In this series of authentic conversations around burn-out, my clients share their recovery journey openly with the world. The intention with this series is to create awareness and understanding around burn-out and chronic stress. The stories invite to inspire others to be brave, challenge their beliefs and speak up on their needs to avoid burnout and other stress related outcomes.
Below you can read the story from Livia
Hi, I am Livia and for 7 years I have worked for corporations in various finance positions. In the last 8 years I have lived in 5 different countries, relocated 3 times for work. This is the second Dutch “episode” for me, as I have finished my master studies here as well. I am also a mother of a beautiful 8-year-old girl.
It all started much earlier than 2017. I was always a productive perfectionist fearing of failure and thinking that I am never good enough. My only way to reach perfection was to work hard and never say no. We do strive for perfection for many reasons like attention, love, self-worth, appreciation, fear of failure…I did it for all of them. I was eager for praise.
Being in survival modus
My work was my survival (literally) and not only mine but also the survival of my family. I had to provide and I felt I had no other choice but to keep on going. I was working for a corporate company and it often meant long unpredictable hours and I would never say no to that.
For quite some time, I convinced myself that I became more emotional due to the life events happened to me several years ago. I have found an answer for my fatigue in my motherhood. Insomnia was for sure inherited and panic attacks too. Tinnitus (constant buzzing sound in the ear) was probably from loud music and…. endless excuses and denial for what it truly meant.
How did you find out that you were suffering from burn-out?
Slowly, I became aware that something was not quite like I believed in. But it was too late and there was no way back or way for fast correction. In May 2017, I thought it was a simple flu, but it developed into a bad ear infection and ended up with a lung infection. I fell over and I hardly could get out of bed for several months. At the moment I crashed, my mind still kept on sending the same messages “You can do it all”, however, my body said NO! Now I know it saved my life.
I took time to reflect and I knew then, that I have carried the burn-out on my feet for a very long time. I learned what burn-out meant and that all the symptoms I could possibly find, I had it almost all for a long time. Something that I feared the most has happened to me. I (at that time I = my mind) was not in control anymore of what I wanted to do, but my body was.
The physical symptoms of my burn-out
It was so difficult to get out of the DO IT ALL to the SLOWLY DAY BY DAY mindset. It was difficult to accept that doing nothing for some time was the only way to recovery, while it also brought the feeling of quilt. I felt like a failure and I felt I disappointed my family and my colleagues and the company I worked for. My true recovery started the moment I embraced my situation and stopped being in denial.
From the moment where taking a shower was the only possible task of the day, to the moment I could do 2-3 things took a long time. I felt it took ages to come to that point. It was a challenge because my prayer was “God give me patience, but hurry up”.
I could not read, I could not listen to music, I barely had energy to spend time with my daughter and it is painful when somebody you love the most, drains all the energy during that day.
I developed spectacularly fashionable strange physical symptoms, upper back pain with reflecting pain in my palms. Sudden ocular migraines where I would see a word but could not read it.
My mind could not put a word together. And on top of that and to have it even this was follow-ed up with three days of numbingly painful headaches. Only on one side of my head while other side would function just normally. (I truly believed I was having a stroke). It was a painful and a scary place to be, but it was as well the biggest life lesson in having patience.
What worked for you to heal yourself from the burn out?
I knew, I had to create my own recovery package, something that worked for me. I took small steps in self-care which meant a survival strategy at that time. It started with walking around the block and then walking two times around the block. It followed with a mindfulness course and bio-resonance therapy, and so much more until I found what worked for me.
I created my own recovery package and I am still in it. Instead of weekly it became a quarterly activity. For me it was and is all about body and energy orientated healing. It has to be, as all the knowledge lies within us and we are not our minds and thoughts.
Being dissociated with my body and spirit, being present only in the head led me not to know my own boundaries. I could not feel what was a no and a yes for me. I did not know what gave me joy and happiness. Therefore, the way back could only be through creating that body-mind connection again. That was a sort of a re-birth for me.
It took two years to come to the point to know who I am. To know what I strongly stand for. I became somebody who is now very good at setting boundaries. I know now when I need to rest and recover.
The burn-out experience is my power bank
I have started a new study that makes me happy and finally I am clearly seeing the vision of myself as somebody who does not live out of fear and pain but somebody who has an answer to it. I will not forget the struggles; they will always have a place in my life. I will not live my life pretending that the burn-out did not happen. I have integrated the experience in my life and from that I move forward.
I know that only when I gave enough attention, time and space I was able to understand it too. I have learned that for me it was important to move forward with it and not from it and that this experience is a power bank and motivation in the here and now.
What advice would you give to your 20 year old self to prevent the burnout?
If I could to give advice to my 20-year-old self, I would say:“Get out of your head and connect with your body and trust your intuition. Don’t be so hard on yourself, don’t be scared you are enough.”
Although I value this experience so much from the point of view where I am now, I also strongly believe it is not necessary to discover who you are by experiencing a burn-out. Self-awareness and self-regulation are important skills to prevent such an experience.
I am not a client of Eva, but I do follow her work and I find it a crucial contribution in the world we live in. I hope that the message of her work reaches as many people as it possibly can. That’s why I have written my story. To inspire people to be open about their struggles and not to be ashamed or fearful about it.
I want to thank Livia for her bravery to share her recovery story. I hope you will take her learning experience to heart and listen to the wisdom she has gathered through this experience.
Together we can change the narrative around burn-out by being open in how we deal with the challenges in our lives. As being open in our vulnerability is the real strength. Women owning their stories, aligned with their bodies and souls are the real power women and new leaders we need in our (business) world and society.
I wish this story inspires you to become real about your life. To be brave, to start to reflect on your beliefs and life style. I desire that you take your body and soul serious and that you can see that you are more than a walking head. A head which pushes us to do more and better.
The first step is to take a moment to pause and reflect. To start to connect with your body and soul. This practice of pausing and reconnecting with your body will help you to transform your life where you align with who you truly are. Living from an aligned mind, body and soul is where burn-out has no chance.
Hi, I am Eva and I support women who are working hard to climb the career ladder or grow their thriving small business.
I facilitate them to create a life and career with purpose and wellbeing so that they can create a balanced and conscious life. I do this by helping them to re-connect with their body and soul. This alignment creates authentic leadership and contributes positively to our current changing world.
In case you have any questions about burn-out, or you feel are ready to ask for support to create purpose or wellbeing in your life, feel welcome to contact me. Find out the different services I offer for women like you. I also would love to hear from you have had a burn-out and you are recovered and you wish to share your story on my blog to inspire other women, you can contact me here.