In December of 2018 I burnt out!
Burnout is a pretty messed-up place to be. It definitely did not just happen but was a gradual slide that chipped away at every part of me until I felt rather worthless, unmotivated, and sapped of my energy.
How did I allow it to get to this point? The question that circled in my head over and over, but in hindsight and after a lot of reflection it was small compromises that collectively became too heavy to carry.
Make no mistake I was a victim for a while – but knew that I needed to own it and although it would take time, I never lost my hope that I would get through this.
I was preparing myself for a sabbatical for a number of years – saving money, learning new skills formally and informally, and getting my headspace right for taking a leap into the unknown.
For someone who likes to be in control this was not easy.
There was no better time to launch into a sabbatical than that day..
It signalled a change that would be far reaching and challenge me to face my demons.
I am still me two years down the line, but with a few enhancements that prepare me for the next part of my journey.
This is how burnout felt for me at the time –
- My energy was sapped and I tended to gravitate towards things that were routine and didn’t require too much thinking or effort
- Creativity was definitely no longer my companion, strange for a creative guy
- Productivity was at an all-time low – I did only what was needed
I remember going to coffee shops to catch up on emails and I would stare blankly at my laptop screen for hours
- I felt that I was not achieving much – because I was not
- The things I used to enjoy weren’t fun anymore – though I never stopped enjoying time with my friends
- I sat in meeting after meeting, bored and disengaged
I do feel for my co-founder – however, I was involved in something that I knew was not aligned with my values. Lying, cheating and promising things that constantly never delivered did not help the situation and I needed out
- I felt useless and that I had nothing to contribute to the business world
This was probably largely due to the fact that I tried my utmost to work a proper sales culture into the business and was always ignored because it highlighted that awful truth that all meetings led nowhere and apart from the money we had in the bank from funders, we were not focusing on growing sales and closing deals. We were time-wasters!
There we go, those seven points about sum it up.
Immediately after these changes…
I felt a sense of urgency to prove my worth by frantically setting up meetings, connecting businesses in my network – for a couple of months I was busier than ever doing pro bono activities.
A good friend pointed out that I was misspending time that I should be using to sort myself out.
There is nothing wrong with doing nothing he said.
So I signed up for a tour guiding course and became a qualified tour guide. It was actually a good thing, as it changed my mental gears.
My husband accepted a job opportunity in Northern Ireland and I focused on our visa applications – a story for another blog.
Selling up all my accumulated possessions was liberating. I sold my car and used my scooter for a few months, before selling that two weeks before we finally boarded the plane for a new adventure.
Northern Ireland here we come- what a place to heal the soul while exploring everything new on our doorstep.
I couldn’t wait!!
We arrived here in December 2019!
March 2020 lockdown – WTF
It’s now March 2021 and still the lockdown continues.
Was there any good to come out of an enforced isolation?
Actually looking back over the past year, it was the best thing ever – there were no distractions and I was forced to start working through my issues. It was a slow process, with more downtime than I had planned.
My journey out of the hole…
Although I am a proponent of avoiding major decisions when I am emotional, I knew that I had the necessary scaffolding in place to support me:
- I had the support of my family and my closest friends
- I had the financial runway and support – without this I would not have taken the leap
- I had a sense of peace to embrace the unknown and uncertainty that lay ahead – faith played a big role in this
Forcing a change in focus…
At first I put pressure on myself to prove my relevance. I was frantically setting up meetings with colleagues in my network and forming connections to help them explore mutually beneficial business opportunities – it was honourable, but not moving me in the right direction.
A good friend made an observation and questioned what I was trying to accomplish. He had a point.
In order to change mental gears, I signed up for an intense tour guiding course – I am now a qualified tour guide in South Africa. This was an excellent way for me to focus my energy on something that I am passionate about – travel, tourism and storytelling. It helped me to start letting go!
The next big thing…
Visa application, selling up and remotely organising as much as I could before we arrived in Northern Ireland. My husband was not given much of a gap and started working a week after we touched down. Much of the logistics was on my shoulders.
Things were hectic – my first year of sabbatical was over before I knew it.
Eliminating “Have to Do’s”
I have always loved to fill up my days with have to do’s. This kept the pressure on and made me feel valuable and gave a sense of achieving.
I realised that it was ok…
- To be selfish with my time and allow it to be as unstructured as I chose
- “To be” – in fact being in the moment was an excellent discipline to acquire and has taken a lot of effort
- Not to have an altruistic cause or to have a spiritual epiphany while being on a sabbatical
- To have a rough and fluid timeline – I knew when my sabbatical started and knew that I have allowed myself up to 4 years of time out (in fact much longer than this, but I would rather keep it within these timeframes.)
11 good habits to keep:
To me it was crucial to identify good habits that I would maintain and start during this time. I had to emerge out of this healed and better equipped for Version Next! I also could not let myself go.
So I committed to:
- Maintaining my exercise routines – mentally, physically and health-wise this has been my mainstay
- With all the gyms locked down I have had to adjust my routine to:
- Daily YouTube exercises with Pamela Reif
- With all the gyms locked down I have had to adjust my routine to:
- Continuing to read books that I enjoyed
- Exploring the beautiful Northern Irish countryside
- Settling into our new home I started gardening and DIY around the home
- Quietening the mind with meditation – I prefer guided meditations and love Tracks to Relax and Guided Nap Meditations. I often steam my face, put on a facemask and then lie down to a nap meditation
- Creating mindful moments – whether it’s a smell, a sound, a touch. Being aware and snapping into the present moment throughout the day actually makes me happy – so simple but it requires effort!
- Smiling – it sounds stupid, but again forces a good emotion
- Reading out aloud my daily affirmations – search for Zig Ziglar’s daily affirmations… a life-changing routine for me
- Making it a daily habit to listen to positive motivational and inspiring recording when driving or free time at home – I signed up for Zig Ziglar’s newsletter and got a free recording of Biscuits Fleas and Pump-handles. I have since bought his books and other recording and listened to them over and over
- Allowing myself to cry – I lost that somewhere and yet it’s liberating and I feel an amazing release afterward
- Unlocking my creativity – Daily Notes from The Artists Way along with other exercises in the book have had a positive impact on me. I believe that suppressed creativity is a plague in today’s fast-paced world and it lies at the root of discontentment and frustration
There’s a lot more that I do, and I know it seems overwhelming and time-consuming, but most of this can be worked into my daily life without too much effort.
You know what?
My confidence has started to return – I even see it in the way I walk. My sense of value has also returned and I feel good about myself and life.
I know I am on the right track and am excited about the future and what it holds.
I am in a happy place!
This does not mean that it’s all sunshine and roses, in fact, quite the opposite – I am not in a cocoon of safety, I still have to deal with daily challenges and obstacles.
I am just more aware that the harshness of life is balanced out by the beauty that I encounter in my present moments.
Alright I have been doing some thinking, and most of what you read above is what has worked for me to build a bit of a framework of positivity – something that is in my control!
I still have ups and downs as a direct result of burnout. I like to say that the feelings are like tides – coming in and going out, and it does take an effort every day to be positive and to stay hopeful.
It sounds a lot like depression because it is to a degree – it’s emotions after all.
This is obviously a journey, and I believe that there is a reason and a lot of learning that is taking place to get me to where I have to be. It’s a bitter pill right now, but I embrace it with the right attitude and I plan to make the most of it! After all, you cannot suffer so much without gaining something valuable out of it.
Every day is progress, though sometimes it does not seem that way.