Burn out – my desperate story!!

Ever experienced burnout? It’s a massive sense of overwhelm after you’ve been hustling hard, taking on too much, or not prioritising your self care. It’s usually thought of as a side effect to an exciting career or exhilarating lifestyle, but it can be costly. I’m speaking from experience.

The issue with burnout is that it can dress itself up and shape shift. It can feel like “this is just what it takes to be successful” and it can even be really fun until your body halts and tells you you’re doing too much. That usually comes as extreme fatigue, fainting, mood swings or even getting sick.

My burnout certainly seemed fun, and it certainly seemed like the right choice. I was 19 and working full time at a high street coffee shop that was always busy. I started at 6am, finished at 2 and got home to film YouTube videos for my channel. I was basically working at a coffee shop to fund my music and I loved that I had the freedom to do that. After filming, editing or promoting content I usually went out in the evenings to perform at gigs, open mic nights or network with other music professionals. It wasn’t unusual for me to roll in at 2am, get up at 5, and head straight back into work at 6 again the next day. It was amazing, I felt like I was making progress with music, and I loved it.

As I’m writing this I’m amazed I had the energy to do this. I LOVE my sleep. If someone offered me a job spec with that much work I’d laugh them out of the room. It’s amazing what we will put up with in the name of success! Despite all the late nights (and my pure inability to nap during the day) I absolutely loved feeling like I was growing a business and following that massive “GIRLBOSS” culture. As many women do, I soaked up the idea that doing more meant I was worth more, I was different, I was going to be successful because I could handle 20 hour days when others couldn’t. That’s what it took and I had it.
Well, let me tell you something Lizzie – NO ONE CAN HANDLE TWENTY HOUR DAYS. That’s why you fall asleep at night. That’s why people recommend rest and meditation and yoga when you’re feeling crappy. You need to chill, sis!

So what happened? I got asked to pick up an extra shift at the coffee shop and rather than saying yes, I burst into tears with my dad. I started and just couldn’t stop. The Youtube videos I was creating stopped being a good quality and the engagement was low. The gigs felt random and spontaneous, and I started feeling really shit about myself because I wasn’t producing as much anymore. (if you haven’t read my blog post about the mental issues that caused me, click here!) I lost control of my emotions, I made bad decisions, I put on about a stone and me and my boyfriend broke up. Shit got real. (The relationship ending was unrelated, but I certainly couldn’t handle an already difficult dynamic feeling like this.)

The thing with burnout is that once you’ve come to a grinding stop, you don’t just revert back to regular productivity levels. I changed jobs and started vocal coaching, but I couldn’t put the effort into my business that I needed to for it to grow. I had long lie ins, binged TV and ate rubbish food. Hint: if you aren’t in alignment with your body you won’t get into burnout or go this complete other way. You’d be balanced, hence why not only did I overdo it but I didn’t know how to heal my body from that either. My money went down because of this and my self care was super low. I let people use me and I had no direction. I was stuck.
Losing all that momentum really shot me back a few steps and I wandered through different short term jobs to stay afloat. I forgot all about music and I started going to a counsellor and working through depression. I was on medication for this and struggled really badly with both old, unprocessed trauma and the feeling that I wasn’t good enough for my dreams, which I thought I’d proved to myself by not being able to handle the strain.
It’s only recently (about 4 to 5 years later) that I’m realizing that I never gave myself a fair chance. Its really unfair to expect anyone to hold down all that work and reap amazing results for a long period of time. I discovered that for my work to be good, my results to be good, I had to prioritise a load of other things too. I have to eat well, drink enough, get enough sleep, laugh, have hobbies, and check what I’m consuming day in and day out online. I have to be strict with my self care because it’s the only way I’ll be happy or hit my targets.

If you’re in a similar position, or you have been, I’m sure you know the strain of reintroducing work to the equation too. Right now as I start to get back to making music, I scream internally because it’s so scary. I have to learn how to balance it with everything else, and the idea that I can’t do that is terrifying. I don’t want to feel exhausted again! So each day I’m listing the things I need to do for my business, my 9-5, and my wellbeing. Learning to juggle is definitely a skill needed to keep those low points at bay.

I hope these words have encouraged you to take better care of yourself. If you’d like more tailored information on taking care of yourself whilst you hit your dreams, or advice on how to reach them, make sure to get in contact with me for a free half hour discovery call! When have you experienced burnout?