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How To Overcome Burnout (Kay's Final Chapter)

Many people fought the battle, some aware of what they've been experiencing and what to do to actually overcome the struggle, and many without a clue what's been happening to them, to their psychological and physical being.

Yes, burnout is real. And yes, it has an enormous effect on one's life!


In our previous chapters, we've been exploring this topic more in depth, and especially thanks to our brave Kay, who felt like sharing her story and experience with burnout should be heard and perhaps empower others to talk about that more.


If you are new to our blog posts about Burnout, please head back a little here; and read our first three chapters before continuing. It is vital to understand the first stages, alongside with symptoms which I've tried to break down on a personal level with Kay to help the readers to relate.


We will be continuing to the stage of burnout itself and eventually onto how to overcome burnout, so you will get the complete view.



phoenix rising from ashes being all in flames. created by AI

she fell

she crashed

she broke

she cried

she crawled

she hurt

she surrendered


and then...


she rose again like Phoenix rose from ashes!







We have reached the fourth stage of Burnout, which is Burnout itself. Unfortunately, there will be one more stage (number 5 - Habitual Burnout) after this one, but let's start where we've left off with Kay.


Kay's world has been significantly changed, altered to numbness, a robot mode..

The only thing she's remembered for the past few years was work. No fun, no friends, no trips abroad with family, no meaningful relationship.

From the emotional side of the story, she has socially withdrawn; stopped being in touch with friends and family on the number of occasions she used to, still justifying that by "I have just too much work at the moment, it will pass"; she felt apathy towards her both inner and outer circle; and she became very easy to irritate and snappy apart from her never interrupted politeness at work.


When she looks back on the physical side of the stages ultimately leading towards a burnout, she still still can't believe she used to be able to live like that. Having your destroyed emotional side entwined with deteriorating health.

At this point Kay was feeling constantly tired, with heavy head and shoulders.

~ I would actually like to pause here and explore this symptom of "heaviness" as I can personally relate to Kay.

When I encounter a strong stresser, and here I mean really a deal-breaking event, not a day to day amount of "normal" stress, I feel like all my energy just flushes out within a second; I feel tired and heavy; with no energy and motivation whatsoever. I'm sure many of you notice the same if you focus on what's happening with your body and your mind when facing a stressful event.


But back to Kay, she continued to suffer from headaches and due to evolving insomnia she developed a little tweak in her eye.


Perhaps there was still a hope for a way back, turn of events for better, but Kay didn't have the luxury to take a break and self-reflect. She's been constantly reminded of the nature and importance of her role, there was no reasoning.


Kay ultimately broke down like a house of cards...

Cards on  table. Looks like fallen house of cards with the queen of hearts on top.

#4 Burnout


If anybody thinks it's not very easy to reach this stage, given all prior symptoms, some might wonder that it can be spotted in advance and perhaps prevented.?!

Unfortunately people trapped within the difficult situation often don't see it as one, with a clear mind and healthy work-life balance, might.


Kay found herself in the fourth stage of burnout, still believing she had been doing everything in her power to pursue happiness, relax, and unwind occasionally. She thought it was her own capabilities that were holding her back.

It wasn't very helpful from her superiors to remind her every now and again that this is indeed the case, which of course was not.

However sad is that some employers choose to ignore their employees' private life, it is he ugly truth for many professionals.


There are very many symptoms that relate to this stage, and in Kay's case this was the part when she took the biggest blow.

One morning Kay was due a GP appointment. She was on the way to the hospital when she'd heard from her work over many channels, asking for attention. At that very moment Kay's vision blurred and she collapsed.

Kay was taken to an urgent medical care..


Her heart was pumping like a racehorse, her stomach was all twisted and knotted, her blood pressure was all over the place. She was confused and didn't know what'd happened.

When she woke up, she found her GP standing by her hospital bed, ready to start shedding more light onto what happened.


From the high skies Kay was flying, all detached from the world, emotionally locked with a key thrown away, she fell down back onto the Earth.

She remembers that the actual explanation which brought her back to the ground twisted her world, shattered the picture of her self being and the life she had believed was in no way somehow standing out from normality, to pieces.


This was a life-changing event which forever affected Kay's life.

Let's now focus on what Kay experienced during this stage, because if you think that this is the end of the chapter and we'll now focus on how to prevent the route towards here, then you are mistaken.

Unfortunately the real suffering had only begun..

empty vessel on a sea during sea storm. created by AI

Kay now, more than ever, felt like an empty boat rocking on vigorous waves of stormy ocean.

She felt little purpose in her life, with her career suddenly being put to stop, facing chronic headaches, chronic stomach problems, insomnia, continued social isolation and an enormous self doubt.!


All symptoms that were felt before were still there and even increased on their power; despite finally saying NO to work, she could no longer function normally.

Imagine all the routine tasks that you carry on every day; waking up, making your bed, having a shower, brushing your teeth, making breakfast and tea, going shopping, preparing for work. Simply going out and about with your life. Well. That's been all twisted for Kay.


She started to neglect her personal needs, couldn't face a situation where she needed to choose - without feeling anxious, couldn't make plans for the day to start the long journey of healing.


And little good it did at the beginning, the encouraging words from her doctor, that this,indeed, needs time to heal and it will get better.


At that time, Kay didn't believe it would.


BURNOUT PUTS YOU FACE TO FACE WITH AN ENORMOUS SELF-DOUBT!


Kay was taking medication for sleep, as without that every night was a sleepless one. Head full of worries, about herself and her own well-being, but some about her work, naturally.

