Not so long ago, when reference was made to burn out and stress, there was a tendency to think it was something far fetched. Or something that had other forms in which it manifested. However, more people are coming to terms with this and how it is linked to mental health. From my experience, I realised that a good number of people are indeed stressed, burnt out and in dire need of a break. It manifests little by little, our body tells us, then as the signs accumulate, chronic stress manifests and some people never recover from it. At this time, immunity is weakened, which could easily culminate in chronic or terminal illnesses. It creeps on you slowly then spirals out of control.
In the bid to be great at what we do, we sometimes lose ourselves or forget to pay attention to ourselves. Being overworked or stressed these day seems to come with a badge of honour, which makes me wonder why we glorify stress.
When it gets to the point where we can no longer go on or on those days when it all seems too much, one would like the world to pause for just one minute. But you realise in horror that the world can be cruel and life just seems to go on. One also wonders if some people who are able to stay disconnected from their feelings have a super power. The quick realisation of being dispensable hits differently. From holding it together for so long, it is easy to fall apart. And fall you might, very hard. Through certain kinds of events, you also get to realise which of the people around you you can really rely on.
I'll use an example of myself and that of a friend.
My friend found a lump in her beast, which was taken out. She had been overworked and stressed for a long time, she is a nurse and lives in the US. She had been bitter about so many things in her life for a long time also. Another one showed up a few months later. One of the doctors ended up asking her if there were unresolved issues in her life. At first she dismissed it, but had to pay attention eventually. Increasingly, medical practitioners recognise that one's mental state is directly linked to the body and the hormones that are produced. Anyway, the second lump was taken out, again it was benign but she had to come to terms with her emotional state and deal with things. It took her a while, but she is in a good place now and falls ill far less than she used to.
Disclaimer - This is just one example and I am in no way saying this is the only thing responsible.
I on the other hand, tried to speak up when the tell tale signs started manifesting but instead of people listening, I constantly got the reply ‘you are strong, you’ll be fine’. That certainly was not helping so I stopped speaking. I internalised things, I was not sleeping well, I was dreaming of everything. I could be quite analytical so I was thinking constantly, then I went quiet. With some people, I communicated less, with others I stopped communicating, I switched off from social media, news, anything that could provoke me.
My body continued giving me signs, due to lack of proper sleep. I had constant head aches, I could not digest food properly, yet I was always bloated. According to a doctor, I was not eating enough and my body was producing excess acid so I could taste bile in my mouth every now and then. I constantly felt stressed. The signs are internal as well as eternal, my skin looked dry and my hair started thinning. My hair is still yet to get its normal volume back.
I was on holiday for a while, so I stayed home. Through that time, I watched my family try to rescue me in vain. Because no matter how hard they tried, it takes time and you in it are the only one who knows exactly how you are feeling. I basked in the hugs, tight hugs. The looks of sympathy and understanding of "I know it is hard for you", the prayers for my well being, cooking to ensure I stayed fed. Everyone contributed in their little way to make it easier.
I spoke to a coach but realised that it helped just as an outlet, at some point, I needed more than that. So I stopped speaking to the coach. The part where shrinks just listen and do not give recommendations does not work for me. She asked questions to draw out my feelings and for me to try to find the answers myself but it was not enough. It took three months for me to start to feel like myself again.
My healing came from isolation. I was alone with my thoughts, I felt every emotion and some were so intense. I cried, a lot, I exercised, I prayed and sometimes I slept. I was mostly tired and I had little energy for anything. At some point, I had to pick myself up and move on. This may not be the case for everyone. I have heard of people who are unable to pick themselves up and may need professional help.
I read a number of stress and burn out related posts and research during this period. The one thing that was clear to me was that there is no one size fits all approach to handling stress or burn out. Some people wiggle their way out in two weeks, while it could take some others up to a year or even longer to recover. Did you know that there was a thing called chronic fatigue syndrome?
I was sure that I didn't want to be the person who let herself go, and didn't recover from this situation, so I fought. There is so much to do while I'm alive so I make efforts now not to let myself get to that point ever again. In the bid to make a living, to prove yourself, to be the best, don't forget to take care of yourself. For some like me, this was a wake up call/reminder that I am responsible for my well being.
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