We’ve heard some extreme burnout stories, for example a friend of ours spoke of a man she met during her travels who worked himself into the ground, and one day he just collapsed and woke up in hospital. He was working for a German company and said phone calls could start at 4am as he dealt with companies in a state of emergency or who were about to liquidate. After realizing that the stress of his job and lack of work-life balance could possibly kill him, he quit his job in Europe and relocated to Chile, South America where he bought a horse ranch and continues living his life taking tourists horse riding on the local beach.
Burnout is way more common than you would think!
Burnout is more common than you would think! The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly every fifth child or teenager and every fourth adult will be affected by burnout at some point in his or her active life (www.weforum.org) In the 21st Century when people are juggling careers, children and households (further complicated by an economically strained climate), People don’t have enough time to relax or any time to unwind and often feel too financially constrained to do so.
Thank you for your stories!
We asked people in our communities to share their stories of burnout and coping! We are so thankful to our brave contributors for sharing authentically. We trust their stories will empower us all to practice burnout prevention through their tips and tricks.
**Contributors would like to remain anonymous and therefore Pseudonyms have been used.
What was my burnout experience like?
I am learning to say no!
Burnout came at the end of a hectic few years at work. I love my job, but in nature it can be difficult at times. I got to a point where I was lacking vision and just overall exhausted. One of my co-workers encouraged me to apply for some time off work. I was greatly encouraged when they gave me time off. During this time I switched all social media off, I started with a consultation with a psychologist to help me frame my time. He recommended that I ‘active rest’ walk, read, go for coffee, sleep and generally switch off. Although I am very grateful for the time off, I realised that it was a kick start to my journey. It at times felt very isolating and difficult to navigate. And I am learning to say a heck load of ‘NO!’
Stop dismissing my definition of burnout!
It was 2013, my daughter was around 2.5yr old. I was working full time for my husband (now ex). And was pretty much the only caretaker of our daughter and home. My work hours were from 8 to 5 but I was doing 3 people’s jobs and most days I went back to the home office after 8pm and worked till around midnight. I also worked weekends, and when there were tenders/audits, etc. my weekends would be consumed by it and I would put in up to 32hrs of work over the weekend. I was so tired. My GP dismissed it saying that this is what life is like with a toddler, you’re always tired. Friends also said “this too shall pass”. They all seemed to dismiss my burnout once they knew I had a toddler.
I had and still have everything I could ever wish for and yet I felt so down.
My expectations of having a baby naturally were crushed when I had a C-section. My son, William struggled to latch which made breastfeeding challenging. There was more formula feeding than breastfeeding and this resulted in her milk drying up. ‘My baby boy weighed a healthy weight, he was healthy and happy but I was heartbroken.’
At around 4 or 5 weeks Will, developed a strawberry hemangioma birthmark on his face and over time the two red marks on his cheek became brighter, bigger and more visible. I did a bit of research and discovered that they could take months or even years to lighten and disappear or they could be permanent. Again, I felt heartbroken and hurt because of something I could not control.
The weeks that followed were really hard for me, I felt myself becoming very sad and teary. I felt extremely disappointed that I was unable to give birth naturally, and even more disappointed that I was unable to breastfeed plus irritated by the silly little marks that my sweet little boy was probably not even aware of.
In response to these feelings, I felt extremely guilty for feeling so down. I had a healthy, happy baby, a supportive husband, loving family and friends and yet I felt lonely and sad. I was overwhelmed by the responsibility of being a mom and I felt terrible as so many people handle this responsibility so well. Other people struggle to fall pregnant or have babies with health issues and struggle with circumstances such as single parenting or lack of support. I had and still have everything I could ever wish for and yet I felt so down.
What are the warning signs of physical or emotional burnout?
Loss of passion, drive and motivation for the work I love is a big warning sign!
