Almost three years ago, I wasn’t the happiest person on the planet. I felt awful. I didn’t like my job, I didn’t like where my life was going and I didn’t like myself all that much either. Worst of all, I felt completely stuck in this negative flow and I had no clue how to get out. The result was that I slept for hours, without feeling rested and it only got worse and worse. I decided to do something about it. Only problem was that it would take months until I could put my plan into action.
Before I could put my plan for improvement into action, I crashed. Literally crashed. On top of the stress and exhaustion I became sick. I caught mono and I was rendered powerless for nearly 8 weeks. I stayed with my parents because everything I did cost too much energy. I couldn’t focus, slept 18 – 20 hours a day and my entire body hurt. I couldn’t eat properly either which led to severe weight loss (25 pounds, or about 12 kilos in 7 weeks).
By the time the mono stopped rearing its ugly head, I gained a bunch of other problems. I couldn’t sleep because I would get really bad stomach cramps, my back hurt like all hell and I would start crying within seconds about literally nothing. In other words: I was a complete and utter mess. Also known as burn out.
Now, three years later, I’m glad to have left this dark and rather depressing part of my life behind me. It took numerous doctor visits, a physio-therapist, a psychologist and a new job to get over it, but looking back I can say that I now know what makes me happy. Because that is what I had lost track of. I was trying to live too much for other people and not do things for myself. That’s what got me down and eventually wiped me out.
My initial plan of improvement was to dance more and take more time for myself by saying no. Also finding a new job was on the list. I did all that, be it with a few adjustments. Because I was sick I couldn’t dance anymore, but I did apply to a gym so I could still work out. I am still going there to this day. I found that Bodybalance (Yoga, Tai Chi & Pilates in one) helps me to relax and to alleviate my back pain. Also Bodycombat is a class I take that really helps loosening up my shoulders. Till this day, my shoulders are the only thing not 100% okay. I got a new job, which I still like very much and I really hope that I can stay on after this year is over.
Other things I found out are that I need proper time where I can just be by myself and not do or think of anything. Preferably with some tea & music, just sitting there staring off into space. I used to fill up every spare minute to the brim with activities. Now, I limit myself to one activity per weekend and I stay at home during the week as much as I can. I try to make sure I still see my family & friends but I try to balance things a bit more evenly now. I started going to more concerts, work out more and don’t stress out as much when I don’t get things done in time at work or at home.
Right now, I can easily leave my clean & dried laundry hanging in my room until I actually have the time to clear it away. As a result it has taken me 2 weeks to do so, but 3 years ago I would have made a point to clear it up asap. Not anymore. The same goes for grading. I used to get it done as quickly as I could. This often lead to nightly hours where I was slaving away with my red pen. Now, even when I promise my colleague to have something done by a certain date, I will sometimes just tell him: look it’s not going to work before that time, is it okay if I do it later.
And the best part is: it works. I’m calmer, I’m happier and just feel so much better overall. I now do know the tell tale signs of stressing out, so when I felt things going down hill again in October I immediately tried to pinpoint what it was and solved the problem. The result: I now have less classes to teach to compensate for the overkill I had last term. All I know is that I’ve learned my lesson and it is unlikely that I will make the same mistake again.
Q: What lesson have you learned?