On the Brink of Burnout

On the Brink of Burnout

Social Studies | Posted by YouInc.com - February 10, 2014 at 12:00 am

The year was 2001. I was 26 years old and a newly married, blushing bride. I had managed to turn my passion into my paycheck, and my startup was flourishing. I had been featured on the cover of the Business section as well as numerous other publications and TV shows. Life was rockin'. If I am to quote one of my favorite scenes from a Johnny Depp film, “I had the world by the short and curlies.”

Except, a few things. I wasn’t sleeping. I was anxious. I was lying awake night after night brainstorming strategies to grow my company. I became obsessed with doing a great job. I was on the brink of a burnout.

Maybe it was my Type A personality that brought it on. Maybe it was my admirable work ethic that almost got me into trouble. No one had ever placed any pressure on me to succeed – I had always placed it upon myself. I was a self-starter, self-driven, and now it was becoming counterproductive. 

So what does the onset of burnout feel like exactly? Well, it’s this constant agitation, and the inability to feel at ease, at peace, and restful. And the little things? They begin to piss you off: the line at the bank, traffic, people! You get into bed at night, and your thoughts come at you a million miles a minute and you are unable to shut them off. Because of this, you do not get restful and restorative sleep, which leads to more anxiety and worry. Your fight-or-flight system is constantly working, and your adrenal system gets taxed due to the constant pumping of cortisol (the bad hormone). I had managed to plan and organize every minute of my life, which turned me into a high-functioning, hot mess. 

Luckily, I met a wonderful woman at the gym who was also a therapist, and as we pushed through our weekly workouts, I asked her if she would see me. 

Slowly but surely, along with her guidance and my supportive family, I started to return to myself. Luckily, that line that I had briefly tottered for a few months was never crossed, and has never been seen since. I learned a lot about how to keep my career, health and wellness habits in check, and would love to share 3 different strategies with you if you’re tottering on the burnout line.

Create your “Worry List” and leave it on your nightstand

I credit my therapist for this genius idea. The Worry List worked as follows: When my thoughts raced and kept me up at night, the idea was to transfer them from my head and onto paper, to worry about them at another time (not during my sacred time when I deserved to sleep). It is still something I practice today if I am unable to sleep (which thankfully is rare). I keep my notepad in my nightstand, and if something keeps me up, it goes off my head, and onto paper to worry about tomorrow. I give myself permission to own it, park it, and deal with it at a later time.

Don’t minimize your talents; balance them. 

Let me explain. One of the greatest things my therapist said to me was not to diminish or squash my talents. She told me I didn't have to stop doing what made me successful in life. She said, "Don't eliminate your gifts. Be your authentic self, but complement it and balance it with a calmer lifestyle." This was my aha and light-bulb moment! I didn't have to change who I was, I just had to balance my hectic pace with calming activities. Well, that was the birth of yoga for me. I have found meditation since as well (on a Dove® retreat at Canyon Ranch), and I make sure to make time for activities that calm my mind, body and spirit – lots of good fresh air, bed at 9:30 pm on most nights (don’t laugh), nutritious food, my nightly hot bath, self-care, long walks, great funny movies, and my music. 

Know your limits and what you need. 

This is a process and takes time for you to discover. And when I say, know what you need, it doesn't mean what your friends, or neighbors, or society needs. It means what YOU need. It means that I listen to MYSELF, and not to the norm or standard. It means that lunch is sometimes at 10:45 am because I'm starved, or it means I got to bed at 8 pm with my kids, because I'm tired. I give myself what I need, and not what society dictates to me is the norm, and it has made all the difference. I credit my mother, a wise women’s therapist of over 30 years for giving me this ability to filter out what others say we should do, and look inside to see what we need. 

"It may seem admirable to work yourself sick, but the longer you burn the candle at both ends, the faster you'll burn out." - Martha Beck

I’d love to know, have you ever been close to burnout, or burnt out? What were some strategies that helped you return to yourself? Are you struggling now?

Tags: anxiety, balance, burnout, limits, stress, yoga, profiles

Erica Diamond
Erica Diamond is the leading Women’s Expert in Lifestyle, Entrepreneurship, Parenting and Balance. A Certified Success and Lifestyle Coach, she's the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of the Award-Winning Women’s Lifestyle Blog WomenOnTheFence.com®, Weekly Parenting Correspondent On Global TV, Award-Winning Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, and Spokesperson.
Dennis Thorne
February 10, 2014 at 1:10 pm
I think I have crossed the line this week....thanks for the article..
February 10, 2014 at 10:33 pm
These three strategies are great! I agree with, "filtering out what others say we should do, and look inside to see what we need".
Emily Schooley
February 14, 2014 at 6:05 pm
Yes. I have been feeling this for far too long!
Marguerite Tennier
February 15, 2014 at 7:52 am
As a life coach working with women, I have met so many on the brink or over it when it comes to doing it all and burning out. As women we need to say no more often, to ask for help and to practice good self-care.
Liz Snell
February 15, 2014 at 9:34 am
Oh boy and then some. I am an entrepreneur as well as holding down a full time job. Recently, I have had an avalanche of personal stresses and responsibilities (1 brother passed away in August and I am co-executor of his estate in Edmonton, another brother with developmental disabilities is in crisis, and my mother is worried about the possible onset of dementia and my marriage of 22 years is in a mess). I know exactly what Erica described - the anxiety, sleeplessness, stomach churning, fight/flight always on. I have just started to make the realization you talk about. The things I have done: I started seeing a therapist who made me focus on one issue to resolve, I decided to take a leave from my full-time job to make time for myself and I write down everything I need to do so I can see completion as I strike things off the list and not worry that something is going to fall off my radar. I am finding my "happy place" again - being creative in the kitchen, skating on Ottawa's Rideau Canal - the most amazing advantage we have here in the winter, and just taking time to relax with a book. I'm going to try to implement your 3 strategies. I think that will help. Thanks for the post Erica - very timely.
Manon Pelletier
February 17, 2014 at 4:40 pm
Thank you for inspiring and helping others. I had a burnout 5 years ago working in corporate. Since then, I have created an enterprise helping others (them) live well with stress, teaching meditation, emotional resilience, mindful living and eating, etc. There is always a good reason to channel positive energy when challenged. Bravo!