We’ve all been there, crying for no reason, feeling unbelievebaly overwhelmed and wrought with anxiety. We take it as it comes and hope it passes in a few days. But then it doesn’t.
A week later something else happens, and then a few days after that another meltdown and suddnely we start to question WTF is actually going on. Why can’t we handle life? Why can’t we handle our job, our relationships, working out, cooking meals, maintaining a home, paying bills and bathing like everyone else?!
Why are we the ones who can’t handle it all while everyone else seemingly floats on by through life?!
The fact is were all barely keeping our heads above water. Chaos and overwhelm are things this generation thrives on. Or *think* they thrive on.
We often forget we are not pre-programmed for all this. Our software is in the middle of being updated and we just expect to go from Windows 95 to Windows XP overnight (but really, what WIndows is even current these days?! #MacGirl). Never before have we been expected to do so many things in one day often with little or poor quality sleep and terrible fueling habits.
For me, burn out came through a few times. The last two incidents I can recall were both related to physical burn out and quite honestly, my job.
For the past three years I was a spin instructor and most recently left my “dream job” at SoulCycle. I say dream job in quotes because as an instructor that’s where you aspire to be, or atleast I did. So it was a pretty big deal I left so quickly.
I absolutely loved what I did (and still do!) but what I thought was something I could do for a few more years wound up being something I could only do for a few months.
Burn out manifests in a myriad of ways. It can be a chronic, unexplained pain, fainting and seriously injuring yourself, constantly sick, car accidents, inability to fall asleep (yet so damn exhausted all the time), loss of color in your face underneath the acne you never knew you had...you name it.
The reason why burn out takes so many different forms is because the universe, God, source, whatever you call THAT THING is trying it’s damnedest to get your attention. To tell you:
SLOW THE FUCK DOWN.
Now we’ll get into the scientific aspect of how your body actually becomes burnt out (or clinically called “adrenal fatigue” but I want you know that burning out is a gift from the powers that be. The signs were there right along but you may have chosen not to listen. The signals eventually had to pull some weight to get you wake up and realize what was happening so they gave you just enough of a nudge that you’d notice, but not enough where you’d die.
For me, after being bedridden with the Flu twice in two months (after months of not sleeping) I ignored the obvious signs and went head first into Soul training the day after my fever finally broke.
Fast forward through 5 weeks of training, I’m now teaching rooster classes an hour away from my home, 8pm classes in Manhattan and no days off. The adrenaline was great and I was excited! Tired! But oh so excited.
But the signs started creeping in. I would get caught in freak traffic that would prevent me from getting to class. I would forget theme rides, I would miss my alarm and race like hell to the studio.
These, my friends, are the little signs. These are precisely the things we chalk up to bad luck or forgetfulness or being a flake. But these are the subtle nudges from the universe that you are way outta alignment. This is the point when we need to make adjustments.
But we don’t, so I’ll go on.
After three months of these things happening repeatedly, I met...The Migraine.
I never had a migraine before so I was SURE it was sinus allergies. I’d self medicate with caffeine and only be mildly uncomfortable. Two days, three days...five days went by and only then did I think this was strange.
Eventually advil, Excedrin and even caffeine wouldn’t take the edge off. I couldn’t move and the pain on a scale of 1-10 was at an 11. Shit, like a thousand. I didn’t understand how the human body could be in so much pain and not die.
It got so bad that I was afraid to go to sleep at night because I knew I’d wake up with a migraine in the morning.
What I’m getting at here is how obvious it all seems in hindsight. But when you’re in it you can’t see that what your doing is anything exceptional. You go to the chiro, acupuncturist, you get a massage but nothing gives. You don’t think for a second that anything you’re feeling is due to your daily routine or habits or job or what you eat or how much you work out. Something is obviously just broke in your body and you need to fix it.
So on day 21 the pain got so bad I was convinced my brain was hemorrhaging. I (barely) drove myself to the emergency room and then it clicked.
As I laid there, moaning in pain in some dark room in the back of the ER I asked the universe, “How did I get here?!”
How did I, a health coach, a fitness instructor, young spiritual whateveryouwannacallit get to this place of pain and agony.
This wave of “knowing” came over me and without a shadow of a doubt I knew it was my rock bottom. I knew in that moment that the job I dreamed of, the way I was doing it, was not serving my highest good.
