About anxiety and the reality of burnout
Did you know that there is a condition called burnout?
This syndrome can be defined as a condition that happens when someone self-sacrifices for the sake of others, or their career. A stressful lifestyle can put people under extreme pressure, to the point that they feel exhausted, empty, burned out, and unable to cope. Stress at work can also cause physical and mental symptoms. Possible causes include feeling either permanently overworked or under-challenged, being time-pressured, or having conflicts with colleagues. Extreme commitment that leads employees to neglect their own needs may also be at the root of it. Problems caused by stress at work are a common cause for being signed off sick. But sometimes changes in the working environment and more concrete support in everyday life can already help with problems at the workplace or stress from home care.
Someone close to me experienced burnout after completing a big project. She didn’t realize that the project had her stressed. And this is the worst thing about burn out, you don’t see it coming. On the day of completing the project, she started crying. At first we thought it was a sign of relief, but it wasn’t, unfortunately. What was supposed to be a celebratory time for completing a major project, turned into months of darkness for.
I’ve heard people supporting loved ones through cancer, illness, depression and many other things, but I can’t explain the heartbreak of seeing someone you love suffer from burnout, it’s dark, very dark.
According to medical studies burnout happens when you work so hard that your body no longer calculates the amount of rest it needs, instead it starts feeding on your adrenaline, eventually using all your adrenaline to survive, resulting in burnout. Your body is litarelly feeding on itself. And once the project or job at hand is completed, it no longer needs to survive, and crashes, causing severe depression and giving a mental feeling of worthlessness and sadness.
Why am I telling you this? Because I want to let everyone that’s reading this know that it exists, it’s a real thing, and it sneaks up on you and attacks you. It’s not gradual, it’s sudden. After starting my own business, and doing it full time I suddenly started experiencing shortness of breath. I was unable to lay down without feeling like I was suffocating. I used to suffer from this when I was younger, so I ignored it at first. But it has gotten worse to the point of sleepless nights and claustrophobic, unproductive days. And when you can’t breathe you start to panic, and you struggle to breathe even more. It’s a terrible cycle.
The worst thing about all of this is that you do not necessarily realise that you have a problem. I don’t feel stressed, and I’m unbelievably happy with what I’m doing, and I’m running an extremely profitable business. I have no reason to feel stressed. But somewhere in my subconscious mind I must feeling it, because I have a huge anxiety problem.
So I read up about it, and as usual when you Google a symptom, you automatically have some chronic illness and you’ll die in two hours. They said that I had heart problems. But hours of research paid off, and I established that I was having one, very long, anxiety attack, that lasted about a week. Normal anxiety attacks last a few seconds or minutes, but in some rare cases it can last up to a month or more.
Once I realised this I was immediately aware of the possibility of burnout, and I’ve been taking a number of precautionary measures to avoid this. I’m 100% sure that I don’t suffer from burnout, but I’m not taking any chances. So if you suspect that you might be on the verge of burnout or anxiety, or that you already suffer from it, here are few tips and pointers to help you out:
- If you have shortness of breath, it actually means that you are panicing so you are breathing too much. Thus try breathing through your stomach, not your chest, and breathe slower. So slow your breathing to breathe less, don’t worry about yawning or filling up your chest with air, breathe from your stomach slowly, hold for a few seconds and breathe out very slowly through your mouth. This will help maintaining better CO2 levels.
- Take walks, this will help you to take your mind off things, and will also help to regulate your breathing. It’s almost as if my body goes into autopilot, and it helps me breathe normally.
- Do things that preoccupy your mind, this sounds cliché, but it really works, for me it helps to watch series like Walking Dead and House of Cards, that completely takes my mind off things, as well as baking, colouring and painting.
- Talk to someone, someone that will respect your problem, and anxiety. I spoke to my husband, and mother, they respect me and they’re helping me cope with the breathing problem and subconscious stress.
Longer term treatments:
The key is to get your breathing AND your anxiety under control. You need to retrain your mind to breathe normally again. So train your body to always breathe through your stomach, not your chest, so you’ll breathe better and prevent hyperventilation.
- Do yoga! My husband and I have done ROMWOD a few times, and it’s very focused on regulating breathing, and will help you to get your anxiety under control. Also, attending classes such as yoga will expose you to communities and new people, that can help cope with anxiety.
- You need to identify what is causing the anxiety. There’s no overnight cure, but once you identify the cause you can start eliminating it from your life, or adjusting it to prevent the cause.
- When the person I spoke of earlier suffered from burnout there was nothing I could do. The only cure was to do different things with her, like take her on outings, do activities such as scrapbooking and watching movies, and always, always,always being available. She sought medical attention, they helped her body to reproduce the adrenaline it used.
- What also helped her was that she wanted to be helped, so we would talk about it, and we’d discuss solutions and changes. We focused on all the amazing things that resulted from the project, and all the amazing things she has achieved in her life.
If you know of someone that suffers from burnout or anxiety, do not take it lightly, it’s a big problem and it can’t be ignored. Read up on the possible symptoms, and if you or someone close to you are on the verge or struggling, help them, and get help.
There’s a big difference between depression and burnout. I am not depressed, I love my life and I love every aspect of it. I also don;t suffer from burnout, only anxiety, subconscious stress, that could possibly lead to burnout if not paid attention to. Burnout is caused by stress, and the effects of burnout is deadly. If you suffer from this, seek medical attention, It’s been nearly 3 years since her burnout, and she is still recovering.
But there’s hope, and we need to support those that suffer from it.
“Just as night is followed by day, so too your dark times will be followed by brighter days ahead.”