In this series of authentic conversations around burnout, clients and people from my network share their transformative journey openly with the world. The intention with this series is to create awareness and understanding around burnout and chronic stress. My hope is that these stories will 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’m Livia, and for 7 years I worked in various finance positions for large corporations. Over the last 8 years, I have lived in 5 different countries, relocating 3 times for work. This is the second Dutch “episode” for me, as I finished my Master's studies here too. I am also a mother to a beautiful 8-year-old girl.
It all started much earlier than 2017. I was always a productive perfectionist, with a fear of failure, who never felt good enough. My path to perfection was to work hard, and never say no. We strive for perfection for many reasons like attention, love, lack of self-worth, need for appreciation, fear of failure… I did it for all of those reasons. I was eager for praise.
Being in survival mode
I needed my work in order to survive (literally), and so did my family. I had to provide, and I felt I had no choice but to keep going. I was working for a large corporation, and that often meant long unpredictable hours, that I would never say no to.
For quite some time, I convinced myself that I had become more emotional due to some life events that had happened to me several years earlier. I found the answer for my fatigue in motherhood. Insomnia was definitely inherited, and panic attacks too. Tinnitus (a constant buzzing sound in the ear) was probably from listening to too much loud music… I found endless excuses for what I was truly going through. I was in denial.
How did you find out that you were suffering from burnout?
Slowly, I became aware that something was not quite right. But it was too late, and there was no easy way back. In May 2017, I thought I had a simple cold, but it developed into a bad ear infection, and I ended up with a lung infection. I fell apart, and could hardly get out of bed for several months. As this crash happened, my mind still kept on sending me the same message… “You can do it all”, however, my body was saying ‘’NO!’’. I now know that it saved my life.
I took some time to reflect, and it was then that I realised that I had been suffering the symptoms of the burnout, while somehow managing to stay on my feet, for a very long time. I learned what burnout meant, and as I discovered the possible symptoms, I realised I had almost all of them. Something I feared the most, had happened to me. I (and at that time, ‘’I’’ equalled my mind) was no longer in control of what I wanted to do, but thankfully my body was.
The physical symptoms of my burnout
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 recover. And it also brought a feeling of guilt. I felt like a failure, and I felt that I had disappointed my family, my colleagues, and the company I worked for. My true recovery started the moment that I embraced my situation and stopped being in denial.
From the moment 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 that it took forever to come to that point. It was a real challenge for me, and my daily prayer was “God, give me patience, but hurry up”.
I could not read, I could not listen to music, I barely had the energy to spend time with my daughter, and it’s especially painful when one of the people you love most in the world, drains all of your energy for the day.
I developed 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. And this would then be followed by three days of numbingly painful headaches, on one side of my head, while the other side would function normally. I truly believed I was having a stroke. It was a painful and scary place to be, but it was also a big life lesson in learning to have patience.
What worked for you to heal yourself from the burnout?
I knew I had to create my own recovery package, something that worked for me. I took small steps in self-care, purely a survival strategy at first. It started with walking around the block, and then walking around the block twice. A mindfulness course and bio-resonance therapy followed, plus so much more, until I found what worked for me. I created this recovery package, and I am still using it to this day. Instead of weekly, it has become a quarterly activity. For me, it was, and is, all about body and energy-oriented healing. It has to be, as all the knowledge lies within us, so long as we recognise that we are not just our minds and thoughts. Being dissociated from my body and spirit, being present only in my head, led me to not know my own boundaries. I could not feel what was a no and what was 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. It was a sort of re-birth for me.
It took me two years to come to the point where I know who I am. To strongly know what I stand for. I became someone who is now very good at setting boundaries. I now know when I need to rest and recover.
The burnout experience is my power bank
I have started new studies that make me happy. And I now see myself as somebody who does not live from a place 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 burnout did not happen. I have integrated the experience in my life, and from there I am able to move forward. I know that only when I gave enough attention, time and space to the burnout, was I able to understand it. I have learned that, for me, it was important to move forward with it, and not from it, and that this experience is now a power bank and motivation for me.
What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self to prevent the burnout?
If I could give any advice to my 20-year-old self, I would say: “Get out of your head and connect with your body. Trust your intuition. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t be scared. You are enough”.
Although I value this experience very much from the point of view of where I am now, I also strongly believe that it is not necessary to discover who you are by experiencing a burnout. Self-awareness and self-regulation are important skills to learn in order 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 to 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 them.
I want to thank Livia for her bravery in sharing her recovery story. I hope you will take her learning to heart, and listen to the wisdom she has gained through this experience.
Together we can change the narrative around burnout by being open about 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 the new leaders we need in our (business) world and society.
My wish is that this story inspires you to become real about your own life. To be brave, to start to reflect on your beliefs and lifestyle. My desire is that you take your body and soul seriously, and that you can see that you are more than just a walking head. A head that constantly 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, so you align with who you truly are. Living from an aligned mind, body and soul gives burnout no chance to take hold.
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 reconnect 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 burnout, or you feel you 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 would also love to hear from you if you have had a burnout, are now recovered, and wish to share your story on my blog to inspire other women. If so, you can contact me here.