It seems like ages ago, but it has only been a couple of months since I genuinely felt recovered from my own burnout. I never felt ready to write about my experience or to share what happened in full disclosure.
Partly because everyone seems to be speaking about burnout as if it is the next “hot topic” to chat about. Like if you are part of the burnout club, you somehow receive a badge of honor and courage. By all means, burnout survivors are truly resilient and courageous people.
But do we really have to hit burnout to wake up in life?
The other reason is that I never write to impress. My writing needs to be authentic; otherwise, the words don’t flow from my soul. That also meant opening up in a way that is very uncomfortable for many people, because we live in a judgmental society that writes you off in split seconds because you are sharing unfiltered human experiences. Speaking about feelings means something must be wrong with you.
So when people do experience negative emotions, no wonder they feel something is wrong with them!
This is why I decided to finally write this piece. In the hope that those who are suffering in silence know that NOTHING is wrong with them. In the hope that these insights can help people to start taking care of their well-being. Ultimately, if you want to take back control of your life you have to sit in the driver seat. Don’t be a passenger in your life. Learn how to drive your life towards a higher purpose, whatever that means for you.
Number One – Listen to your body
I used to pride myself when people complimented me on my high energy levels. I never stopped and was on the go all the time. I constantly felt the need to prove myself to others. I had a full-time job, I was a single mother (with a great ex-husband), and yet writing the next blog or making the next video was always on my mind. My mind never stopped, and my ambitions accumulated one after the other.
Because I lived in my headspace, I forgot to listen to my body; a body that had sustained me all these years. I never stopped to nurture and take care of it as I should have done. Until the day my body said: Nadja, I am done with your mind and ambitions! I need to rest, sleep, and replenish. Deal with it!
I wish I had taken small steps during my two-decade career in the workforce to take care, nurture, and listen to my body. It’s never too late for anything in life. Now I am grateful that I always connect my body with my mind. Sounds funny, perhaps, but I guarantee you that you will experience a whole new level of well-being, performance, productivity, and purpose.
Number Two – Taking a step back is courageous
Despite my mental and physical exhaustion, I was so scared to take a step back and just rest. I was afraid of the judgemental looks and statements that I was weak or not good enough. What I did not realize is that taking a step back is pretty courageous as you are choosing to fill your cup with new energy. When your cup is empty, it serves no one as your energy levels will remain depleted.
It takes courage, though, to finally disassociate your self-worth with other people’s opinions of you. I remember during my recovery period, some of my colleagues said: “It such a pity that I am on sick leave. I was a role model for many as I went from secretary to senior executive. Now, I just proved that promoting “secretaries” is a mistake because we can’t handle the pressure”.
When I heard this, I smiled, as deep down I knew what I was capable of and that the best was yet to come. But first, I needed to choose me and continue to rest. I also know that mediocrity always attacks greatness. When people feel small because of your light, they rejoice over your setbacks in life. The only advice I can give is to be compassionate with them, don’t focus your energy and let them go. Wish them well, and let them go so you can continue to build yourself up.
Number Three – Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
When I finally decided to take care of myself, I slept most days for the first month. I was oblivious to the lack of sleep my body and mind had to endure. Arianna Huffington is perhaps a role model for many global leaders in conveying the important message of sleep. I learned the hard way, but when I learned my lesson, it was pure bliss for my body and overall well-being.
It is easy to compare ourselves and be bombarded with advice that you need to wake up early, work hard, and that sleep is for the weak ones. This is SO FAR from the truth. I sleep a minimum of 8 hours a day, and I even take naps now. I still get a lot of stuff done, my clients are happy, and I feel fulfilled and energized to keep adding value to organizations and professionals.
Number Four – Let go of people-pleasing
We work so hard to the detriment of our well-being so we can please others and fit in. I went back to work the first time I hit burnout because I felt guilty towards my colleagues. I did not want to let them down.
Let me tell you this in the bluntest way possible, so you never make the same mistake I did:
When you collapse or drop dead, your colleagues will move one with their lives. After you are gone from the workplace, you will be REPLACED in an instant. When people live and work in their headspace, they simply do not have the capacity to live from their heart space. This is why I am on a mission to humanize the workforce in the 21st Century.
Therefore it is essential that you take ownership of YOUR LIFE and YOUR FEELINGS. You are not responsible for how other people feel or act, you are ONLY responsible for YOUR FEELINGS and ACTIONS.
We are a product of our decisions, not our circumstances.
The sooner you realize this, the sooner you will let go of expectations and of people who no longer deserve to be in your life, the better your quality of life will be!
Number Five – Exercise your mindset
There is an interesting Positive Psychology study done in Norway that found that people are less depressed than expected during winter times. This is primarily due because they exercise their positive mindset despite negative external factors. They choose to experience more positive emotions than negative ones when it is freezing and dark outside most of the day.
What fuels your negative emotions are your THOUGHTS. The moment you realize that you are not your thoughts, you can exercise observing your thoughts like passing clouds. I guarantee you will soon experience a new level of mental freedom.
What you should aim for in life is not to be HAPPY ALL THE TIME, but to FUNCTION WELL despite your negative emotions. Invest in maximizing your WELL-BEING by taking a holistic approach that starts with your MINDSET!
There are so many different exercises for the mind. Still, the most important I found for myself is the gratitude exercise. This article from the Harvard Business Review is a fascinating read of why POSITIVE MINDSET precedes SUCCESS, not the other way around.
Every morning I write down all the things I am grateful for that I already have. I complete this exercise by then writing all of my goals AS IF I already have achieved them.
Number Six – Energy flows where attention goes
Quantum Psychics is a fascinating subject when you dive deeper into it. Basically – the most simplified explanation is that we all live and are connected through energy fields. Because most of us live in societies that live 24/7 in their headspace and don’t know how to leverage their natural energy sources, people burnout out at an increasingly alarming rate. More and more research shows the importance of managing your energy so that you can excel in life with peace of mind.
Think about it like this:
When you focus on everything you don’t want. What do you get? Everything you don’t want! When you, however, focus on everything YOU DO WANT, guess what? Energy flows in that direction. It is that simple!
What gets in your way is self-sabotage. Most of us have a belief system that is conditioned to believe that life is hard, work is hard, success is hard, finding love is hard, everything around us is just damn hard! And we articulate words aligned with these beliefs which create our actions and thus we are stuck in a cycle of never-ending negative energy.
Accept that life is indeed as hard as you make it in your mind. Change your perspective and what you are facing will change!
Number Seven – Become comfortable with your mortality
This is by far the most critical piece of knowledge which will set your free: knowing you and everyone around you WILL die.
When you truly grasp the concept of death, you will begin to live. You will start to gain a perspective where adversity and failure only build your character and resilience. You will understand that living from your soul instead of your ego is the highest and most authentic expression of yourself as a human being. You will know that whatever happens will pass as nothing lasts forever. You will learn to be grateful for every moment and breath you can take every single day.
Many people take so much for granted until they lose it all in a split second. Why wait to live from your heart space and be yourself until you hit adversity? Let go of the mask and live your life with you in the driver seat and not as the passenger.
I hope my seven insights will help you to take control of your life RIGHT NOW because of your birthright to live a life of well-being and purpose. You deserve it as much as anyone else on this planet.