You know when you start learning how to drive, and all you notice when you walk around are road signs? They've been there all your life, but you never noticed them. And now they're everywhere.
So maybe it's because I got so close to burnout from stress that all I can see around me are stories of people (women?) who've left their career and drastically changed their lifestyle - to either avoid burnout or following a burnout.
Photo courtesy of Pexels.
Well, I'm one of them. It takes one to know one, right? But why are so many people reaching a point in their lives where they physically or mentally burn out or break down? Why do we have to reach a stage where every single ounce of our mind, body, and soul is screaming at us that something isn't quite right? Or that it's all very wrong, in fact?
I experienced that exactly that last year. Except that despite feeling unsettled, frazzled, and so easily overwhelmed by worry and anxiety, I didn't think I was stressed.
But I was stressed. I just didn't know it.
Because stress only happens to high-powered men and women in super-stressful careers. You know, the ones who work day and night and spend most evenings in the office. Not to people like me. What business did I have feeling stressed? My life was 'normal' compared to others. What right did I have to put my hand up and say that I could no longer keep up with the pace? That I couldn't do it all? That I needed a break? Everyone else does it all - the career, the children, the house - why should it be any easier for me?
I was stressed. And yet, I totally missed the signs. Because we're told we can have it all. And therefore we should want it all. And grab it with both hands too. How embarrassing would it be to admit defeat? To ask for help? To feel that I could no longer take or want this enormous amount of pressure?
Because it's there. Oh, it's there. It's all around us. In fact, we've ended up internalising it all, and the biggest pressure comes from within. We are putting it on ourselves. The pressure to do. To achieve. To succeed. To have more. To go, go, go.
Until we can no longer go.
And somehow burnout happens. It takes different shapes in different people, but it happens nonetheless. And to more people than we think. There's nothing good about this, except for one thing - that we are starting to see it happening. We're becoming more aware of it and starting to talk about it. And to recognise that there are other ways to live.
Because enough is enough. Too much is no good for anyone. Let's stop this nonsense. Let's get off this crazy ride that's life in the 21st century. We were never really meant to live this way. We're putting totally unrealistic expectations on ourselves.
And we've become disconnected. In a world that's always connected, paradoxically, we're totally disconnected. We've lost touch with any sort of internal wisdom. I had to break my leg before I stopped and realised what was going on. I had my warnings - I had an intuition that changes were needed. But I ignored it. Because I had lost the ability to tune in. I was confused by all the noise around me. Deaf to the (wise) voices inside.
And that's how we burn out.
Enough is enough. We just cannot carry on like this. It's not healthy. Our minds spend so much time in fight-or-flight mode that we no longer know how to cope. Our bodies are breaking down before our eyes. Screaming. Demanding our attention. Attention that we don't give them, because we're too busy scrolling mindlessly through social media. Or answering emails in the middle of the night.
Enough is enough.
It's time for change.
It's time to slow down.
It's time to stop and re-group.
It's time to tune in and re-learn skills we have lost on the way.
It's time to stop listening to the noise. And instead, to listen to the voices inside.
It's time to stop people from burning out. Are you with me?