The pendulum gave a swing – and the roulette landed on black
In my mind it was like I just needed to run a little faster, or be able to be a little bit better, do a little bit more, be a bit wiser. If I could do that, then I would feel better. If I just reached a little bit further I would get there. Just a little bit more, then I would be where I wanted to be… but after a long time – maybe years – it fell apart.
It was a friend who “catched me in the fall”. I was suffering from severe stress!
On my way to that condition I had vision problems (I was wondering why my coworkers did not feel like they were looking through a set of blinds), I had trouble orientating myself in traffic (it could have gone so bad in that car), fatigue (that is probably just the way it is having two small children), hair loss (just like when I was breastfeeding!?), and I was craving cheese, chocolate and coffee (I never even liked coffee?).
Well, here I was. Me, who always thought that any idiot would be able to feel the signs, and know when it was time to stop. Here I was. A complete idiot!! Because I did not listen and I did not stop.
On the contrary, I had given up everything that mattered to me, and instead I was working so hard. I was working so that I … well for what? Why was I working so hard?
The fact is, that I ended up lying on my shield, and I could not even wiggle. Thanks to my loving and insisting friend I went to see my doctor. Fortunately I have a very good doctor. She got me motivated to slow down.
She made me realize, that I needed to let go of all my commitments, and very slowly allow myself to do something for myself. That was exactly what I had practiced for so long not to do.
At this point I had to have space between myself and those around me. That included my family. I was so exhausted, I could not do anything. I could not even speak on the phone or answer messages. I could just lie still and slowly recover.
After a few months I was able to take the first, very small steps, towards filling myself up again. Slowly I started walking every day, took hot tubs, I had cranio sacral therapy, medical eurythmy (a kind of gymnastics), and then I had a breakthrough: Breathwork. This really made a difference. And for the first time I realized, that burnout was not a chronic state of mind where I would be the rest of my life. No. I even held the key to my own wellbeing within myself. And it was there all the time. My own breath!
I also saw a psychologist for a while, and later on I did another yoga teacher training. That training ended up giving me yet another release. Yoga has for many many years been my sacred space. A place that is mine alone and where I can rebalance myself. In the time leading up to my sick leave I did not do yoga. And I did not see my friends. When they asked to see me, I would say something like “we will find a date soon” – I never found that date.
My doctor made me realize that my friends and my yoga, were two things, that were very important to me. I reincorporated yoga in my life, and I started seeing my friends again! Just not too many at a time. I still do yoga and spend time with my friends. And on top of that I meditate and develop my mental skills.
I got up again and I landed on my feet. I had to realize which values are most important to me in my life. Number one for me is definitely my family, and if I want to be there for them, I need to be there for myself in the first place (it sounds almost like the stewardess in the airplane asking you to put on the oxygen mask yourself before helping others).
In the process of being there for myself, I also needed to look at my work situation. It has been necessary to make adjustments, so that I feel that what I do for a living is something that makes me happy. Therefore, I have taken further education in a direction that is more likely to create a work life that I enjoy. In that process I can use many of the elements that I have experienced during my time of burnout. I continue to educate myself and I do not try so hard to be something that I am not anymore. That is very liberating.
I still practice listening to myself and feeling how I feel, and I practice saying yes and no. I now know where my limits are and what I can do to adjust the pendulum, in order to get back into balance.
The burn out period ended up being a great gift that I can use as a compass in my life. I feel like saying thank you. Thank you stress! Thank you for letting my life pendulum swing. I know now, that it will swing back again. And I allow it to take the time that it needs to swing back. If I have been involved in something that requires a lot of energy, then I know that I need to prioritize to do something self caring afterwards, and then everything will fall into balance again.
My pendulum. Symbolised as a swing. It keeps me in balance.
Written by Mette Odgaard Olsson