In 2015, I had a burnout. I had panic attacks, I was depressed, exhausted, I had bowel problems and I couldn't get out of bed. This was a terrible time.
My burnout seemed to come out of nowhere, as I thought that I was busy, but doing okay. I didn't feel too stressed and just kept going. Until my body said "No more!".
A major trigger of my burnout was my job and daily commute. I worked in a stressful software architect role as a freelancer and had a commute of 3 hours every day. But those weren't the only things that caused my burnout.
In fact, burnout is not just a work-induced syndrome. It is caused by prolonged chronic stress.
Stress is a natural human response to danger and other threats, that induces the "fight-or-flight" response by getting your body into a state of alert and produces (nor)adrenaline, cortisol and other hormones. This physical stress mechanism is trigger by mental stress, that can be induced by work, a long commute, worrying, conflict and more. And the stress response is also activated by physical things, like a bad diet, under- and over exercise, toxins in food and personal care products, and lack of sleep.
Mental and physical stress adds up. And when this stress doesn't go away, it becomes chronic and can lead to burnout. This was what happened to me.
How did I recover from my burnout?
When I was lying in my bed, burnt out and exhausted, I thought that I just needed some time off to recover. I would be fine after a couple of weeks. I thought that I could just go back to work, doing the exact same things that I was doing. Many people think the same and do go back to doing the exact same things. Often, they burn out again, as their sources of stress are still there.
I started by not going to work. And I realized that I needed to change my work. So after months, I found a new freelance job that would be less stressful and that didn't have the long commute. And I decided that I wouldn't do that fulltime anymore and that I would try to create passive income by becoming a Pluralsight author.
Changing my work helped a lot with my stress levels and took care of many symptoms. But I felt that I was still close to having too much stress. So I also started to work on my health by improving my sleep, my diet and when I eat. And by exercising smarter, not more and harder. Also, by reducing the toxins in my environment. And by actively relaxing through mechanisms like meditation and mindfulness.
I started tracking my sleep and wellness with my Oura ring and worked with a functional medical doctor to heal my leaky gut, reduce my chronic inflammation, fix my microbiome and improve my health.
Thinking back, I had no idea how bad I felt before my burnout. Only now that I'm healthier, I know what it feels like to have energy and feel good and healthy. And because of that, I instantly feel it when something is off because of something I ate or did.
I was fortunate enough to create a course about burnout and health. It's called "How to Recognize, Prevent, and Manage Burnout", and you can find it on Pluralsight. In the course, I go into the details of how stress works and what can cause stress. Also, I talk about how to recognize that you are on your way, or in a burnout. And finally, I teach you how to recover from a burnout, by working on the pillars of health (sleep, food, exercise, clean living, active relaxation) and by changing your life (work, relationships, environment). Even if you are not burnt out or stressed, you can use these tactics to become healthier and live a longer and happier life.