I’ve been extra quiet over here the last month or so, and here’s why: I have well and truly hit the proverbial wall. I’m positive that MANY of you have been hitting that wall recently as well. To be perfectly honest, even though I saw this coming, it still surprised me! Can you relate? Is it time to slow down maybe?
“Such is life”, you may say! Perhaps. Certainly, such is life when you don’t take enough care of yourself. Certainly, when you don’t manage stress well and it becomes chronic. If you are a highly sensitive person or have an autoimmune condition. During everlasting February. Certainly, after a full year of experiencing a world-wide collective trauma.
Here are some of my thoughts on personally Hitting The Wall this past month – what I’m dealing with, why I hit the burnout wall, and how I’m attempting to heal now. Keep reading, or jump to my “Burnout List“, filled with some of the things that work best for me.
Health Isn’t Linear
Firstly, let’s acknowledge that health is not linear, and even health practitioners get sick! I recently saw a comment online about not trusting a doctor who had to take time off due to illness – WHAT?! This struck me as so deeply lacking in compassion, understanding and, ultimately, tolerance. Many health care practitioners start learning medicine due to an illness of their own or someone close to them. Such was my experience.
I have an autoimmune disease that affects my thyroid (and in turn, every other part of my body!). I suffer from eczema and hives when things get really bad – sometimes lasting for months at a time. Even before chronic illness jabbed its way into my life, I would have said that I’m likely a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), which means I’m more strongly affected by sounds, scents, sensations, emotions and my environment than many of my peers. I’m more porous. When I’m stressed or tired, I become very easily overwhelmed, and need to work diligently to ensure I am taking appropriate care of myself, my immune system, my nervous system, and my emotional heart.
Chronic stress is definitely my biggest illness trigger – is it yours too?
It’s been a tough year, we all know that. For myself, I had only recently started working with the lovely team at Victoria Community Acupuncture. After years of education, followed by months of hustling and getting my Nutrition business ready to launch, taking the AIP Certified Coach training, and starting to see some amazing clients, we suddenly found ourselves in our first lockdown. I quickly pivoted to be able to work virtually, but honestly, since I wasn’t yet established, business ground to a halt for a few months.
It was obviously stressful, as paying the bills of a startup business is a tough thing to do without much income. I’m sure some of you reading this have similar stories to tell! I was (and am!) so lucky and grateful to still be working my other part-time job.
On the flip side, it was a relief to take some time to process the changes that were happening. I walked many miles last summer, trying to move through my anxiety, and figure out what my next steps were.
Mid-summer, I ended up stepping back from VCA, with every intention of going back a month or two into the Fall (which, unfortunately, I just wasn’t able to do). Working entirely online wasn’t completely new to me after running a blog for a few years, but as the months have gone on, I’ve felt more and more drained, and have stayed quiet for longer and longer periods of time. You can’t pour from an empty cup!
Hitting The Wall
When businesses first reopened, I made it a priority to take care of my own health. I could feel the stress of the pandemic sapping my energy, I was fatigued and getting headaches, I gained a few more pounds despite getting more exercise, and my adrenals were clearly struggling. My marriage suffered. I suffered.
Taking care of myself with acupuncture, naturopathic support, regular blood work, chiropractic and counselling certainly helped me manage over that period. I’ve had days and weeks were things feel normal again and my creativity surges. I stopped noticing the slow leak of still being chronically stressed. I continued my self care routine as it was, and it continued to help me “manage”, until, eventually, I ultimately “hit the wall” in February.
It was as if somebody had flicked a switch. One minute I was doing okay, and the next minute, all hell broke loose! I started having issues sleeping, I was suddenly very clumsy, and then my eczema flared, hard, and seemingly out of nowhere. (Mercury in retrograde, anyone?)
Ouch. Of course, it obviously didn’t come out of nowhere… that leak had simply depleted my resources faster than I could maintain them.
What Did I Do?
Itchy, swollen and inflamed, my immediate reaction was fear, frustration and grief. Fear that this flare will be as bad as past flares. Frustration because I was “doing so much” and “managing so well”, and grief because all chronic illness comes with a huge pile of sadness – for the life that was, for the things that will never be, and for the simple yet deep pain of having to handle something not everyone can understand.
