This month’s theme was inspired by an interesting article* that argues that working less might not be the most useful advice when it comes to avoiding and/or recovering from a burnout. Finding meaning in what you do is another important factor in the equation that would keep you away from a burnout.
Since no one is immune to it, I believe this topic is worth writing and talking about. By sharing our stories and ways of dealing with it/preventing it, hopefully we can support and encourage each other during challenging periods of our lives.
The dark side of “burnout”
At this time seven years ago I was faced with the biggest challenge in my life so far. After years of pushing myself in directions that didn’t really resonate with my interests and personality I went through a complete meltdown.
Even the least demanding activity was quite overwhelming. I suffered from panic attacks and I was unable to focus on anything. I was easily out of breath, physically weak, depressed, desperate, lost and quite lonely in this unknown situation – sick without really looking sick.
At my lowest point I was even doubting that I would ever be able to work at my full capacity again. I was feeling like a walking dead, hollow inside, falling apart and shading away.
The bright side of “burnout”
No doubt that this was the most challenging period of my life. However, this painful experience brought me exactly where I am right now.
I was desperately trying to understand who I was, what was happening to me and why. This curiosity triggered my genuine interest in the field of personal development which ultimately became the most inspiring and meaningful activity on my agenda.
During the past seven years I have read numerous books and articles, I have viewed countless TED(x) videos and I have followed multiple personal development training programs.
I have rearranged the priorities in my life and on a regular basis I revisit and evaluate whether I am living true to what is important to me.
When I say yes or no to an activity I really mean it. I no longer try to live up to other people’s expectations and this is truly liberating.
Throughout the years have seen people recovering from and becoming victims of a burnout. Some of my deepest friendships were established during these tough periods.
Actually I prefer to look back at this period of my life as some sort of a personal identity crisis or even as a spiritual awakening – a wake-up call that helped me switch gears and brought me on the path that I deliberately chose to follow.
A meaningful activity a day keeps the “burnout” away
I believe it’s unrealistic to derive satisfaction and meaning solely from one area of our lives.
For me personally, I have discovered that besides work and family I find meaning in many other activities that I have incorporated in my week schedule depending on my availability and changing priorities and interests.
A few examples of those are:
- exercising on a regular basis;
- expanding my curiosity in the field of personal development;
- publishing an article on a topic that has occupied my mind during the past month
- volunteering and giving back to society by sharing my knowledge and experience with others.
The last one manifests itself in my roles as a Holland Career Ambassador, Erasmus University “Mentor Me” programme member, member of the Toastmasters public speaking community.
I feel energized and full of hope when I move in the direction of my interests and dreams as well as when I feel that my work and contribution has meaning to someone else’s life.
And I don’t seem to be the only one here. When I look around many of the people around me also find meaning in more than one area of their lives.
My friend, Ilona, is enjoying her job as a dental hygienist. She works with children and she is constantly looking for ways to make their visits as pleasurable as possible. She often says that she “works to live instead of lives to work”. In her free time she is travelling and expanding her passion for photography.
Adryana is working full-time as a compliance officer in a financial institution. In her spare time she is devoted to learning foreign languages and is constantly taking courses in Dutch and Spanish.
Kremena is a senior marketing professional at a famous sports apparel brand. However, her demanding job doesn’t stay in the way for her to keep on giving yoga classes and organizing yoga retreats on a regular basis.
What’s in it for you?
For those of you feeling a little lost and searching for meaning in your life:
If you haven’t done it yet, find out what makes your heart beat faster.
- What are you enthusiastic about?
- What you are doing when no one is watching or paying you?
- What are you naturally attracted to without expecting anything in return?
Turn your hobbies into meaningful activities and stay true to them on a regular basis no matter how busy, tired or lazy you might feel.
For those of you who are sceptical about “burnout”:
I can imagine that it’s difficult for some of you to understand and empathize with people who are “burnout” when you have never experienced it yourself.
Both my pregnancy and my burnout taught me one thing – you can truly understand why people in these two conditions behave in a certain way once you have been there yourself.
It’s easy to judge when you feel strong and invincible but don’t forget that life is full of ups and downs. I hope for you to never hit rock bottom and that you won’t need to understand everything first hand.
Just try not to judge when you don’t share the same experience and something seems too distant to you. The fact that you cannot relate to it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.
Find out what was the first step of my writing journey: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step
My one year writing anniversary article: The only impossible journey is the one you never begin
You are a bit lost and don’t know who is the person you want to be? Just think back in time: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Is fear what is holding you back? Sometimes the fear won’t go away, so you will have to do it afraid
Are you afraid to fail? Look failure in the eye and make friends with it: Hello failure, let’s be friends
You don’t need to do it all alone. It’s ok to ask for help. Find out WHY and HOW to do it more often.
No time for what is truly important to you? I bet you can find some creative ideas on how to use your time more strategically.
You catch yourself wasting your time on social media? You can do a simple exercise to test whether you are making a conscious choice when you spend your free time Entertaining versus meaningful — a familiar dilemma?
Are you looking for some practical tips on how to book quick results? Become the person you want to be in just 60 days.