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February 25, 2024

The Problem with Burnout—& How to Beat It. ~ Sakshi Singh

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“Burnout in relationships, parenting, and careers boils down to resisting what is. Let go of ‘should’s,’ embrace acceptance, and rediscover meaning, connection, and purpose.” ~ Dr. Shefali

 

Experiencing burnout is something many people can relate to, and my own journey through it has been quite a ride.

The first time it hit me, back in 2010, I was working in an office job. The workload wasn’t crazy, but the atmosphere was toxic. People were talking behind each other’s backs, and it felt like everything was being micromanaged. I had to ask for permission for every little thing, just like in school. The constant pressure to report every move and get permission to even stand up took a toll on me, and I got sick.

Back then, I didn’t really know what burnout was. I thought I was just tired, not eating or sleeping well. I ended up not being able to get out of bed for five days, feeling a lot of pain all over my body. Taking time off work only made things worse when I went back. I was ignoring my emotional needs, not paying attention to my body, and just kept working. Looking back, I realize I was scared of losing my job or not getting a pay raise, and that fear made me do things that weren’t really me.

I don’t blame myself for it now; I’m kind to myself because that’s where my head was at the time. Mental health wasn’t something people talked openly about then. It was almost like a secret. I was never taught that taking care of my mind and finding peace is just as important as taking care of my body.

As I grew older, I learned that life doesn’t always go the way you expect it to. It took me a while to get back to normal after that first burnout, even though I didn’t fully understand what was happening.

The second time it happened was different. It wasn’t because of too much work but because of my boss. My boss liked to stay in the office until late, and I was forced to do the same every day, even when there was no work left. It felt like I couldn’t leave if my boss was still there. This was tough for me because I was a new mom with a seven-month-old baby at home. I had to leave my little one with the nanny all day, so I needed to be home after work. But in this job, there was no clear boundary between work and home. I had to be available whenever my boss wanted, even if it meant staying late.

You might wonder why I didn’t go to HR for help. Well, when I did, HR said I could leave after working hours, but my boss had to agree. Every day, I had to get permission before I could leave. Sure, I could have quit, but how many jobs had I already left because of people making things difficult for me? I didn’t just leave jobs; I even changed countries.

I tried to explain my situation to my boss several times, but it always ended with the same response: find an alternative for your little one. I started getting assigned irrelevant tasks after working hours, forcing me to stay late.

Let me tell you, being a new mom and working in such an environment is not easy or fun. After five months, I fell apart. I got sick, had pain in my shoulder, and was diagnosed with spine problems. The doctors told me to rest, but with a one-year-old child, getting enough rest was like a dream. I tried some therapies that helped temporarily, and I decided to keep working despite the pain, guilt, and anger inside me. My whole body was stressed, and I tried hard to control it. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. It wasn’t just affecting my health; my relationship was also on the verge of breaking up.

That was when I heard the word “burnout.”

I still didn’t know why it happened to me or how to heal from it. This time, I didn’t want to just fix the situation; I wanted to heal from the burnout.

I started realizing that what I needed was different from what the corporate world expected. No matter what I did, it never seemed good enough. My body was telling me it needed rest, and my mind needed peace, but both were missing in my life. Ignoring these basic needs, I kept pushing myself until I hit burnout for the third time in 2022 at a new job with extreme pressure. In the first three months, I fell ill again, feeling like I was half dead. I couldn’t feel my body at all, and I had to call in sick for a few days. During those days, I finally understood what burnout really meant and why it kept happening to me.

It was a shock to realize that I was living my life with an empty cup, expecting everyone around me to fill it by seeing me, validating me, and accepting me. Even my relationship was in trouble because I expected my husband to fill that cup for me, knowing he was also struggling with his own empty cup. I call it the “double beggar syndrome,” where both partners are asking each other to fill their energy cup.

Today, I want to share my experience of burnout. Burnout is that moment when what’s really happening is different from what you wish would happen, and you end up ignoring the reality by creating a false version of yourself.

In my case, the reality was that I was already doing my best at work, but the expectation was always to do more. I wanted to be home on time to take care of my baby, but the reality was that I was staying late at the office every day.

The problem is that we resist things that are happening. We wish things that are happening shouldn’t happen, and we wish things that are not happening should happen. We’re not accepting the way things are; instead, we’re stuck in what we think should be happening. This resistance drains our energy, leaving us depleted. The way to turn it around is to ask yourself, “Why am I resisting? Why can’t I accept?”

If you absolutely can’t accept it, maybe it’s time to make a different choice. But most of the time, we resist because we’re attached to a fantasy. The way to change that is to find beauty, meaning, and connection again. There’s always something you can connect to—whether it’s a person, a moment, or a service. Even if you can’t leave a situation, you can still thrive by celebrating it, seeing it as precious, as a gift, and finding meaning.

When I became aware of my fantasy, it created space in my life to accept my reality. I started writing down both my reality and my fantasy, and I found the courage to let go of the fantasy. Now, as I write this, I fill my energy cup every day with self-acceptance, self-validation, and self-love. I go out into the world with a full cup and meet people where they are in their lives. This not only helped me let go of the false version of myself but also improved my relationships. My family dynamics changed for the better.

Today, I am a different person. Self-care is my birthright, and it’s yours too. Burnout is a complex journey, and by sharing my experience, I hope to help others understand and build resilience in the face of similar challenges.

~

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