Updated: Jun 30, 2021
I had a burnout of epic proportions!
Although I had a few serious contributing factors ending in an extreme outcome, the cause of it is a textbook case of pushing yourself too hard, not showing selflove and not listening to the warning signs.
But before I get into my story, and the mess that I found myself in, lets take a look at what a ‘burnout’ actually is.
What is a burnout?
It has been described as a syndrome of physical and emotional exhaustion due to long-term, unresolvable job stress, working under difficult or demanding conditions.
Some people develop negative job attitudes, a loss of concern and feeling for either yourself or those with whom you work or are close to.
The final stage of burnout is dangerous.
The person has no reserves left to cope with any added pressure and the slightest, additional stress can send the person into a severe mental or physical breakdown.
What leads to a burnout? Where did I go wrong?
It would probably be much quicker to answer the question ‘Where did I go right’.
At the time I couldn't see it but now that I am out the other side as it were, and have a new understanding of the major body systems, it seems glaringly obvious that things were never going to end well for me.
I used to work for a large house builder in the City of London. It was extremely pressured, and stressful with lots of overseas travel and loooong hours. Granted the long hours were my choice but you cant hold a Head of Department position down in a high achieving business without putting in 150% right?
At this point, I would like to state that I put 40% of that pressure on myself! I was a workaholic and had an unhealthy hunger and drive to succeed, but it was to the detriment of my health and my relationship with my family. When I wasn't at work, I was thinking about work. I never actually switched off and was always on call.
My family repeatedly asked me over the course of about 18 months to slow down, to take my foot off the gas, take a break, change careers - Did I listen?
I enjoyed my job. I was good at it, it came naturally to me and I thrived off the buzz and the ‘stress’. Or so I thought.
I was doing myself so much damage and my lifestyle, nutrition, work/life balance and my general attitude towards my own health and wellbeing was all wrong. I was so wired on the job that I had trouble sleeping at night.
I got into the habit of putting my earphones in and listening to an audio book to get me off to sleep and by the time morning came I’d usually had unbroken sleep amounting to 4.5 hours.
I used to have 16 cups of coffee a day (4 of those before 8am) and I never ate breakfast - unless I was hungover and then ‘The Queens Head’ egg and hash brown bap with half a bottle of ketchup was a life saver!
Lunch was a ‘just add water’ diet packet meal of 150 calories and dinner would most likely be after 9pm and either a take away or some delight that Sainbusy’s had produced that you could stick in the oven with some veg. - There's nothing wrong with that is there? Oh! and I smoked! (Ticking all the boxes, right?)
My medical history over the last 7 years has been shocking, complicated and damn right frustrating at best. For my full story keep a look out for a new blog soon to come out called ‘My illness and surgeries - an honest account’.
If you are liking the read so far, I would be beyond thrilled if you signed up to get notified when I release new blogs.
I am going to fast forward 6 years and summarize (spoiler alert) that I had multiple brain and spine surgeries and was 3 years recovered and back to living a very normal and active life. .
Well that was until over the course of a couple of weeks in July 2018 I lost the feeling from my chest down and was not able to walk normally. I was hospitalised and after 15 days of intense therapy and a whole load of soul searching and digging deep for courage and strength, I was released... Wheelchair bound... My body had crashed.
This, my friends, is what you call a severe case of a burnout. Don't get me wrong, there were other factors that contributed to this physical breakdown, but the warning signs were there and I just didn't take it seriously.
The impacts of Stress
Stress is singularly the greatest cause of ill health in our society.
Severe and chronic stress releases a flood of toxins which circulate throughout our bodies and is a powerful suppressor of the human immune system and this (shameless plug) is where Reflexology will play a vital part in the reduction of stress related illnesses.
To see more about the impacts of stress on the body, head over to my other, much shorter blog :) titled, you guessed it. 'STRESS'
Managing Stress levels
Stress can be controlled.
Excessive stress can be reduced and you can manage your stress reaction or be taught how to do it.
You can learn specific skills that will help you identify potential stressors and modify harmful stress reactions without the use of pills, cigarettes, alcohol or other drugs.
Once these skills are acquired, stress can be managed when it occurs and excessive stress can be prevented from developing in the first place.
Positive Mental Attitude
Stress management begins with a positive attitude.
You need not adapt, adjust, fit-in or change yourself to suit others. Rather, in stress management, you are the control figure - you are the focus of change which you yourself engineer.
You should also not make light of any stressors affecting you - if these stressors are placing you under pressure, they are real and should be seen as such.
If something is affecting you, it needs attention no matter how trivial it may appear to others.
It is very important, therefore, that you do not underrate yourself.
Don't feel inadequate because you seem to react more to stress than others around you. It may simply be that they respond in less apparent ways.
Create and nurture a positive approach. With it, stress can be managed and your health and well-being are worth the effort.
How to identify stress
First, you must be aware of levels of stress, indications that stress is present, attributes in your character and behavioural patterns that are stress-related, causes of stress and ways of managing it.
The second step to positive change is self-acceptance. What you are today is the result of all your life's experience.
Change is always possible, but important changes don't happen in an instant. Don't judge yourself harshly, be kind to yourself.
Accepting what you are and who you are is an essential step.
Lastly, it is important that you acknowledge that responsibility for change begins with you - whatever your stressors, you can instigate the necessary change.
Four basic strategies that helped me
1) Build up general health through proper nutrition, rest, exercise and other positive health practices.
2) Change the situation, or the sources of stress.
3) Change your mind set, i.e. your perception of, or thoughts about the stressors affecting you.
4) Change your body reaction to stress. Learn to substitute relaxation responses for stress responses.
If I can help just one person with my story, my discoveries, my experiences, then I have succeeded.
I have gone on a massive journey and come out a better, healthier and happier person. I honestly wouldn't change it for the world.
That being said, I wish someone was able to impart their knowledge at the time for me. If any of this resonates with you, even just a little, I’d love to hear from you.
It doesn't have to be a catastrophic melt down, a physical or mental breakdown. You may just be in a ‘funk’. I’d still love to hear form you and if I can help... Even better.