BURN OUT IS REAL
In this world of hustle and buzzle, burn out becomes a natural phenomenon. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer of “working hard for your passion and achieve your goals”. And that “hard work always beats talent”. Sure, there’s a lot of truth to those statements, and that’s exactly what I did with my life the last 4 years. Late nights, early mornings, 100 work hours a week or more, missing out life, for a sole purpose of achieving my goals.
And sure thing, my hard work paid off. It made me financially independent and, in a way, gives me a freedom to have my own time, to go on breaks and holidays if I want to. But, of course I didn’t. Why should I? Success can be super addictive that I even felt guilty to take a break to use the bathroom or take a short nap. The fear of missing out and becoming irrelevant to the cyber community was extremely surreal. So, what did I do? I worked harder. At this point I let “hard work” took over every aspects of my life. And yes, 100% it helped me achieved my goals, however, at the end, it also took an awful toll on me.
Yes, burn out is real. No matter how you love and passionate you are with what you do, if you’re not careful, it will hit you hard right on your face. You need to be self-aware of your true state and recognize it at the early stage. Coz if it’s left unaddressed, it can bring with it variety of mental, physical and emotional problems.
In my personal case, and I believe to most that experienced it, it didn’t happen overnight. It was the intense long hours of hard work, sleep deprivation, lack of outlet outside work, and multiple chronic stressors over an extended period of time that left me almost totally drained and beginning to resent the very thing that I used to love doing.
Apparently, I am not alone. When I was researching about burn out, it seems like it’s very common to high achiever and goal-oriented individuals. So, if you are a career driven person, this is one of those road hazards in life that you really should keep a close eye for. Do not let your deep passion of what you do and the “I can do everything” type of personality blind you of your true state and did your own grave because you set aside the importance of your own well being to fit in well in this modern hustling lifestyle.
You may wonder what was my turning point? It all happened first quarter of last year. Let’s start with the obvious. Being 50 lbs. overweight than what I am now. My asthma occurred more often than normal. My acid reflux got increasingly painful and linger much longer than the usual. Making 5 little steps felt like climbing the peak of Mount Everest. Unexplainable exhaustion even when I’m not doing anything the whole day. The painful and constant feeling of no longer enthusiastic and lack of internal motivation to do and complete the work and project I used to love. Feeling frustrated and cynical even with little things most of the time. The lack of focus. The inefficacy of what I do. Interpersonal problems. Letting go of myself to the point that I look like a homeless person with a nice roof, and feeling extremely disgusted looking back at the woman I saw in the mirror. The constant dissatisfaction even when I did and accomplished things. The difficulty of getting sleep. And overall, the feeling of zero excitement to wake up the next day and face life again. I knew right then, that things have to change.
Now the question is, how did I got to the point of being completely burn out? It all started with excessive drive and ambition. Sounds like a good thing right? But not entirely. You see, growing up in a third world country and constantly worrying if there’s gonna be food in the table the next meal really fueled my desire to succeed. As I follow my passion and started my business, I set attainable goals for a certain period of time. Once I reached those goals, I realize that there are more and much challenging goals ahead. Kind of addictive. The release of dopamine and serotonin each time you ticked a goal makes you crave for more. So, what did I do? Here comes the 2nd stage. Pushing yourself to work harder. AKA “PRESSURE”. You see, when you did well in the past, the expectation and the pressure gets double for you do better with your next design or project. That’s exactly what happened to me. Then it gets worst, at this point, validation becomes extremely addictive. I constantly looking for approval to the people around me and my clients and followers with the new project and design I was working on. Instead of doing things that makes me happy, I seek for external validation. Atop of all these negativities, here comes another one that seemingly a good thing on the surface. Sure, after everything you did, you see the results of your hard work, compensation you with monetary rewards you never thought you would earn, not to mention the respect and recognition of the people in your industry. You are steadily climbing the ladder of success and this is not the time to slow down so you could maintain your momentum. Then I started neglecting my personal needs. The 3rd stage. Work becomes my priority that I felt like its ok if I look like a homeless because I’m successful in my business. I worked on my desk, in my unflattering pajamas, sitting more than 14 hours a day. Choosing the easiest but poor quality of fast-food coz I can’t be bothered making a healthy meal, because hey, “I’m BUSY”. Then comes the 4th stage. I started pulling myself to anything that’s not work related. No exercise, stopped reading, no more movie nights, shopping days becomes rare, even dressing up for the day becomes extremely challenging because I felt like I have no time for it if it doesn’t contribute to the progress of my work or project. I stopped taking calls and engaging online chats with family and friends. To the point that they no longer even try to reach out to me. And after more than 3 years of constant grind, stressful timeline to launch new product designs and video tutorials, Stage 5 becomes more visible. The Behavioral Change. I became unreasonably irritable than normal. Simple thing sets me off. And my patience isn’t really at its most commendable state. Sure enough, it affected my interpersonal relationships with the people around me, my family and friends that I interacted online, with my followers and customers, and worst of all my relationship with myself.
