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Burnout has become a major problem as the pace of life continues to speed up and the glorification of busyness has raised the bar yet again.
Indeed, I danced with the devil that is burnout throughout my legal career. I played it like a game, my friends, not realising that I was only playing myself.
Shall I tell you what extreme burnout feels like?
Burnout steals your enjoyment for life, wrecks your health on every level, and turns your once highly functioning brain into scrambled eggs, leaving you with mental fog and confusion. You feel as if you have nothing left to give until you eventually hit the wall that is your limits.
Do you want to know what it took for me to start taking care of myself? To stop listening to my own bullshit that it was okay to treat myself so badly?
One day, driving home from work after another 13-hour day at the grind, I hit a cyclist.
I know. It’s shocking. I still cringe at the thought of it.
I was absolutely exhausted and at the end of my tether. I was in such a state of burnout and had no idea how to stop. No energy to change. Just before the accident, I remember thinking, “If one more thing happens, that’s it. I’m done.”
That day, sat there in my car with a cyclist on my bonnet, staring right back at me through the windshield, cuss words flying from his mouth, I had the biggest wake-up call of my life.
In my defence, I was travelling at no more than five miles per hour, after turning a tight corner on a country road with a blind spot. The cyclist was fine, if not a little cross. I could not apologise enough.
Yet, in that moment, it became clear to me that I was not fine. That my lack of care for my own well-being had actually made me a danger to someone else. I could never stand for that.
That’s when I knew I had to stop. You could say that I had asked for a sign and got one. A sign that would change my life forever. So, I stopped. I left a career that was slowly killing me and embraced a whole new life that included taking care of me. It was the best decision I have ever made, and I have no regrets whatsoever.
Looking back on that period of my life, I saw there were certain signs that I ignored—all the time.
If you are wondering if you are suffering from burnout, here are the six signs that showed me that I was going to hit a wall.
Burnout goes far beyond feeling tired, cured by a few early nights and, voilà, you are back to your most brilliant self.
You feel tired to your very bones, in every cell of your body. You wake up in the morning feeling more tired than the night before. Chronic fatigue becomes your constant companion.
Your immune system may be weakened from prolonged exposure to stress. You feel bombarded with aches, pains, headaches, and a feeling of being under the weather, for no obvious reason. Your energy levels are at an all-time low. If left unattended, you may go on to develop high blood pressure, heart problems, or other serious illnesses. Stress is the number one silent killer.
You feel that you could drop with tiredness at any point. You long for your bed, all day long. Yet, when you go to bed, your brain goes into overdrive as repetitive thoughts swirl round and round in one long loop. Once you manage to drop off, you wake throughout the night with your mind ready to begin again.
Loss of Interest in Life
You may suffer from apathy and symptoms of depression. Everything feels like hard work. Your hobbies and leisure time no longer give you any satisfaction. You feel like a Zombie, having lost your zest for life. Yet, you feel that you must keep going to stay in control.
Lack of Tolerance
The stress and tension that you have carried for too long turn you into an elastic band stretched to the greatest limit. You have low to zero tolerance for the people around you, and you’re ready to snap at any moment.
Your once active and sharp mind starts to turn to mush. The tasks you once performed with your eyes closed take longer and longer. Your judgment becomes clouded and snap-decisions become impossible. You just can’t think straight. Productivity hits an all-time low.
If you are experiencing burnout symptoms, your body is ringing the alarm bells, trying to get your attention. Ignoring the signs of burnout by trying to carry on will only make your symptoms worse. Take it as a call to action for the health of your mind, body, and soul.
Don’t make the mistake I did and become a danger to someone else.