Burnouts are real!
Let me start by sharing a great story. "How to control your anger?"
There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally, the day came when the boy did not lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.”
Now replace anger by burnout and the fence as your body. Every time you hit a burnout there is a mark that is left on your body. Not even kidding, the mark it leaves is quite horrendous and something one should be very very wary of.
I have first hand experience in what it feels like and what it does to your mind and body. Now what I am about to write here is purely based on my personal experience.
What burnout feels like?
Imagine doing a couch to 5K in matter of a day while coding. That will probably kill you, so only imagine please. Now imagine doing that over a course of a week or two! 🤣 What you end up with is excessive fatigue and zero mental bandwidth to do anything. It feels like you not having any energy or enthusiasm to deal with what is going on anymore. The first time it happened, I gradually fainted and fell asleep on the couch late in the evening and woke up after a good 12 hours of dreamless sleep. I swear it only felt like a blink to me, like I had one of those revitalising power naps but for 12 hours. I felt great, as if a massive strain were off me and this machine of a body just had its oil and filter changed.
However, the sad part is, it happened again. And this time it was worse and sooner. My eyes had red spots and it would get worse when I would get stressed. The burnout was more gradual, while I contemplated on ways to do more work and be more productive, it engulfed my into . The second time, my body and mind gave up again, but this time, I was on the living room carpet and that is where I slept like a baby for about 4 hours. I feel I never recovered from the second and subsequent burnouts. My wife and family was worried sick and the signs were starting to show on my face. Dark spots on below my eyes showing profound lack of peaceful sleep. Me getting irate over menial stuff. Not being able to look after my family or enjoy their company. I had no support from my colleagues or peers, and to top it all off I did not know myself what I was going through.
Most of the times, I merely thought that I was tired, like one gets after a smashing badminton session. Overall, I think I had about 4 different severe burnout events during the span of 2 months, with each one getting more frequent. I only recognised what I was going through when I had a moment to stop and reflect. And I can only wish I had done it sooner. It was like the boils on your foot that starts hurting only after you finish your miles long walk.
So, what did I do?
I had some real bad scars from this experience that I bought on to myself. The first thing I did was to promise myself that I will really look after myself. My peers did do, they all had their weekends and anniversaries and dinners. I promised myself that I will only work hard when my body and mind allow it. There are no clear markers to burnout, at least for me there were not until I had an episode.
I also had to do some garbage sorting. And by garbage, I mean habits and attitude. Identify the habits that make you burn out. For me they were mostly ignoring signs, stressing, and over working. A second big part to play was my attitude. I am almost always optimistic, and I am so not changing that. What I will be changing is making sure I am optimistic with the right people and with the right tools under my belt. I also tend to be unable to prioritise my personal life over work and some people just tend to take that for granted. There must be a boundary and it must be set in stone. Set that early on in your when you start a challenging span of work otherwise burnout is just a matter of time. Once I did these the garbage started getting sorted and here I am blogging about it 😄
I will end the post by stating the fact that one's body is their temple, please don't let anyone think otherwise (attitude) and most definitely not yourself (boundaries).
Please share your thoughts and feedback.