For me, as somebody who is passionate about what I do and the people I work with, a major burnout warning sign for me was extreme lack of passion and motivation in what I do. I began feeling tired almost every day, I struggled to wake up and stay alert. For me, a general catch up with a friend would be ‘how are you?’ To which my response was almost always ‘busy and exhausted.’ I would get to a Tuesday and feel that I needed a weekend to sleep already. Oh, and I would cry. A lot. Almost every day. The final one was when my husband said to me ‘I don’t really like it when you are like this, always tired, emotional. You aren’t yourself.’
I fell asleep at the wheel while driving… that’s a pretty big warning sign don’t you think?
So one morning after dropping my daughter at creche I was driving home. Waiting at the traffic light I closed my eyes, just for a moment and I fell asleep. While sleeping I heard hooting and in that moment, life flashed before me like a dream…where people tried to wake me and get me out of the car, being taken away in an ambulance followed by visions of my little girl’s face when she realised mommy was gone…
In that moment I knew I could make the decision to keep sleeping or to wake up and make life better. So I opened my eyes, no cars were hooting at me, and the light was still red (so it all happened in a second?)
Every little issue was a big obstacle for me.
I felt permanently overwhelmed and anxious about anything and everything. I was on the brink of tears whenever I was alone and found it difficult to regulate my emotions. Every little issue was a big obstacle for me.
What systems have I put in place?
Strict Phone Use | Reduced Activities of Weekends | Counselling
Although I admit that I am still only a short walk into my journey a few things that I have put in place are the following:
– Strict phone use. I don’t actually look at my phone any more until I am at the office. During the day I have certain times I check it (I recognize this may not be doable in all work circles). I limit myself to only 20 mins a day on social media- game changer! And I ‘put my phone to bed’ every evening at 8:30 pm.
– Weekends. I used to be someone that would jam pack with activities, friends, extra work, etc. My husband and I agreed that 1 thing a day (whether this is family, friends, coffee, or a walk. On Saturdays and Sundays I can only do a maximum of 1 thing).
– Counselling… great. Good and healthy counselling! (Even a few sessions with my husband to ensure that we are in this together)
Just 30 minutes of exercise in the morning gave me enough energy to keep going, work hours didn’t change, but my ability to cope definitely improved.
My coping was to walk my daughter to school instead of driving. This gave me exercise and built energy. When I got home I would swim a couple of laps in the pool, so refreshing. This became my daily routine. And somehow just those 30mins of exercise in the morning gave me enough energy to keep going, work hours didn’t change, but my ability to cope definitely improved. It sustained me for several years. In 2018 my husband announced he wanted a divorce…well, I’m still trying to cope with all that this new life entails…daily chores are now my focus to burning negative energy and working in a strict routine.
It takes time… after months of battling my emotions, I made peace with my birth experience!
I read lots of blogs and moms forums about post-partum feelings. I saw that many other women felt the same way about having a c-section and not being able to breastfeed. After reaching out and contacting Post Natal Depression Support Association (PNDSA) I was referred to a professional who I attended a few sessions with and thereafter I was prescribed some medication to assist me in dealing with my emotions. After months of battling with an overwhelming amount of emotions, I was able to work through them and finally made peace with my birth experience and not being able to breastfeed.
I realised that I needed time for herself and asked my mother for support. I took a break to compose myself when necessary. Twice a week my mom looked after my son for a few hours so that I could spend time on my own doing something for myself… Sometimes it was to go to gym or do work, sometimes it was to attend a counseling session or take care of personal admin or even grocery shopping. The time on my own and away from my little guy gave me the space I needed to focus on my own wellbeing.
I also attended an authentic resilience course during lockdown that has really helped me to put things in perspective. I used to feel embarrassed and ashamed of my mental wellness challenges but it helps to know that it’s quite common and that many people experience these struggles.
I used to feel embarrassed and ashamed about my mental wellness challenges but it helps to know that it’s quite common and that many people experience these struggles.
These stories aim to normalize mental health and burnout challenges and empower us to make changes and boundaries within our lives when we feel overwhelmed, overworked, out of balance, and just utterly exhausted.