You’ve pushed yourself to the point of breaking. You’ve put your blinders on and you can’t see anything other than your pain. You told yourself it would be different this time and that never again would you allow yourself to get to this point; yet here you are.
When we push ourselves over and over again and we refuse to listen to our bodies, the only possible outcome is burn out. We crash and burn and we think that it is the end. We get to the point of breaking and we break and once we are broken we fear that we will never be put back together again.
There are two things that I have learned about burn out over the years, and honestly, I have found them to be quite helpful.
The first thing I have learned is that burn out is avoidable. When we learn to listen to our bodies and our minds and the cues that they give us, we can learn how to notice when a burn out might be coming. When we know the cues and the signs to look for, we can notice them, and adjust our lives accordingly. Let me give you an example. Something that I know about myself is that when I am close to a burn out I have absolutely no creativity. Now I’m no Picasso to begin with, but I love to write and read and let that side of my brain get some exercise. However, if I am close to a burn out, that side of my brain, and the interest I have in those things completely shuts down. I have no desire to write or create, nor do I have the ability to focus on something long enough to read it. Historically, I would notice these things and I would shrug it off and attribute it to being tired and needing some sleep and nothing more than that. Now I know that those things are ways of my brain telling me to slow down because it can’t take anymore. I don’t always life recognizing these things, because it can cause me to feel like I’ve failed or to think that I should be able to do better. But now that I am more aware of these signs and what they are a precursor of, I am more likely to head the warnings. I would much rather be forced to take a single mental health day than find myself out of work for months (yeah, I’ve been there). There are other ways that both my body and mind can indicate to me that a burn out is coming and if I don’t do something soon I’m going to break, and I am learning how to recognize these things every single day. The more I listen to my body, the more avoidable burn outs will become.
The second thing I have learned is that a burn out is not the end. Candles can be blown out, but they can also be reignited. Humans are no different. Sometimes we need a break, that is completely normal. We need to give ourselves breaks, and if we happen to need a break because of a burn out, then so be it. There is no shame in your mind or body needing a break from the struggles of life. We live in a world that tells us that we have to be on our A Game every second of the day, but that’s simply impossible. We will have times that we need to step back from things and recharge our batteries, and there is not a single ounce of shame in needing to do that. Please remember that we blow candles out before we go to sleep, but we can always light them again in the mornings. We, as humans, are the same. We can allow ourselves to rest and it is not the end.
Burn out can happen. It is just a part of the fast-paced world we live in. But if we learn to listen to the cues that our minds and bodies can give us, we can learn to pre-emptively combat burn outs. But, sometimes we will fail to catch a burn out, and that is okay too. Humans are candles, we will need breaks sometimes, but we can also always be reignited.