I am burned-out and taking a break

I’m staring at this blank paper knowing exactly what I need to write. Yet the words can’t come out. Why? I want this personal post to be entertaining, funny, I want it to show that I’m a pretty good writer and I want it to be a good representation of who I am as a person. And that’s exactly my problem. My need to impress others but even more so myself keeps me from acknowledging what’s truly going on: I am burned-out. And that’s really all I need to write and really all I need to acknowledge.

What does burned-out mean?

It means that your battery is dead. You have used up all your energy without realizing it. You’ve noticed that you were getting tired and you might need a break, but you ignored the signals of your body. When you realized your battery was dead, you used a spare one you had left instead of stopping and charging the initial battery.

There will come a point where the spare battery is dead too; a point where there’s no energy left and you can’t do anything anymore. And this is when you’re officially part of the burnout-club, welcome!

How did I get burned out?

It’s been a crazy few years filled with lots of challenges, good and bad. Here’s a “short” version of my lifeline:

  • Sept 2015: Found out my father had cancer
  • Oct 2015: Fell in love with the love of my life
  • Jan 2016: My father passed away
  • Jun 2016: Leaving everything in The Netherlands to travel the world
  • Jul 2016: Seeing amazing places, yet feeling completely lost without a home and without a clear goal
  • Sept 2016: Starting to feel at home in Sydney and having the best months of my life
  • Dec 2016: Unexpected trip to The Netherlands due to my grandmother passing away
  • Apr 2017: Leaving Sydney to work and live at a farm for 4 months in order to get a second Australian visa
  • May 2017: Working 50 hours a week picking potatoes and working 15 to 20 hours a week on my social media and content business (read all about it here)
  • Sept 2017: Applied for a second visa while waiting abroad until allowed back in Australia, which normally takes about 2 to 4 weeks
  • Dec 2017: Finally able to return to our home and belongings in Sydney after 4 insecure and nomadic months of waiting for visa approval

I might be writing these events down as a summary of facts, but all of these moments involved lots of emotions, insecurities, and stress. I don’t mean this to be some sort of pity list; “Then this bad thing happened to me, then that bad thing”. This is literally what happened the past 2,5 year and it’s actually a pretty big eye-opener to me. And I never realized how many insane things happened in such a short period of time until I wrote them down. And two other very personal things are not even included… I realize now that it’s not so crazy that a time has come where I’m struggling with life. I also realize now that my burnout was definitely not caused by just working too much.

Setting high goals for myself

When we finally got back to Sydney early this year I wanted to make the most of it, as I felt like I just missed 4 months of my life waiting for our visa. More like 9 months actually, as living and working at the farm wasn’t much of a life for me. This was the moment to finally work towards the goals I had set for myself.

I worked hard and as a result, my career went sky rocking. If you follow me on Instagram you’ve seen it happen. But success can come at a cost. I was working 15 hours a day and hardly made time for things/people that really brought me joy. I ignored the signals my body was giving me and just kept going and going. As if life wasn’t stressful enough, I even moved house during this time.

Can’t release stress anymore

Due to all these events I apparently build up so much stress that my body literally got tight with tension 24/7 and I wasn’t able to release it anymore. Until the first day I cried for no reason five months ago. Lots of those cries would follow and I realized it was simply a way for my body to let a little bit of stress go.

Sometimes a cry wouldn’t be enough and the tension in my body would build up so bad that I’d get an anxiety attack. Feeling like losing control of your own body and mind is a very, very scary thing and definitely not beneficial for a healthy, positive mental state.

Neither is insomnia, which is a common thing for burned-out people. My body is so full of stress hormones that the sleep hormones can’t win. So even though I’m exhausted, I can’t sleep. Which gets me frustrated, which causes stress, which makes it hard to sleep, which causes more stress, which makes it even harder to sleep and hello vicious circle! Fun fact: It’s 4.24 in the morning while I’m writing this. Not so funny actually…

Fall-back

I realized I had to take this burnout seriously and I’ve taken lots of different steps towards recovering the past few months. For example: Meditating almost every day, doing a Mindfulness course, taking naps, saying no to work projects, saying no to friends, writing down all things that cause me stress and things that make me happy. I felt like my energy levels were slowly getting back to normal.

The worst thing any burned out person can do is to use up the energy you’ve slowly built up. Yet that’s exactly what I did. Why? I was just so happy to have a bit of energy again. I was so happy to finally get some work done, to see my friends again and doing things that make my life worthy. It’s a common mistake burned out people make. Result: I’m back to where I started.

