Burnout Solution 6: Signals of your body
Very often burnout victims have not paid attention to the signals their body gave them. Heck, I even ignored an episode when I landed in the emergency room with a gigantic panic attack! So yes, this lesson is very, very simple: don’t ignore signals... stupid! And for creative people: pay attention to the specific ones!
When you are moving towards a burnout your body is overproducing a very useful hormone called cortisol. This is known as the ‘stress-hormone’ and is actually beneficial to your overall health and general safety. Among others, it spurs you on in the morning to get out of bed, encourages you to move and make decisions in dangerous situations, kicks into gear to fight off the common cold and gives you a drive in your creative work. In short: good hormone.
Yet if you keep rushing through life with careers and family pressures, deny the creative resistance you have artistically or ignore traumatic episodes and refuse to talk about them, your stress levels will rise too far. If this is sustained for a longer period of time without good rest, your body becomes so used to feeling stress when it shouldn't, that the cortisol-engine keeps churning out cortisol, even when it does not have too. This leads to that weird situation where you're feeling totally stressed out... while reading a book in the sun on the beach with a cocktail in your hand. When this goes too far, your mind and body take over and trigger a panic attack or feelings of detachment, fear, anger and frustration. It does this to slow you down, make you stop whatever you are doing, and start paying attention to the causes of your burnout or creative depression. In essence, your body wants you to stop stressing. And if it figures out subconsciously that you are not changing your behavior, it keeps taking action all on its own. You can prevent this from happening by not ignoring signals and actually fully embracing your negative emotions. Anger, fear, frustration, regret, grief, stress and anxiety all start appearing. And for creative people there is an extra set of emotions that comes into play, including punishing yourself, lethargy and feelings of failure and loss, linked to dissatisfaction with your creative output.
If you feel these or others in the negative emotional spectrum, take time off. And very importantly, don't deny these feelings and allow them to flow inside you. They are signals that will ultimately help you change things for the better. Ignore them and things will get worse. Listen to them and things will improve.
Trust me, it is better to ‘pause’ than to fall into a full-on burnout! And take it easy. Love.
(Check out the book Restart here)
Rogier van Kralingen