I knew it was happening when I felt my forehead.
*Oh wow it's kind of warm, am I getting... SICK?* I said to myself as the panic slowly started to creep in. I began adding it all up, the small scratchy tickle in the back of my throat, warm forehead, and the numbing headache I'd had for the past three days...
*I seriously CAN'T be sick, I so don't have time to be sick!*
(Ever find yourself saying that?)
As soon as I got home from work I went through the whole process.
Took my temperature - a perfect 96.7.
Frantically looked through the medicine cabinet for the elderberry drops.
My body starting to feel even warmer than when I took my temperature at this point.
And then it hit me, oh shit... maybe I'm just burnt out 😳.
Isn't that the worst, when you find yourself feeling physically ill, yet you "aren't" temperature-wise but at the same time you know something is very very off?
I find when this happens, it is always a big stop sign from my body telling me "Hey you haven't been listening to me hinting that I need you to slow down, so we're not going to try and keep up with you anymore." I mean, rightfully so. No one likes to be overworked with minimal to no rest, and our bodies are no different.
So if you've found yourself suspecting you might also be burnt out, today we're discussing 5 signs you need to watch for before getting to the point of feeling or actually becoming physically ill and what you can do to best support your body through it.
Before we do that though, it's important to remember that while you may be experiencing some or even all 5 of these signs they are likely not the cause of your burnout. Often times the true root of burnout is caused or triggered by a stressful job or a relationship, not honoring your body, limits, or boundaries leading to the disconnection from self (example: saying yes to things you really want to say no to). In fact, some of the signs you see here today might not just be a by-product, but also a coping mechanism of something deeper - some examples could look like avoiding sleep because you don't want to go to work the next day because of immense stress experienced, eating lots of processed or refined foods for comfort which are causing digestive issues. The body is all interconnected, when one thing becomes thrown off it almost certainly elicits a chain reaction throughout. So keeping in mind as you read, the following information is meant to help you dig deeper, explore and see what comes up for you when thinking about each of these points so you can ultimately address the true source of your burnout. (This information is also strictly for educational purposes and is not meant to treat, diagnose, or be taken as medical advice)
1. You're exhausted/ fatigued, and no amount of sleep seems to be enough
When you've got huge to-do lists, endless projects, deadlines, appointments to get to, a household to run, a social life to keep up with -- it can be so hard and seemingly counterproductive to think that resting or slowing down will help you stay on top of it all. I myself have struggled with feeling the constant need to "be productive" and omitting rest for feeling like it was unnecessary or even, dare I say, lazy of me. Trust me on this though, when you start feeling like no amount of sleep is ever enough this is a huge red flag to slow your roll.
What to do: Prioritize Sleep / Evening & Wake Routines
I know, I know. So much to do, not enough hours. But think back to the last time you actually got an amazing nights rest, woke up refreshed and excited to take on the day, and remembering how much MORE productive you were vs continuing the cycle of not getting enough sleep and attempting to run on fumes.
Start by sleeping in as long as you want on the weekends. You can also play around with setting a bedtime alarm 30 minutes before your usual bedtime on weekdays. Then week to week continue pushing back your bedtime by 30 minutes until you are getting to bed and able to get in 7+ hours of sleep. Turning off most of the lights in the house a couple of hours before bed and avoiding blue light from screens can also help tremendously (click here to watch my evening routine for a better nights sleep for some inspiration). Something to also consider, taking naps and sleeping in longer than 8 hours as your body begins to reset and catch up is totally normal and highly encouraged! Mornings are equally important too. One way to support the effort you put in getting to bed earlier and will help ease yourself back into high energy is to not snooze your alarm. As tempting as it is, try to get up and expose yourself to some natural light, have a glass of water, move a little. All things that will assist in waking you up and regulating your circadian rhythm (your body's natural internal clock).
2. You're experiencing emotional turbulence (Feeling shame, guilt, depression & anxiety sometimes for no particular reason)
Ever feel a wave of intense emotions come over you all at once but you can't exactly pinpoint why? When we push our bodies too far, too fast, with minimal to no downtime, this can get super tough on our ability to emotionally regulate (the natural ability to take the necessary time to fully feel & process our emotions) and can be a big sign something deeper/ bigger is up. Something to also note here is that depression and anxiety can be incredibly complex with an endless number of reasons as to what might contribute or cause these specifically.
What to do: Remember you are not "broken", Spend time with your inner thoughts & seek help if you are able
As swarms of emotions can start to feel overwhelming rather quickly, especially if we've been avoiding them, writing out your thoughts/ emotions, meditation, breathwork, and or seeing a licensed mental health counselor can be a vital part of bringing your mind and body back into balance. As someone who struggled every day with depression, and anxiety for nearly 5 years I can truly empathize with just how hard it can be, the cycles and patterns that follow, and the thoughts you tell yourself or are met with day after day. Remember it's okay to not be okay 24/7. We are merely humans. Despite what your thoughts may tell you, you are whole right now as you are. Your vessel has been gifted with so much innate knowledge including the ability to heal itself, mind and body, when given half a chance. Lean into the rituals, tools, and support that will aid you as you reset.
