Burn-out is a term we hear a lot online– and it can be caused by a number of different factors.
Modern life is hectic, and many of us need to deal with family responsibilities, work stress, personal issues, mental health concerns and more.
I recently experienced burn-out for the first time- and I couldn’t believe how much it affected me!
From physical symptoms to mental health issues, I felt like I would never get over such a change in outlook.
For me, my burn-out was mainly related to work stress. I reached the 6-month mark in my freelance career, and I had adopted some very unhealthy work habits along the way.
I hadn’t given myself any considerable time off during that time, and work was creeping into my personal life at a rapid speed.
Sometimes, even when you know all the advice and you understand how to be healthy- you just slip into bad habits, and it can be hard to get on the right path again.
For me, my anxiety eventually kicked in and told me that something needed to change. For others, it might be fatigue, depression or other mental health issues that push them into action.
In this post, I want to discuss the different aspects of burn-out I experienced. Alongside each point, I have included my top tip to prevent burn-out!
I am not a doctor or mental health professional. These are my experiences of self-diagnosed burn-out, and should not be taken as medical advice.
Check out the Mind website if you need to seek help.
One of the hardest aspects of burn-out for me was self-blame. At first I thought I was just experiencing a bad bout of anxiety.
However, when I realised I had burn-out, I really blamed myself for it.
If this had been happening to anyone else, I would have advised them exactly how to avoid burn-out. Once I realised what was wrong, it just seemed so obvious.
My work habits from the past couple of months suddenly seemed so unhealthy, and I finally understood what had happened.
However, I’d allowed everything build up over a long period of time, and so I didn’t manage to avoid it.
I’m sure a lot of freelancers have made the same mistake when they first start their career too.
For me, looking up my symptoms online helped a lot. I would never normally recommend this, as I know it can be dangerous to start searching for answers online.
However, I read a fantastic, well-researched article about burn-out and its various stages- and from here things started to improve.
Just having a “diagnosis” of some kind helped me understand that self-blame was completely normal- and that burn-out is not my fault.
I have always experienced some anxiety in my life, but my anxiety really peaked as burn-out hit me hard.
In a way, my body was telling me that something was wrong- and that something needed to change.
I might have continued to work and push through the burn-out, but my anxiety made that almost impossible.
Eventually, I had to stop what I was doing and just take time off everything to re-think my habits and re-direct my career.
Although I have experienced anxiety in the past, this was unlike anything I’d felt before. My body and mind knew that I needed to make a change before I did!
My family helped so much when this anxiety took hold of me. They helped me come up with a plan and identify the factors in my life causing anxiety.
If you experience burn-out, I really recommend surrounding yourself with loved ones as much as possible.
I didn’t want to be alone, and so I spent most of my time with my family during the worst of my burn-out.
Spending time with other people can really help to rationalise your thoughts and understand where your anxiety is coming from- whether it’s caused by burn-out or something else.
My sibling also helped me come up with a few useful anxiety management tools which will help me manage any issues in the future, too.
3. Loss of passion
For me, the passion I have for my freelance work is so important.
I need to enjoy the majority of my work otherwise I won’t keep going with it. However, during burn-out, I completely lost this passion- and this really scared me.
I couldn’t get away from the thought that I had fallen out of love with my work, and I started to overthink my career. I’ve always loved writing, but suddenly the idea of doing it didn’t fill me with any joy.
Passion is such an important motivating factor, and my experience of burn-out really removed all passion or excitement for me.
This is very common, and it can mean you’re not happy or, as in my case, it might mean a few things need to change to re-inject that passion.
I’m now starting to get passion back for my work– and I love it again!
I started by removing any jobs that were not in line with the work I want to do, and I reduced my client load to refocus my time and my career.
Taking time off work really helped me feel excited to get back to my laptop, rather than dreading it.
I also connected with a fellow freelancer and she helped to remind me what I love about writing.
Recently, I’ve started a few “passion projects” to enjoy writing just for the sake of writing- rather than for paying clients.
All of this has helped me fall back in love with my work!
I have struggled with overwhelm in the past, especially when my period is due or when I’m worried about something.
However, during burn-out the overwhelm hit me hard!
Suddenly everything was too much for me, and I felt panicked about housework, sitting down to work, going out to the shop, making something for dinner… You name it, I was stressed about it!
To combat my overwhelm, I needed to come up with a plan.
My family helped me create a brain dump, writing down everything that was on my mind and taking the time to understand how to overcome these things.
I made a list of “essential” things I needed to complete- and I stopped putting pressure on myself about anything additional, such as social meet-ups.
With time, the overwhelm eased and I could start to take small steps towards “normality”.
Since I started freelancing full-time, I’ve been working really hard to build up my work and client base.
This includes waking up early everyday, working on weekends and not giving myself enough time off. I failed to prioritise myself above my work when I needed it.
Feeling sleepy was the result- and when I burned out, I felt tired all the time. I tried to work through the sleepiness, but in the end I just had to give myself time to lie-in.
Now I am back to a normal working routine, and my body and mind really benefited from time to sleep and rest.
It seems simple, but to get over sleepiness I had to give in to it. I spent time watching TV on the sofa, napping and just letting myself sleep without an alarm.
This goes against all of my instincts, as I love to stick to an active and productive routine.
However, I needed to listen to my body and give it the time it needed to rest before diving back into my work with a clear mind.
6. Aches and pains
As well as mental health issues, I also experienced some physical symptoms of burn-out. I started to feel aches across my body, such as my jaw, shoulders and back.
This is a common sign of tension, and it made me even less inclined to stick to my normal routine.
My body needed me to get away from the computer and my desk- and actually take some time to relax and rest after months of working hard.
I recommend trying out yoga if you’re experiencing aches and pains.
I’ve never been able to get into yoga and meditation, but these are two healthy habits I would like to implement post-burn-out, even now that I feel better.
I followed a few videos that helped me focus on opening up my shoulders and back. I also tried out a 15-minute meditation to reduce my morning anxiety.
Warm showers and baths are a great way to ease aches and pains, as well as giving yourself some time off and doing a bit of light exercise when you’re up to it.
Have you ever experienced burn-out? What are your top tips to overcome burn-out? Do you have any tips to deal with burn-out or implement preventative self-care?
Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
Happy reading x