18 September 2019

HOW I HAVE BEEN DEALING WITH BURN OUT



I saw it coming from miles away, like a bloody tsunami on the horizon, but I just didn't think it would actually happen, because apparently I am a robot who is utterly indestructible: burn out. What a bitch.

'Burnout—a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress—is not simply a result of working long hours. The cynicism, depression, and lethargy that are characteristic of burnout most often occur when a person is not in control of how a job is carried out or is asked to complete tasks that conflict with their sense of self.'  - Psychology Today

There is a bit of a 'thing' among business owners out there about burn out; how to spot it and how to handle it if it shows its ugly head, but I am just one of those annoying people who thinks nothing will happen to them. Yet here I am right now, about to give you some tips that have helped me start to fight through it. I say 'Start to fight through', because I am still very much 'in' it.

Let's start with a quick list of how I felt it showing up for me:
- tiredness
- irritability
- palpitations
- dizziness/disorientation
- lack of concentration
- depression
- anxiety
- the inability to cope with even small tasks
- severe overwhelm
- achy muscles and joints
- strange vision
- feeling like my nerves were 'on edge'
- headaches
- weight gain (despite a good diet and exercise - and lots of it)
- wanting to sleep all the time

... I am sure there are more little things but I think they will give you the picture for now.

When these things started happening, my days were all exactly the same, pretty much seven days a week: up at 5am (if not earlier) to try and journal before the gym, go to the gym and push as hard as humanly possible, come home and shower, throw some food down my face, go to work at the hotel (four hours of housekeeping), come home, sleep for a bit, eat, work on whatever I could manage, which usually resulted in me staring at my computer and not getting much done because I was too tired to do anything or concentrate. The evenings would be spent worrying about things I hadn't done and working on the sofa until it was time to go to bed (about 11pm), where I would immediately fall asleep and then start that pattern all over again.

Looking at it now, it is extremely apparent what needed to be changed, but when you are deep into a routine you feel like you just have to keep going and the busier I got, the more I pushed. I didn't realise, until I went to see the doctor, that I had no relaxation whatsoever in my day, nothing to calm me and, after having blood tests to eliminate everything, it was decided that it was nervous exhaustion/burn out (no sh*t Sherlock - which is basically what the doctor said to me when I said 'I think I may be a little burnt out').

Okay, so we get the picture of what it is, how it manifests in our lives and that we actually do need to do something in order to change it, so what can we do? Like I have already said, I am clearly no expert as I let myself get into this mess, but as I am learning I thought I would share how I am navigating through it. I am someone who struggles to cut back, whether it is work or training, I really feel like I just have to continue or else I am a failure, which is BS really right?



So here is what I am doing (and it is helping me a lot):

1. More quality sleep.
As I said, I had early alarms every single day. Some days I would snooze eight times before getting up, getting back to sleep and waking up repeatedly before making myself climb out of bed. We all know it has been proven that getting up on your first alarm is healthier, as you don't get into another sleep rhythm again. So I am trying not to hit snooze, but I am also giving myself a few days in the week where my alarm is set later, which means less training sessions too - more on that in a minute.

Deciding, when your alarm goes off at 5am, that you are going to re-set for 7am is a start, but you still wake right up before making that decision, so it is better for you to just accept that you need sleep the night before and set a later one so you are not disturbed multiple times. I am also giving myself one day in the week with no alarm at all, where I seem to wake up at about 7.30am-8.00am, so it isn't all bad!

This is really helping me to claw back sleep and to feel more rested and calm. Even when I decided, at 5am, to lay in until 7am I would be so stressed, worrying about the fact that I wasn't getting up on my first alarm, that I wouldn't really sleep anyway - totally pointless!

2. Shorter naps.
I have always needed naps, even before burning myself out completely, but my mistake has usually been that I set no alarm, and just sleep for the Olympics. Whilst there may be some days where that is totally needed, on the whole a 20-30 minute nap is all our body needs to feel totally rejuvenated, so this is what I am trying to do now. Since I have put several new routines and systems in place to actually help myself, I am having less naps, so my body is clearly feeling less exhausted.

3. Less training.
We all know exercise is great, and you know how much I adore lifting weights and pushing myself, I really love it so much. My issue was that, because of all the other factors I was trying to deal with, I wasn't allowing my body to recover and more importantly I was ignoring all the signs it was showing me. I was in the gym and unable to lift even the lightest dumbbells that I would normal use to warm up; everything felt heavy and I was getting severely out of breath just walking. Now, I have dropped back to four to five sessions a week and have totally restructured what I am doing to accommodate how I am feeling. I am also listening to my body much more and not going training if I feel really over tired; I am not perfect at this, but I am getting better and that is a huge step for me.

I really found the concept of 'less training could help you drop the extra weight' thing hard to swallow, but I also know how the body can hold fat when it is stressed. Our bodies go-to reaction is to protect us and as women we often put fat on around our lower stomach when we are very stressed out because a) the stress hormone is a bitch and b) our body wants to protect us just in-case we become (or are) pregnant; it is pure instinct for survival, and bloody clever if you really consider it for a minute.

4. Planning my days.
 This is the final 'top tip' for overcoming burn out, and this one has helped me so much more than I ever thought. I am actually putting up a blog post next week that goes into much more detail about my planning techniques, so I won't go in-depth here as this post will need dinner breaks, but if you are interested come back next week for that. What I will say is this; after a long time of kind of knowing the tasks I had to get done and aimlessly working away without true purpose, I finally decided I needed structure. So many entrepreneurs talk about the tools they use to help them gain organisation in their business and so I set about finding what would work for me.

The short version (more to follow in next weeks post) is this...
- On-line calendar syncing to my phone
- Trello for general brain-dumps and project organisation (also syncs to phone)
- Goal setting/task list planner (my new best buddy!)



I now plan all my days on my calendar, time-blocking out the day ahead the night before, and then once I see what I need to do (from my amazing new goals planner!) I can batch block my day and really get into the work I need to do. This means I schedule breaks, lunch, important client work, and all the other things I need to get done. This really works guys, and I will never look back now.

I have also brought back little routines of doing my oracle cards and gratitude lists (my new planner has space for gratitude and affirmations, and it is awesome), which means that I am feeling like I have some of me back again.

All of these little steps have started to make a difference. Without a doubt I am still feeling the brunt of the burn out, and I hear it takes a while to 'do one', but I am hoping that I can keep pushing little gaps in my day that will allow me to take some time away from the 'to-do' list and step into some joy and relaxation again.

There is no shame in helping yourself and stepping back for a bit to assess, which is what it took for me to really see what I needed. If you are feeling like any of this resonates be sure to have a full life evaluation and see what changes you can make.

I hope that you found this helpful; to be honest, implementing the tips above will make a positive difference to anyone, burnt out or not, so just have a little ponder and ask yourself if you are giving yourself enough 'you time' and if not, where you can you make some little tweaks? Good luck!

PS: Don't forget to come back next week for more about my planning routine!
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1 comment

  1. I love this post and am so happy that you're finding time to be you again and that you're working towards getting better. I think burnout is such a common thing and not everyone would be aware of the affect on their bodiez. We're all used to just constantly jamming in our days without taking a moment to let our bodies catch up. I can't wait to read your planning post and am also a time blocking addict as it's a surefire way to schedule some time each day for things that truly matter to you x

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