Time to take it serious

I find it really hard to accept that I’m “sick” and having to respond to my body, my heart, my intuition. Even though these are the things that tell you what’s best for you. Instead, like so many people, I always listen to my critical mind that wants me to do stuff, that wants me to succeed.

This is probably the reason why of all things I tried, I haven’t tried to take a true break from work; stop Instagram, stop creating content and stop all the business stuff that comes with it. A part of me still feels that I should be able to get the priority things done. But what is your true priority when you’re sick? Getting better. It’s time for me to get better and do nothing for a while. Even though doing nothing makes me feel like a failure.

I’m taking a digital break starting Monday the 25th

I’m planning on doing so for a week, unless my body tells me I need more time. This is the reason why I wanted to share this personal story with you; I don’t want to just disappear.

I’m also sharing this to get people more aware of the fact that what you see on social media is just a small percentage of what’s truly going on in a person’s life.

But most of all I’m sharing this in hopes of reaching people, even just one person, that’s dealing with this as well. This story doesn’t contain an answer or magical solution to this shitty problem, unfortunately, but hopefully, it makes someone else experiencing a burn out feel less alone.

If you have any tips, things that worked for you, good books to read, maybe even the name of a burn-out specialist in Sydney, I’d love to hear from you 🙂

5 Comments

  1. Katelyn June 24, 2018 at 10:52 pm

    Girl, I feel you so much on this. I’ve moved 4 times in the past 3 years including my most recent international move to Sydney (I’m from the states)! I’ve had to take a few breaks from social media already this year and one month long from Instagram which as a content creator / blogger feels absolutely terrifying, but I’m here to say it was worth the break and turns out nothing was lost! If you need someone to talk to or grab coffee with during your break (or anytime after) I’d love to meet you! Sounds like we have like minds who have been through similar situations! Feel free to contact me if it feels like something you’d be up for 🙂

    Xx
    Katelyn
    @katelyn_now on insta

    Reply
  2. Merel June 25, 2018 at 1:04 am

    Van een weekje vrij ‘maak’ je jezelf waarschijnlijk niet beter’, maar GOOD FOR YOU dat je zo dapper bent om die stap te nemen! Laat dit een opstapje zijn naar een verandering in levensstijl — hoera, een week de tijd om na te denken hoe dat eruit ziet — een levensstijl met somehow een betere balans tussen alle dingen die jij belangrijk / leuk vindt. Heel veel succes en ‘beterschap’ en weet dat je hierin zeker niet alleen staat. 🙂 PS. Qua leesvoer: de Taoh of Pooh van Benjamin Hoff. Het klinkt heel lame, want het gaat over Taosme uitgelegd door de schrijver die in gesprek is met alle figuren van Winnie de Pooh, maar ik vond het zo uniek en creatief geschreven en het geeft veel stof tot nadenken wat betreft de manier waarop we ons leven leiden (en ik heb Winnie de Pooh nooit leuk gevonden, dus dat zegt wat). Spoiler alert: laten we allemaal een beetje meer Pooh zijn.

    Reply
  3. Ashley June 25, 2018 at 8:10 am

    Exercise! I usually hate it but it helped heaps when I had burn out last year from my job as a paramedic. Also helped with the insomnia. Hope you are feeling better soon x

    Reply
  4. Mel June 25, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    Hi Lian.
    You have been through a tough time lovely… and take it from someone who has had more than their share of obstacles… it is best to face things. Your future self will thank you for it. I first had to deal with anxiety when I has my first baby and I couldn’t sleep or switch off. Seeing a counselor helps. It sucks dredging up stuff, but when its gone it is so much better. Have a good break lovely. Xx Mel @dressesofmine

    Reply
  5. Carina Neri July 4, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    Hi, how are you? I’m Brazilian and I’ve lived in Sydney for a year and I’ve been following you for some time, as one of the best inspirations for me !!
    I really wanted to be able to say the right words for you, or what would definitely help, but the most useful thing is to ask you to look for a professional, please!
    I think even giving the other person the responsibility to think of a good path to recovery may be more reassuring for you.
    Also, live only your day, one at a time, without thinking too much about tomorrow or what happened!
    I am sending many good energies for your recovery! You’re not alone, we’re all together!
    Carina Neri @dearlookcn

    Reply

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