Lifestyle and Relationships

Dimmed Lights: Of burn out and anxiety

We all have a light inside us. This light burns brightly when we are happy, healthy and at our best. Sometimes, though, things cause our lights to dim. For the period April to July 2016, my light was probably at its lowest; overshadowed by anxieties, stress-induced illnesses and other vulnerabilities.

The last few months were harrowing. Was I suffering from burn out? Could this be anxiety? I could not understand why I was suddenly so vulnerable to everything. Up to this point in my life, I have prided myself on being a resilient person, able to weather any and every storm with a smile on my face. What shifted in the period that caused me to feel suddenly like a different version of myself?

My truth is, many things were shifting. I had changed jobs, moved from the scenic, easy-going life I enjoyed living close to the beach in rural Jamaica, to the hustle and bustle of the capital. I had changing responsibilities and commitments,  as I was managing so much more in my personal life than ever before. There was also an international opportunity that I was barely engaging with at the time, but I knew it was a possibility. I was completely unsettled for the first time in my life. I was anxious.

So many things happened during the period. Each time I thought I had turned a corner, another issue would pop up. I felt my resilience being sapped by the day. With the prolonged stress, came recurring respiratory problems and I added the stress of my mother being ill. My heart rate would spike to fat-burning mode while I was just sitting and reading. There were days when I felt I was absolutely alone in dealing with this. I found myself disengaging from many things and people, I lost energy, motivation, and I became a shadow of myself. I lost interest in everything. I would try to do many things, but scarcely succeeded as I started to doubt my own abilities. The more inward I looked, the more I saw flashes of trauma from my past, and then other new traumatic experiences occurred.

I suffered from anxiety, which my cousin, a clinical psychologist first pointed out. I experienced burn out, which I learned from a counseling psychologist. None of these things were easy to deal with. I feel like I have been through the trenches, and now I am back. Having come out on the other side of this, I am now able to reflect and share, in hopes that it may connect with someone facing any similar challenge.

It is tough to talk about

Telling friends, employers and family about anxiety and burnout is difficult. Some will just not understand, and really, it is difficult to explain to people what it really feels like. I happened upon an article last month which I think captured it well, and you can read it here. Know that sometimes, it will initially appear that some people understand and are supportive, and then you may realize they don’t quite get the full gamut of your challenge.

Put things in their boxes

It is important that we take time to deal with any challenges or trauma that we face. If we don’t, oftentimes unresolved pain surfaces at the most inopportune time. You might find a conflagration of vulnerability and pain, as all the unsolved issues emerge at the same time. So, pay attention to yourself.  Be conscious of your emotions. Yes, we are all have those.

Be honest about your challenges

Admitting to myself that I was having a difficult time was not easy. I was trying to do all things as normal. That can cause you to black out; literally. Talking to a trusted party helps. It could be a partner, family member or friend. And if you are the trusted party, listen intently, so you can understand. Accepting your emotions, because you are human, is an important step.

Ask for help

It is alright to accept that you sometimes can’t stoke the flame of your life all by yourself. So, get help. There is no shame in getting help. After-all, we are built for community. In vulnerable moments, and in life, surround yourself with people who mean you well , are there for you and willing to help you be at your best.

You are human. A part of that means that you will have some valley moments. Be OK with that. Deal with those moments when they come. Remember that a holistically healthy you is better able to contribute to the world, than a broken you. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Whenever you find a wave of hope in a valley moment, ride that wave. Do the things you love in that moment. Read something inspiring and try to motivate yourself.

If your are the friend, partner or family member of someone struggling to shine their light, take time to listen. Listen to understand. Check in. Oftentimes, being present is the best gift you can give. Never attempt to invalidate the person’s feelings. Encourage the person to get professional help if it is needed.

The people around us may be facing battles they choose not to speak of. This should encourage us to be gentle with each other as we go through life. Never try to dim someone else’s light. We’re all better for the world when we are shining at our brightest.

I am back to feeling like a resilient person, having taken time to heal, read and pay attention to myself.  I am grateful for the women I could turn to for wise counsel, the comfort of scriptures, and the support of two beacons in my life. This was just an important part of my journey.  Sometimes you have to lose yourself to grow. Like seeds are buried so they can sprout new life, I believe I experienced this and grew stronger and more resilient. My light is shining again.

Breathe. Believe. Balance.

All will be well.

5 thoughts on “Dimmed Lights: Of burn out and anxiety

  1. I am very glad that you are starting to emerge from this period of deep anxiety (I hope your mother is feeling better?) I think if you are accustomed to life following a certain, fairly predictable pattern, changes can certainly affect you. It’s not really that your light was dimmed in any way – it was always still there. But don’t be too hard on yourself; you cannot always shine brightly and you do not need to always shine brightly. It’s perfectly OK not to “do things as normal” but to say “No, I don’t think I can take this on right now.”
    I find mindfulness helps me overcome – living in the present and enjoying each moment. Also, embrace the change (easier said than done I know) – but I think this is a very positive time in your life!

  2. Wow, powerful story. I really am glad to hear that you have bounced back! Go with God and rock your world. Very inspiring. God bless

  3. “The people around us may be facing battles they choose not to speak of. This should encourage us to be gentle with each other as we go through life”.

    This is so True Kem! I really wish other people saw it this way. I try my best to be cognizant of this everyday in my daily interaction with people. Especially strangers.

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