For achievement-oriented, career-driven personalities, it all starts at university. That’s where aspirations for high marks, big ambitions for the future and a merciless expectation to succeed, all starts. We believe we can do anything, as long as we set our mind to it. No matter what the personal cost may be.
We forge ahead in our careers with these unspoken rules etched in the back of our minds. We are go-getters, jet-setting the world and fulfilling our wildest professional dreams. But unknowingly, those dreams and expectations come at a cost, with the associated stress and pressure.
Can we really strive hard for anything, without sacrificing our own needs? Our health? Our wellbeing?
If we constantly push ourselves to the limit without the right balance or adequate time to wind down and de-stress, then it will eventually catch up with us.
All that striving caught up with me. After university, I started working in a busy corporate career. I was always pushing myself, determined to do well and grab the next opportunity. Then, I endured a period of stress in my personal life and at work. I was in a vulnerable place. That’s when burnout arrived and floored me.
I was the go-getter no more. It left me feeling tense and jittery, anxious and scared of who I had become and the life I was leading. I couldn’t move forward or go backward either, but one thing I knew for sure - I needed to change NOW!
I had to redefine who I was and what my goals were, so I could function again. I couldn’t be the person I used to be. Although I resisted at first, I had to accept burnout in order to move ahead and start living again.
I now include more time to unwind, to live more mindfully and to focus on calm deep breathing, every day. Otherwise, I can feel the build up of stress again. My recovery from burnout is an ongoing process of learning and personal growth. Although I have improved, I won’t allow myself to reach the point where I’m continually busy or stressed again.
I have recreated a new way of being in the world. I am now more aware of my limitations and am wiser about where I focus my energy. I am kinder to myself now than I’ve ever been, and am more aware of what my needs are.
Burnout forced me to change. The modern world is a busy place and I believe the pressure on university students to go forth and succeed at all costs needs to be reassessed. Without etching out vital time to look after our needs as individuals, all the other stuff can easily start to control and stress us.
The reality for me, is that I still contend with the after-effects of burnout 6 years on. I am prone to stress and over-busyness, and have ongoing impacts on my mental health. Let’s engage with students to create awareness about the importance of maintaining their own health and wellbeing amidst the demands of expectations of their careers.
Like a sneaky dingo in the night, burnout can creep up when you least expect. Before you know it, burnout can take away your energy and everything you worked so hard for.