I knew all the signs I had ignored had been sent on purpose: I hit someone's car, I missed classes, people asked me if I was sick because I was gray all the time, I had a face full of preteen acne and I hadn’t slept 8 hours in 6 months.
I knew in that moment that I had to quit.
The doctors came in and ordered some IV pain relievers that took about 3 hours to kick in but could find no plausible reason for my migraines (as many usually don’t).
They ordered a CT and thankfully I wasn’t hemorrhaging (like I initially believed) and prescribed a follow up MRI which proved nothing either.
During my first conversation with the Neurologist later that week, his second questions to me was “what’s your sleep look like?” and there it was. After our conversation he was 90% sure it was from lack of a consistent sleep schedule. My circadian rhythm had no rhythm.
At the time, my schedule didn’t allow for consistent sleep. By the following week I was putting in my two weeks and the day I put in my notice I didn’t get a headache.
Or the following day or the day after that. The pain subsided by nearly half. It was like my body knew the rest was coming and it didn’t have to shout so loud.
I haven’t had a headache since my last week of teaching. I spent the entire summer sleeping eight hours a night, walking daily, fiercely protecting my adrenals from excess caffeine, inflammatory foods and let myself off the hook from anything causing stress.
I share this all with you in hopes that it makes you feel less alone and less like you are broken. Sharing your story is wildly uncomfortable (because who the eff cares?!) but also kind of cathartic. So thank you for allowing me this space to share.
Now, you may have been reading some of that and realizing some of those points resonated with you. That you may be in fact ignoring signs or currently in burn out.
If that’s the case I’d like to talk a little be about what chemically happens to you when you are in the thick of it.
Our bodies are blessed with instinctive knowledge of fight or flight. From our cavemen days we’ve learned to interpret stress as a threat.
When we experience something stressful, whether it be subconscious stress, financial stress, working-out-too-much stress, excess caffeine, etc., our bodies can’t tell the difference.
Immediately cortisol levels in your body (the hormone that supports fight or flight) spike in effort to help you make a quick decisions for survival. Your digestion shuts down, your blood pressure raises and stores of blood sugar move through the body.
This is helpful if you see a bear.
This is not helpful if you’re at your cubicle at work.
Excess release of cortisol in your body due to chronic stress (subconscious or environmental) causes weight gain (because your body thinks we might starve #survival), “tired but wired” feeling at bedtime, short temper, no-reason-cries and lowered immune system to name a few.
Usually we can do this for short bursts of time. A week, maybe a month (but we’ll probably get sick at some point) but release of excess cortisol over a prolonged period of time will result is adrenal fatigue. Your system has been burning at too high of a voltage for too long that it will need a reboot.
This is when you hit rock bottom, you burn out, have your dark night of the soul or “come to Jesus”...whatever you wanna call it.
But the beautiful thing about this is that this point usually brings immense introspection and reflection. We make change after this happens. We listen to our bodies. We treat them will empathy and compassion because we’ve been given no other choice.
Now if you’re in burn out right now, ask yourself when was the last time you took care of yourself? When was the last time you got 8 hours of sleep!? (And don’t hit me with that bullshit “I only need 6hrs of sleep.” 3% percent of the population only needs 6hrs, the odds are not in your favor...)
When was the last time you cleared your calendar of non-priority engagements so you could take a bath and get to bed on time? When was the last time you evaluated the current state of your life and the activities in it? Are they serving your highest good?
If you’re in burn out right now there are three things to do tonight to start digging your way out:
Write a letter to yourself about your life at this very moment. What you love, what you hate, what you no longer want to do. Read it back to you and see what makes you feel that knot in your throat...and then make a plan to eliminate it or change it for the better.
Take a bath. With epsom salt and magnesium and make it really luxurious and over the top. Soak and be still without your phone. Light a candle, get fancy. Afterwards put on fresh, clean pjs and get into bed without any electronics blaring in the background, leave your phone across the room and just breathe deep.
SLEEP. Do whatever you have to do to get the best night’s sleep. Use essential oils, lower the temperature in the room, pull down the shades and sleep for 8 hours like your life depends on it (because it does).
If you want more tips on how to set yourself up for a perfect night’s sleep, grab a copy of my eBook here.
Yes, there are foods to eat, supplements to take + mindset shifts that need to take place as well but it all starts here. It’s way less complicated than we think if we just tune into our instincts.
If this was at all helpful, I’d love to hear your feedback. There is more to dissect here and hope to bring you more information each week!
With all the love + light,