The last few weeks have gone something like this:
How could I not see this coming? Oh wait, I did and took care of it to the best of my ability. I thought I was managing this, how could I be so naive? I was managing, but I have a chronic illness that inevitably flares, and I’ve been stressed for over a year, due to factors out of my control. Why is my body so broken? What did I do wrong? It isn’t broken, and I didn’t do anything but live my life. Why did this have to happen to ME? It’s actually happening to everybody, just in different ways and at different times.
Yikes! It’s been a time haha. I’m so incredibly grateful to have lots of tools and experience in my back pocket, and I’m using ALL of them right now! It’s hard for me to fully rest, but I’m trying my darndest to (now that my body is screaming at me, I really don’t have much choice!). This is the one of the biggest lessons of chronic illness: LEARN TO REST!
Healing Takes Time
Five weeks later, I’m still trying to recover, and THAT’S OKAY. Healing takes time. I’ve been lucky to be in autoimmune remission for about three years, and with a bit of extra luck, my thyroid levels will stay in a healthy range while I work to heal this eczema flare. I’m taking it easy, keeping things simple, and asking for help. I will be back to my (mostly) old self soon, and maybe next time I will listen a little more intently when my body is telling me it’s had enough!
The Burnout List
So, now that I’ve been reminded why chronic stress is SO BAD… What actually helps me when I am struggling with burnout, fatigue, autoimmune flares, and other symptoms? Below are some of the many things that help me either prevent burnout, or heal from it. Do you have a go-to list like this?
- Counselling and somatic therapies – let’s normalize therapy as an important part of the human experience!
- Acupuncture – this has been an absolute game-changer in managing my own health, and I highly recommend trying it.
- A good old-fashioned walk in nature – my absolute favourite way to release stress.
- Nutrient-dense foods – stress depletes nutrients SO FAST, so do what you can to correct those depletions! What works for ME – quality meats, liver, bone broth, green herbs and green juices, soups, root veg, herbal teas, etc.
- Myer’s Nutrient IVs – on that note, sometimes my reserves get so depleted that I need a boost. I get IVs from my Naturopath when I’m feeling really low, and last time my eczema calmed down too!
- The Autoimmune Protocol – the AIP has helped me SO much on my autoimmune journey. Sometimes diving into a reset is needed to calm inflammation and an overactive immune response.
- Herbal medicine – plants can be amazing allies in times of need (ensure proper dosing and find the right plants for you via a trained Medical Herbalist).
- Friends, family and community to support you and lift your spirits (and maybe wash the dishes or cook a meal for you!).
- Chocolate – 70% or higher dark chocolate contains nutrients like magnesium that help with stress, anxiety, and depression – enjoy the little things!
- Journalling or drawing – get it out on paper, get creative and have fun.
- Crying, shaking my body, bouncing, and punching the air – these are very useful methods for releasing trauma, rather than holding it in the body and letting it fester.
- Breathing exercises – I especially love the 4-4-6-2 method (in-4, hold-4, out-6, hold-2).
- Doing something different for 15 minutes.
- Drinking lots of herbal tea! Plus, staying hydrated (with a proper electrolyte/mineral balance) helps lift your mood.
- Clearing my space/home – I dunno about you, but clutter definitely increases my anxiety!
- Sleep – I’m horrible at napping, but I’m great at bedtime routines! If I’m not sleeping 7-9 hrs each night, you can be sure I’m a wreck…
- Taking time off – while not always financially feasible, you should definitely consider dropping or pausing the things you can while you rest and recover.
- Gratitude – seriously, it’s so easy to end up in a victim mindset (trust me, I KNOW!), but remembering the good stuff makes healing and recovery a lot easier. Keep practicing!
How Are You Doing?
Are you slowing down and taking care of yourself during this tough time? Take it from me – hitting the wall sucks. Don’t wait for physical symptoms to manifest! Listen deeply to your body – what is it begging you for? Honour that.
What would you add to this list? Do you have any tried and true tips for recovery and healing? Share them below in the comments! I welcome any and all healing thoughts and positive vibes, and am sending some out to all of you lovely beings too! We’re in this together, and you have my support, always!
If you’ve hit the wall and need some nutritional support, I’m still here! Book a Discovery Call today to learn more about how nutrition can support you through burnout and stressful times.