I have been wanting to write this piece for a while now. I thought I would find it difficult to relive those dark moments in my life, but much to my surprise I found it liberating. As I am writing this, I cannot help but realize the feeling of peace taking over. Alongside it, a weird excitement at the realization that my story no longer feels heavy and defining, but rather a necessary starting point of a transformation journey that brought me to where I am today: in sync with my spirit, aware of my purpose, and in control of my body and mind. Which brings me to the question: what is burnout, and, in my case, was burnout a friend or a foe?
What is burnout?
The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines burnout as “physical, emotional or mental exhaustion, accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance and negative attitudes towards oneself and others.” Contrary to popular belief, burnout is not exclusively related to working long hours or taking too much on one’s plate. Truth is, it creeps its ugly head when you lose the connection with yourself and your purpose. That’s what happened to me. After a period of time of constantly putting others’ needs before my own, my mind and body finally gave up.
The symptoms of burnout can be quite debilitating, affecting both mental and physical health. I started feeling exhausted, unmotivated, and emotionally drained. On top of that, the things that I used to love didn’t spark any joy anymore, I was easily irritable, and sleeping through the night was a thing of the past. Not only that, but I was also in a lot of physical pain, starting with my neck and shoulders, and ending up moving to different areas like my head and hips. So how did I end up here?
How it all started
My burnout story started long before its first symptoms. On one hand, a series of unfortunate events and childhood traumas had already harshly impacted my physical and mental well-being. On the other hand, not having the tools to process this meant I build up my own coping mechanisms that were, in fact, deepening the problem. The major culprits? Not setting boundaries, not listening to the signals my body was giving me, engaging in people pleasing, and generally just living life on autopilot with no clear purpose.
Finally, this caught up with me and caused my body and mind to break down. Looking back at it, it wasn’t only the ever-increasing workload or irregular hours that I was working. It was me not identifying with the direction I was going in, which was nowhere consciously chosen by me.
It wasn’t long after that I was officially out of the running. I spent most of my days at home, binging Netflix and food, hoping rest was all it took to get back at it. However, months passed and I wasn’t seeing any changes. If anything, I was getting deeper into the negative spiral. That’s until I came across a 200hrs Yoga Teacher Training Course in India. I figured, if I wanted to get out of this and take back control, I need to make a radical move. So, a couple of months later here I was, 8000 km away from home, in Varkala, freshly unemployed but with a clearer purpose than ever: regain control over my mind and body.
It’s here where I came across Ayurveda. During my time in Varkala, I went for a 5 days mini pancha karma detox treatment in our mentor’s ayurvedic clinic. At the end of these 5 days, I felt reborn. I felt better than I felt in years and I looked better too. What’s more, I started to recognize myself again, and that feeling gave me such a boost out of that place I dug myself into. And this was a high that I went on chasing for the next 2 years.
When I can back home, I slowly went back into my old routine, but the Ayurveda seed was planted and slowly grew every day. I started researching what Ayurveda really was, and it quickly became apparent that this is the path out of this burnout that I was stuck in for the past years. So, 2 years later I was enrolled in the Ayurveda Practitioner Study, ready to learn.
How it’s going
It’s been 6 years since I first started having severe burnout symptoms and I can safely say that I am at a point in my life where my purpose is clearer than ever, my body is stronger than it’s ever been, and my mind and spirit are aligned.
My personal experience with Ayurveda was nothing short of transformative. It brought me in contact with a part of myself that I always wished would come out. At the lowest point in my life, Ayurveda gave me the tools I needed to bring that side out.
It did that by helping me create routines for myself, which turned out to be a safety net during the times I didn’t feel as motivated. It strengthened my body-mind connection through yoga, breathwork, and meditation and helped me find and align with my purpose. It taught me that to live the life you want, you need to consider all aspects of it as a whole.
Looking back at it, without unexpectedly going into burnout, I would have never wandered the path of Ayurveda. With time, I have learned to shift the dialogue I had with myself and look back at my old self with kindness and appreciation. My experiences helped me get where I am today, and for that I am grateful.