She's had terrible dreams from which she'd wake up covered in cold sweat, with her blanket all twisted, and pillows thrown on the floor.

To help her build a bridge over the troubled situation and balance out the past, the present and the future, she has also been prescribed antidepressants.


You will feel extremely confused, perhaps trying to push for a move forward too soon, when all you need to do is to stand still.

At this stage I can't stress enough that taking a break and actually doing nothing is absolutely fine!

Your whole body was like a never stopping high speed train which suddenly stopped! Of course you will feel extremely confused, perhaps trying to push for a move forward too soon, when all you need to do is to stand still.

 


HOW TO OVERCOME BURNOUT?


The general rule of thumb is straight forward here, Kay needed to build a healthy routine to replace everything she's been used to before.

However terrifying that might sound, building your life all the way from the ground up, it's necessary for a healthy start. A DO-OVER time!


book open on the first page stating act one, scene one

You can read many articles about burnout online, where you find only bullet-points - do this, do that, don't do that etc. Not here; we will talk about the long route towards self-healing more in depth and keep it closely related to Kay's experience.

Please bear in mind everyone's experience might be different and you might need to get your own grip on things.


Settling Kay's troubled mind to actually start the journey wasn't an easy task for her and indeed it needed time, complete stillness and going back to basics.

We are looking at the very start, the blank sheet of paper waiting to be written on.



simply BE


The very first step is just TO BE. Don't push yourself hard, jump into other unhealthy routines, and allow yourself to be present in the moment of your suffering, confusion, and dark thoughts. Acknowledging that, and taking time to observe yourself without the need of any action, is the beginning for you.

Allowing yourself plenty of sleep is important as we all know sleep heals, and at the beginning you might find yourself in need of really long sleep every day.

In Kay's experience this took several weeks to months. It's important not to be hard on yourself in this stage, however long it may be.

It's challenging especially if you were, like Kay, used to be on the case, 24/7 bam bam, things being done.

I can't emphasize more that this is the start of your life and the journey will need you in full power. Taking this time is essential.



baby steps


With a slow and careful approach to the routine, let's start with baby steps and build it up.

From the most trivial tasks to others, we need to keep in mind that almost everything is challenging when you are in the stage of burnout, therefore brushing your teeth in the morning and not after noon is a great start!

Making a little grocery shopping list rather than feeling overwhelmed and anxious by too many choices at the store;

including one fruit with your breakfast and actually having a breakfast;

going out for a daily walk - this has a double effect by doing a light exercise on fresh air and slowly starting to socialize, not directly seeking conversations with people but just seeing the world go by;

planning a day of the week to wash your hair;

doing things to make you feel more human, like reading a book, painting your nails (even if no-one will see them, but you will!);

talk to your family and friends;

and many more you can think of.

Start filling your day with healthy habits and routines, once you feel stronger - learn a skill or two (Kay's been mastering bread baking ever since!)


AND


Never feel ashamed of asking for help!

This can include your GP, enrolling into Talking Therapy which many find useful, or if you feel you don't want to talk to professionals, talk to your family and friends and let them know what you struggle with.


All the tasks above might seem trivial but they are the setting stones for the DO-OVER and the start of one's new life!


 

Confront your stresser


Once you feel stronger and more comfortable with your newly set up routine, it might be the time to start thinking about your job and face the skeleton in your closet, the reason for your mental breakdown, the reason for your worries, the reason that kept you pumped with adrenaline for so many years.

Without sorting out THE STRESSER you might be moving around in a circle without reaching the most desired outcome, which is to get better PERMANENTLY!


Kay had her priority figured out. After a short period of a sick note allowing her to completely detach from the professional world, she quit.

Having worked in the industry for so long, without being allowed to have any personal life, her inner self told her to stop, get hold of the reins of her own life and stop living her life for someone else.


Kay's case was an extreme one and if you're facing similar difficulty, however your job is fulfilling and you have supporting management, then it's the time to start communicating with your superiors / principals on how to return to work.

Mediate conditions and focus specifically on issues you found difficult for you, driving you towards burnout. That might be your working hours, on-call hours, regular breaks, annual leave allowance, amount of duties and responsibilities, and the overall communication with the management.

Let them know you, as anyone, have LIMITS! And say NO where you need to.

Something clearly needs to change and this is a vital step to sustain your newly found balance, which is still young and needs to be nurtured further.


keep building up your new routine & new you


Kay has changed her life completely, building up on a strong foundation of good habits and mindful routine. Her unhealthy relationship towards exercise, food, alcohol and time for herself has been replaced by variety of regular exercises she found passion for, home made nutritious meals, having an occasional glass of wine - not to relief any stress but to celebrate, and allowing herself to relax every day.

She surrounded herself with people she loves and most importantly started a mindful self- love, leaving no space for self-doubt!


She is strong, she is capable, she is worthy!

All to sustain what she fought for.


 

I can't express how grateful I am for my amazing friend Kay and her story of experiencing the four complete burnout stages with insightful and personal experiences.


Kate Cerna, CEO of Tailored Staff Domestic Recruitment agency london, sitting by desk, looking into camera

It's been a delight working closely with her on this article, intending to raise awareness, empower, and share valuable insights on how to overcome burnout.

We hope that, after reading the story, you can gather the strength to rise, just like a Phoenix from the ashes.


Share this story with anyone you feel might need empowerment, knowledge or just to read a story of one's personal experience and struggle.

Together with Kay we hope we made a little bit of difference to the readers!


With much love,


Kate and Kay

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