Reviewing my burnout

“I always thought burnout happened when you work too much. Now I get it. It’s investing emotionally and then not getting a return on that investment.” — @spamaps

"If you're expecting a reward and you don't get it, dopamine levels fall steeply." (via Psychology Today)

My burnout was not from physical tiredness. It’s caring and investing and hoping for things and not getting that. Over and over again.

I slept a lot. I stopped writing. I stop making the podcast. I stop learning. And it didn’t help one bit.

I went through many diagnoses. I thought it was grief. I thought it was languishing. I thought I’m working on the wrong project.

Burnout” isn’t some make-yourself-feel-better-because-you’re-unmotivated sort of term, meant to give you comfort when you’re stuck in a rut or feeling down, stressed and unmotivated for weeks on end."  @teaNreflection

Symptoms

  • Irritable from perfectly reasonable request
  • Disengaged with everything (meaninglessness)
  • Unmotivated
  • Despite exercising, meditation (10mins) and 8h of sleep, I did not feel better

I have tried living alone, psychedelic retreat and alternative therapy (focusing). My obsessive nature compounded the number of possible diagnoses and solutions. Adding to this, I didn’t have the vocabulary to name my symptoms. I am functional on the outside and easily irritated.

My sense of self, my preference and my opinion are gone. I’m like a dead log floating downstream. I feel disengaged with everything. The things that brought me joy, don’t anymore. Food, music, podcast and learning.

I rest well. And since I don’t have a sleeping problem, I sleep a lot. 12 hours a day, lazing around, naps. I keep work to a minimum. I wake up for small meals. I keep up a walking and yoga routine. I meet my parents and friends. The rest of the time, I slept.

I really wish I can get back to my usual vibrant self. But I can’t. I don’t know why and how. Not knowing if and how to get better is the scariest part. I imagine it’s the same for depression, grief or other chronic illness.

For the first time in my life, I don’t know how to dig myself out of the hole. And I look perfectly fine and privileged on the outside. Traveling, running a successful lifestyle business.

I hope writing out this experience will give an expanded perspective of burnout and how you could help yourself too.

Possible causes

  • Unsustainable pace (of coaching + podcast + traveling)
  • Grandma passing
  • Leading extended family through the inheritance dividing process

What really helped

  • Freeing of responsibilities
  • Closing animation studio for the year
  • Being cared for by my friend
  • Allowing myself to be cared for
  • Being with a friend who is highly present and caring (and is not disturbed about my disability)l
  • Giving myself 3 months off to travel

What didn’t helped

  • Hanging out with friends (it didn’t worsen either)
  • Psychedelic retreat (it did confirm there was no grief in the body)
  • Hustling to find what’s next and things to do.
  • Goal-based coaching
  • https://conscious.is/blogs/a-different-take-on-burnout (believing that burnout is optional, preventable)
  • Salsa class
  • Personality test
  • Finding out the zone of genius
  • NLP session, breathwork

What I did well

  • See it as a common and natural illness (and did not blame myself)
  • Seeing it as learning opportunity (for future reoccurrence and others)
  • Journaling
  • Did not start smoking and drinking
  • Meditate daily
  • Exercise daily
  • Slowly down my work.

What might help but didn’t try

  • Vipassana
  • Therapy (to get a proper diagnosis)
  • Realigning with the purpose of work projects
  • Massage (with friends)
  • More connection with friends (lifeboat)
  • Volunteer and help someone
  • Dance classes
  • Group board game

Further steps

  • Re-connecting with purposeful and exciting work projects
  • Cultivate relationship lifeboats
  • Finding activities of group fun
  • Improve my resources to be a lifeboat for my friends
  • Start a relationship with a therapist (so it’s easier to do so when needed)

Further questions

  • What’s the right mix of surrender/listening vs taking action
  • When should I emerge from the break?
  • If I can’t travel, what else?
  • What’s the right mix of sleep vs getting out?
  • Could chronic dopamine fall (research paper) be the scientific reason for burnout?
  • What’s the difference/relationship between procrastination, burnout, boredom, existential angst, depression, and languishing? And if different, what other things might help?

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