3 Amazing Lessons My Chronic Illness Taught Me About Burnout
Disclaimer: While I talk about how stress & burnout resulting from chronic people-pleasing has an impact on our health, I’m not a licensed medical physician, psychotherapist, or psychologist, and I’m not offering medical advice.
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Back in 2018, I was diagnosed with a chronic neurological condition. At the time, I was also working a full-time job in the retirement industry doing data entry, plan management, and client services. It was a high-stress job that was both mentally and emotionally taxing, even before my illness really began to affect me. And I was determined to keep up the pace even after my diagnosis.
I started treatment for my condition, which involved taking a heavy-duty diuretic that caused me to get pretty sick. I was fatigued both physically and mentally, had zero appetite, and of course, feeling all the other effects diuretics cause. Even though I was getting more and more ill due to the side effects of the medication, I kept working, coming home completely exhausted, and really not having energy for anything else – like spending quality time with my husband and our furbaby.
Finally, after realizing that the medication was doing more harm than good to my body, I went against the advice of my doctor (who I then fired for trying to scare me into treatment that I didn’t want) and stopped taking medications and decided that it was time to take matters into my own hands.
But that didn’t stop me from pushing myself even harder to keep up at work, to the detriment of my home life and physical well-being.
It took me making mistakes at work and really suffering from mental fatigue and debilitating physical pain to finally realize that I was burned out and making my illness worse with the stress I was putting myself through.
I finally realized that if I was going to deal with this illness on my own, holistically, the first step had to be to give my mind and body the rest and recovery time they were so deeply begging for. I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing and expecting different results. So, with zero plans as to how I would approach working to help support my family while honoring the needs of my body, I quit my job.
I was fortunate to not have to rush too much in my job search, so I was able to tune in to the rhythm of my illness. Even though it can be unpredictable a lot of the time, I was able to learn what triggers flare-ups, and what helps ease them.
It was then that I became determined not to ever put anything above my physical and mental well-being again, by setting strong boundaries around how I approach working while having a chronic illness.
And as I began my own work to recover from burnout, I began to realize what an epidemic it really is – both for those with chronic illness, and those without. I felt called to share with others the things that I’ve learned about recovering from and preventing burnout and chronic stress. I became a coach and EFT Practitioner so I can help people put themselves first, allowing them to feel less overwhelmed and have more energy for the things that bring them joy.
Below, you’ll find some of the biggest takeaways from my own journey from burnout to balanced.
#1 – If your home life is suffering because you lack the energy to nurture your relationships, something’s got to give.
There’s a philosophy that relationship experts love to share that says “don’t bring your work home with you”. And while I always took that advice with a grain of salt because my husband and I value being able to process work challenges with each other, the level to which I needed to do so definitely became a burden to our relationship. The more tired and ill I became, the more overwhelmed with work I was. Therefore, the more work stress I brought home with me.
I was also so physically exhausted from pushing my body to do what it just wasn’t capable of anymore, that the time I should have been spending with my husband and our furbaby ended up being cut short because I didn’t have the energy to do anything. So not only was I miserable at work, I was miserable at home, too.
I was clearly burnt out, but I didn’t realize it at the time. So, I just kept pushing through.
#2 – If you are making less time for, or are completely skipping things like sleeping and eating (or if you frequently find yourself with insomnia and zero appetite), it’s a sign your priorities are out of place.
Yes, I was dealing with a chronic illness that also causes insomnia and loss of appetite, but I was also not listening to my body in other ways. I learned the hard way that if you have to ignore signals from your body to keep doing whatever it is you’re doing, it’s time to adjust your priorities.
The first step, for me, was to get the physical and mental rest I so desperately needed. And I knew I couldn’t do this while being chained to a desk at a 9-5 job. It was time to find another way to work and show up in the world that supported my physical needs and let me utilize my skills without being as mentally taxing. But I was so scared because I didn’t know what that looked like in reality, or how to get there.
So, I kept holding on to the struggle. This brings me to #3…
#3 – We can be so afraid of change that we cling to and defend our current circumstances – even if we’re miserable and hurting.
My body and mind were clearly giving me signals that it was time for a drastic change, but I was too stubborn to listen. I just kept getting sicker and more exhausted until I was finally ready to make a drastic change.
I ended up quitting my full-time job with no backup plan. After a month on medication and trying to make do without it while still working 9-5, I was depleted. I knew that the only way to get out of this burnout was to give my body and mind the full attention it was craving. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I trusted that the answer would be there for me like it had so many times before.
It was time to renew my faith that I was going through this struggle for a reason, and that I didn’t have to just survive it, but that I could find a way to thrive despite it. I turned to an awesome book by Gabrielle Bernstein called “The Universe Has Your Back”. It really helped me get out of fear mode and be open to any possibility for a way of living that was more in balance with what I needed.
I highly recommend it if you’re going through something tough and need a bit of extra support! I get nothing from this – just sharing something I love!
My journey with chronic illness and burnout is exactly what lead me to help others overcome their own chronic stress and burnout, and why I’m launching my workshop series in November.
You don’t need to have a complicated or life-changing wake-up call like I did in order to realize that it’s time to let go of the unbalanced lifestyle you have now and get back to the things that light you up.
I’m so excited to be offering a 4-week workshop series called Break Up With Burnout, which will be launching in November 2021! Each week you’ll get lessons and worksheets to help you get to the root cause of your burnout, as well as weekly group coaching sessions for additional support.
Sign up for the waitlist now and get my FREE Beginner’s Guide to Breaking Up With Burnout, access to a private Facebook Community, and early bird pricing! Just click the link below to snag your spot!
Until next time,