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How my burnout taught me to thrive. (Part 1)

Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

I started to write this series on stress and self-care, because I feel like the world around me wants to tell me that succeeding is more important than rest.

The last time I applied for a regular student job, I said to the manager that I go to school full time, so I'd like to only work one day on the weekend.

He was baffled as to why I didn't want to work on both days. No, I didn't mention that I've had burnout in the past, I find it hurts my chances to get hired. I was making sure to stand on my principles, I wanted to work only one day a week to earn a little extra.

Somehow, the idea of having a day a week off to rest seemed alien to him. Maybe it's just me, but that's how the whole world feels to me. I admire those students who go to school all day and then work in their evenings and weekends, and still somehow go out and finish their homework. That's not me. All of this made me think that self-care and success are opposites. Well, I'm here to prove they're not, that in fact, proper self-care supports success. There is one thing to consider: everyone is different. Even though I need at least one day a week to recharge and rest, not everyone feels that way. Some people need more, and others somehow work seven days a week. Some employers make the false argument that just because someone else can work tirelessly, everyone else has to be able to do it. While being productive and chasing "success" requires certain qualities in a person, working yourself into your grave isn't one of them.

What I learned from my burnout.

Nearly everything I know. It was a bittersweet way to get to know myself, to learn to understand what went wrong and why. School never taught me to properly take care of myself, it focused entirely on making me employable. It didn't teach me anything about the subjects I enjoyed, it didn't encourage my passions. Everything it taught me was to make me fit in a box. And that box broke me.

We think selfcare means "taking a break once in a while", and to make plans that relax you.

That barely scratches the surface of it.

Self-care is putting your body, mind, and spirit at the top of your priority list.

Self-care is doing the job that no one else can do for you.

Self-care is following the set of instructions that came with your body and your personality. More specifically: Self-care is making sure every physical and emotional need is met. Self-care is providing yourself a safe, encouraging environment in which you feel free to bloom. Self-care is to know your path, and part of the journey is to figure it out.

Self-care is the foundation to be able to thrive, grow, and succeed.

Photo by Maryna Bohucharska on Unsplash

If you're not taken care of, it's hard to be productive. Have you ever had that phase in your life, where you dream of success, have certain goals in mind or your brain is just brewing with great ideas? And you think to yourself "Tomorrow, I will get up early and start working on my dreams." But you don't, and you don't know why. You're motivated, you know you want it, but somehow you find yourself waking up late, taking your time having your breakfast and shower, and suddenly it's 2 pm, and you believe you're better off trying again tomorrow.

Well, always try again, sure. But you're not unmotivated, and there's nothing wrong with you. You're just not taking proper care of yourself. In middle school, I never had the energy to do what all my classmates were doing. Later on, I realized both my physical health and environment were keeping me from performing. My burnout forced me to think about why, despite my best efforts to succeed, I didn't thrive, but burned out instead. After this reflection, I took a few simple steps to change my whole life.

1. I changed my path.

No matter how solid your plan was, if it stressed you out once, it will do so again. Don't stay on the same path that got you sick. Perhaps, you need different goals, or do things at a new pace. Think about what you want out of life, instead of what you "must" do.

2. I learned the warning signs.

While reflecting on what happened to me, I managed to write down what warning signs my body and my emotional world had shown along the way. I had ignored them, which is something one tends to do when they're too driven to keep going. Reflect on what your warning signs were before you broke down, and use them as a roadmap. You now have the knowledge to recognize when you're going down the wrong road again.

3. Change your environment.

I didn't get on the path of healing until I moved to a different city in my country. A change of environment doesn't have to be drastic. Small things like decluttering your home, adding some plants, or giving the interior design a redo can go a long way. But sometimes, a drastic change is inevitable. An environment can be toxic or stressful if you live with people who put pressure on your decisions. Sometimes, the area you live in can make you unhappy. Some people love the inner city while others need the serenity of nature. When it's the environment that made you sick, it is time to make the right decision. No matter how complicated that could be.

These simple steps were the first steps I took to heal from this event. These offered me a fresh start to try again. After that, I took more steps to learn how to take care of myself. If you're stuck in the aftermath of a stressful situation, I recommend these steps.

Getting a fresh start is the first goal. After that, it is time to learn to take care of yourself.

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