
Make sure you’re getting enough good and quality sleep. Eat high-quality foods and eat according to your body’s needs and signals that it’s sending you. Reduce your caffeine intake. Get extra salt, especially in the morning. Take supplements that support adrenal (B vitamins, vitamin C, l-theanine, ashwagandha, ginseng, cordyceps…). Keep stress at bay and be in control of your reaction to external stimuli. Get extra rest and parasympathetic activities. Take it more with ease, put less mental pressure on yourself, get more joy, fun and play (this last one is the hardest for me…).
This is just a short overview, I’ll explore the concept of recovering after a burnout more in detail in the following articles. Make sure you subscribe so that you don’t miss anything!
Everything in life happens for a reason
I believe that everything in life happens for a reason. Like I wrote in my introductory post, my first burnout in 2017 happened for a reason: it showed me that I needed to start living differently and make some changes in my life.
This burnout episode happened for a reason too: it was a wake-up call.
It forced me to finally slow down. It uncovered some of my negative mental patterns. It forced me to evaluate and make some changes about my behaviours and the way I’m living. It also gave me a hard reset: both physically, neurologically and mentaly.
Even though the feeling wasn’t — and at moments still isn’t — pleasant, the fatigue and feeling of burnout reminded me of how burnout feels: it refreshed my memory and gave me another insight into the burnout state.
Now I can write and speak from first hand experience and share with you my experience with burnout and how I’m conquering it in real time.
The last lesson I experienced was on Monday, once I got “out of the darkness”.
The burnout gave me a new perspective on life. It felt like a rebirth: it was like I got another chance to live. Life was much more beautiful and I was very grateful that I was alive, well, healthy and feeling better.
“Hard times teach us valuable lessons.”
Although burnout was very painful and challenging, I was able to come through it and learn valuable lessons. But that doesn’t mean that the war is over. It’s still a daily battle working on changes, keeping stress and mental pressures at, and managing fears and anxiety.
But I know that I need to work on these things. If I keep living and operating the way I was the last few weeks, burnout might repeat and I might not get out of it as I did this time.
That’s it for this article. I would love to hear your opinions, questions or suggestions for the following articles.
If you enjoyed this article, share it with those you think will benefit from it.
Join me along the journey of dealing and conquering burnout. Subscribe to my newsletter so you don’t miss anything!
Take care and love yourself, forget about worries and enjoy life! ❤✌