Then, something weirdly shifted and Stage 6 took place. The dissatisfaction and alienation from any work-related activities. My bread and butter, the very thing that I loved doing, now I’m becoming resentful and unmotivated. No string of excitement left to do new projects, create new templates, or share more tutorials. And as expected Stage 7 comes to light. I began to feel this deep emptiness and unreasonable anxiety. I made a mistake of putting my self-worth and value to what I do.
Last year, I faced a colossal life changing event and top of it all, the unexpected global pandemic. And as we all knew, lots of businesses around the world suffers its domino effect including mine. Although I’m much grateful that my business is keeping my afloat to this day, but there was a significant percentage declined with regards to my sales and earnings. And the sad part is that, instead of seeing the situation as “yeah, lots of businesses suffers with Covid”, I was so quick to point the finger to myself as if I have a full control of what’s going on. Thoughts like “I’m in big trouble, my business is sinking”, or, “if only I keep working harder, I could have maintained the same level of earnings”. And ladies, you know we are good at that. Offering deep love and compassion to other people but finds it difficult to give to the very person that matters the most. YOU. My situation has changed 180 degrees, plus unsure of the transition, still, I beat myself up for not being in my A game.
The uncertainty of what’s ahead caused my anxiety spiked up to its highest level. Waking up in the morning, going to work, even completing a simple household task or even talking to anyone seems impossible. It becomes useless to sit on my desk getting busy with irrelevant things. There were even times that I would sit in my office and just stare black at my computer and waste the entire day doing nothing. Just making the situation a little bit more depressing. Luckily, I caught myself before reaching the final stage. The ultimate physical, mental, and emotional collapse.
Then one Thursday morning early this year, after hitting the snooze button for the hundredth times, it hits me. I need to be my own rescue. No one will save me better than I do. And before my brain could even cast multiple reasons why I should not get up in this cold winter morning, I jumped out of the bed, took a shower, dress up, put make make-up on, and head to my office. Then I made a realistic and attainable game plan for the week, month, quarter, 6 months, and the year. I would consider that day as a major success, not because I did a lot, but it was my turning point to do something with my situation. It was the moment when I felt like the Phoenix in me has risen.
But there are things I realize though going through the healing process. Curing yourself from almost complete burn out is not easy but not impossible either. It’s not a switch that when flip off, you’ll be continuously on tract towards success. It will come on waves and you will still face some down time every now and then. But be courageous enough and choose not to let it rent space in your being longer than the last. Easier said than done I know., but be brave and selfish for a moment to choose yourself before anything else. I understand we all have responsibilities. I understand we don’t want to let our people down. But once and for all, completely heal YOU first before worrying about the others. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Yes, in order to succeed, it requires a significant amount of hard work. But there’s a difference between working hard and beating yourself hard.
So to this day, I’m still a work in progress but beginning to learn and master the more sustainable balance of working hard and living a life. And although there’s more deeper meaning of success than just earnings, we cannot deny the fact than money contributes to our peace of mind and happiness. And very much pleased to share with you guys, that year to date, my sales and earnings increased 32% same period as last year. And the better part, I’m much happier now and living a life. Yeah, I still have a long way to go. But every day I wake up with intension to do something small to help and improve my situation.
I’ve been there, done that. Our desire to improve our quality of life can tempt us to burry ourselves into a mindless hard work. But please don’t. Sure, we might think that we have already invested so much into our business to not take it seriously. That’s not what I meant. But find the bliss point. Of working smart and hard, and at the same time living a life. I agree, we should take care of our business, but take extra good care of yourself too. Remember, you are your greatest investment.