3. Physical symptoms ( Like Chronic Pain, headaches, difficulty regulating body temperature & or unwanted weight gain especially around the middle of your body
As I mentioned when pushing our mind and bodies into overdrive without care or maintenance along the way where does all that build up from ignoring ourselves and emotions go? The answer is, probably nowhere. So as we are running around expending all our energy and not refilling our own cup, not addressing the root but sweeping it all under the rug, eventually, the rug won't be able to go without someone noticing it no longer lays flat because of how much build up it's accumulated underneath. Well kids, the rug is you, and the "dirt" being swept under it is all the tension, stresses, and emotions not being tended to. So with that, we begin to see all that we've been avoiding start showing up in the body which can look like chronic pain, headaches, unwanted weight gain, etc.
What to do:
It's important no matter what is showing up for you, to examine that and spend time tending to your physical self. Start by doing some light stretching first thing when you get up or before winding down for bed. Spend some extra time showing love to the areas you are holding on to any stress (for reference common places stress and anxiety can show up are in the neck, upper back, and in the hips but focus on areas unique to you). Book a massage, a chiropractic appointment, a workout class, a session with a personal trainer, etc. something you know you have to schedule, put in your calendar, and show up for so you can't bail at the last minute. Any of these practices will allow you to better connect with your body and move some of that built-up tension and stress out of your vessel. (If any pain exceeds a dull achiness, and is sharp and agonizing please consult your doctor, naturopath, or physical therapist)
4. Your sex drive has left the building
With a million and one things keeping you occupied, stress at a high and no slowing down, sex and pleasure can be the last thing on your mind. While everyone is different, this can be problematic for so many in a relationship or even if you are single being unable to tune into your sexual energy (the root chakra) and connect with those sensations in your body. For most, no sex (including no self-sex) is depriving ourselves of a basic human need (see Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs for more on this).
What to do:
Talk to your partner, let them know how the load you've been carrying has been weighing on you. Having a discussion explicitly about why you haven't been feeling in the mood for sex because of X, and not because of your partner could save a lot of headache and misunderstanding when it comes to your relationship. As for all the single ladies (and men, just trying to throw in a Beyonce reference) and those in a relationship alike, make a point to connect with your physical self. Working out can help get you feeling confident in your body again, alleviate stress, and help balance your hormones. A body scan mediation or exploring solo pleasure can help bring awareness to the body, while touching can help reacquaint you with yourself. Try to approach your sex drive with a no-pressure mindset (including not accepting pressure from others) it will take time to restore. Patience is key.
5. Cystic acne and digestive issues are an everyday thing now
Those painful pimples that just won't pop because they are really underneath the skin and experiencing excessive bloating & discomfort digesting food are all signs that can be more easily overlooked and grouped in with symptoms of the menstrual cycle when really burnout (hormonal burnout) is the source.
What to do:
Experiment with breathwork before or after a meal to help turn on your parasympathetic nervous system (the rest & digest system of the body). Doing a simple practice like Vishnu mudra, or box breathing for a few rounds can really help reset your body and sluff off even a tiny bit of stress and tension in the moments you are eating or digesting a meal. Easier digested food = less or no bloating/ discomfort. Also consider lessening or removing these extremely common digestive irritants: Eggs, Dairy, Gluten, Coffee/ Caffeine, Refined Sugars/ Products, Corn, Soy, Peanuts, and Shellfish, for a while until you notice your skin clearing up or you start feeling better and more energized. (Consult your practitioner or health coach before implementing dietary changes).
Closing out, this by no means is a complete list of signs or aid for burnout as we are all incredibly unique individuals - different things come up for different people. As you consider these signs and practices to help support your body as it rebalances, remember to take anything you'd like to start implementing slow and gradual, not to further overwhelm your already overstimulated nervous system. Take it easy. As you begin to slow it down you might be met with internal voices resisting or panicking and know that is okay too. Practice being the observer of this internal dialogue and play around with how you can release these emotions or change the narrative within so that it is cohesive with helping your body heal. As you explore and dig deeper into what the root of your burnout is, come up with a plan to either remove the source completely or of ways to make it more manageable so there is ease attached to it instead of overwhelm. Not every day will be perfect, and that is okay! Choose what feels good and truly supportive to your body and leave anything that doesn't resonate with you and your lifestyle.
Hi, I'm Kamela! Former high school volleyball athlete, ballerina, anorexia warrior, Holistic Health & Self Love Coach, and Personal Trainer. I've been helping millennials just like you with their well-being for the past 7 years. Reach out to work with me and for even more free helpful content let's be insta friends :)
See ya soon!