Burnout at 24 left me feeling like brushing my teeth was an even higher mountain to climb than Mount Kilimanjaro
At 21, I was a young marketing graduate and owner of a brand and marketing agency. I also had bought, rebranded and successfully revived the City2City Ultra Marathon.
I did it because I had a passion for running and fitness and saw a gap in the sporting industry. Living a healthy active lifestyle has always played a huge role in my life. I am an “A-type personality”, an over-achiever, doing it all; driven by the ideal of perfection, grabbing life by the horns with graceful ambition.
In October 2013 I felt that my entire world was overwhelming, out of order and I didn’t know where to start to get my life back on track. It was daunting. It was scary. It felt like everything was falling apart.
After many years of head-down-focused work, day in and day out, I started to feel the rigorous goal setting and obsession of perfection taking its toll. I was always able to push through a rough patch but eventually I hit the wall hard.
I desperately needed to reset and recover. I was totally burned out!
The rapid onset of chronic fatigue threatened to take all I gained away from me, starting with the person I was. I felt paralysed and battled to get out of bed for 6 months.
The extreme physical and mental collapse was a shock to me, and to those close to me.
I was always on the go, actively involved in so many exciting projects always with boundless energy – and now I had to focus on healing my mind, body and soul. I had climbed and summited Mount Kilimanjaro, but now brushing my teeth seemed an even higher mountain to climb.
It took me eight months to start healing, get back to running on the road and working with my homeopath and reflexologist who helped nurture me back to balance and health.
I started to regularly engage in slow gentle forms of exercise, which was hard as a fitness and running enthusiast that was so used to the endorphins and now had to start from zero.
I started to slowly get my blood flowing by foam rolling, going for walks or taking my dogs for walks, stretching, restorative yoga to help recover energy and lying on my back on the floor with my feet up against the wall for 15 minutes daily – this helps with circulation and calms the nervous system. As hard as it was to wrap my mind around this slow process it was the only way to recovery.
I made the conscious decision to listen to my body. Every day I tried to just take it hour by hour. It was clear that my mind and body needed a complete time out and so that’s what I did. I went for regular massages, binged watched series, spent time with my two fur children who were critical for my healing - animals are very therapeutic. I had private yoga sessions at home when I was feeling up to it. I completely switched off which I have never done before.
I have always only eaten clean unprocessed brain food so fortunately that wasn't a big change that needed to be implemented. My diet still consists of lots of green juicing, green tea, lots of water, good sources of protein, lots of green salads with avo and steamed veggies. I went for regular vitamin B injections to increase my energy levels, had regular Epsom salt baths and included a number of critical supplements like chelated magnesium, L tyrosine, pantothenic acid and, a daily probiotic – Sambiotica.
It is not a once off combination. I see my reflexologist every two weeks and my homeopath once a month who will tweak the combination of my vitamins and supplements according to my body and how I am feeling at that time.
The interesting thing is that this huge dark hole I found myself in forced me to dig deeper than I ever have to reevaluate my values, my passions and what my purpose was in this world.
Today, with the world moving at such a rapid pace, we are overcome by the need to juggle an exhaustive number of commitments. This results in neglecting our own wellbeing and our ability to feel whole. For me, feeling beautiful inside and out has always played such a huge role in my daily life.
It prompted me to start asking a lot of questions and conduct lots of research into the ingredients in skin and personal care products and I was shocked at what I found. I also discovered many products in the market lead consumers to believe they are natural and not tested on animals when there are discrepancies between what the products are promising, what they are delivering and where they source their ingredients to make such claims.
So I saw a gap and that's what made me feel motivated again. Today, amongst other things, I run an e-commerce platform called The Oolala Collection Club that sells affordable and accessible high-end genderless beauty and skincare products, all 100% vegan and cruelty-free.
Life will always be full of challenges and stress, so whenever I feel that I am off balance I immediately become more mindful, present and aware of my feelings and why I am feeling this way. The healing process is not a once off thing every single tool that I have learned, I implement into my daily life. I remind myself to take one hour at a time and nothing is constant everything is cyclical.
If you’re feeling burned out, or you recognise anything about yourself in my experiences, here are a few things that worked for me.
1. Don't forget that it takes longer to recover than you think. Burnout comes after a long period of depleting yourself. So “filling the gas tank" isn’t a matter of weeks, but months.
2. Take all the time you need. People will understand. The people who matter most will sympathise with what you are going through and if they don’t cut them out. Remember your health is your number one priority.
3. Turn off the noise and tune into your true self. It's critical to create an environment where you can nurture yourself. I disconnected from social media and limited my time on email. I stopped networking. I declined requests from friends asking to pick my brain.
4. Regain your energy, then move toward happiness. What you really need is a chance to exhale. Before deciding to take time off, I felt as if I were always holding my breath, trying to keep everything together. I learned to relax into the exhaustion, instead of fighting it.
5. Be prepared to live differently. Post-burnout, I feel like I’m wired differently. Life used to be an endurance contest, a challenge to see how much I could cram into one day. Not anymore. Instead, I take little breaks throughout the day. This allows me to see new options, be more creative and refresh my mind. Even if you don’t have the flexibility that comes with being self-employed, it’s still possible to carve out time for breaks.
6. Be patient. Undoing burnout takes a long time, and often some pretty drastic changes. Even if you’re feeling good short-term, chances are you may not be ready to jump back into it, or that jumping back into the same role isn’t a good idea. Be prepared to end up in an entirely different place to where you are now – whether it’s a different role, a different department, or a different career.
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