Here at CGD we often talk about the perils of a burnout, what happens when you feel one coming on and how you can tell the difference between a burnout and a bad day.
But a burnout can happen to anyone.
Even those of us who spend our time writing about the dangers of burning out, as I found out this week. So here’s what happened when the worst burnout I’ve ever experienced crept on, and what I learned coming out from the other side.
Pre-Burnout . . .
I knew it was coming, but those closest to me could see the signs before I could. They kept asking me if there was anything they could do to help, and telling me to just relax in the evenings, I was shrugging it off saying I just had to get everything done, but actually, I stopped feeling optimistic very early on and just started putting on a brave face.
Thinking back on this week I don’t remember having 3 square meals in any one day, so you can see how I was getting into dangerous territory. My mood was okay but when I thought about the work I had to do, I would start to panic. I probably should have taken our advice, if you feel one coming on read our article here on how to avoid a burnout and make time for yourself.
Burnout . . .
When the burnout hit, I woke up as normal and went about my day as cheerfully as possible. The problem was I started to become aware of more things I needed to do and I was out at events all day with no chance to get them done. To be honest, I was still cracking jokes up until the middle of the day, and then I just started feeling really low.
I remember I kept thinking ‘what’s the point?”. It was like I had a thunder cloud above my head, and as well as getting angry I was also very low and kept thinking I might burst into tears. When I got home, I curled up on the floor with my baby blanket and cried for a good five minutes, I’m glad nobody walked in because that would’ve been a very strange sight, a grown woman cuddling a yellow blanket covered in bunny rabbits, wow.
I knew I had to snap out of it, so I did some more work, wrote everything down in different days in my planner so I knew I couldn’t do everything in one day, had a glass of coke and watched my favorite reality TV show. I couldn’t finish my dinner, but I did manage to have a giggle and look at some funny gifs of dogs. Dogs always help.
Post-burnout . . .
Coming out of a burnout is hard, it lingers. I’m still dealing with the effects of it, and still feel stressed, negative and incapable of doing anything, but I’m more prepared to tackle things one at a time now. Post-burnout I’ve realized it’s not a rational thing, mental health is just as important as physical health, you don’t choose to be sad or irrationally angry and negative, it just happens as a consequence of over-working yourself. It can happen to anyone, even those of us who love our jobs, and it doesn’t make you weak or wrong.
If I could do things differently, I would voice my concerns beforehand and ask for help. And when I started getting low I would probably order a chocolate fudge cake, turn off my phone and watch trash TV for an hour. It works!