I had my first waves of burn-out when I was only a teenager.
It happened when I was cycling back home. I was only a few minutes away from my house, but I just could not move my body anymore. I had to get off my bike and sit on the side of the road in order to regain my energy. Everything stopped – my body did not collaborate anymore. It happened a few times more, especially when cycling home.
As a child going to primary school and high school I felt worn out and exhausted so often. Just by following the regular schedule. Arriving to school in winter time at 7 years old. Everything dark, cold air, just woke up, and feeling so tired still. Counting the days until the summer.
Too much homework
There was one day of exhaustion that I remember particularly. I got up at 6.30 am, spent a full day in class, came home to lots of homework, had dinner, and went to my evening ballet class from 6.30 till 8 pm. We started the class with floor exercises. I dropped on the floor and felt so happy that I could actually lay down for a while – only until the tough exercises would start. After the class I felt so stressed. Because that evening I still had 30 pages to study for my biology test of the next day.
I was up until at least 11 pm studying and just felt panic and stress. After this full on work day of constant focus, sitting up straight, paying attention, processing new information, engaging socially and doing a full on ballet work out – the day still was not finished.
It’s not like I had postponed anything. At this time, I still I did everything I could to keep up with my homework. It was just the work that was expected of us.
Looking back, I think this schedule is completely insane.
As a 12 or 13 year old, I spent the entire afternoon and evening after school keeping up with homework. And I still did not manage to do everything. When it was finally time to sleep my entire body felt so heavy. I was so happy to just be in bed that I did not even want to sleep. I just wanted to lay there and enjoy the feeling of rest.
Exhausted in high school
Looking back, I realize that this is absurd. But topics such as exhaustion and stress were never addressed in highschool. As children we were never taught how to feel and communicate our boundaries. As a matter of fact, I felt forced to cross them.
In my school, arriving to class late meant you had to be at school at 7.30 am the next morning – instead of starting class at 8.15 am. This way, we would learn to be there on time.
It’s pretty likely that people who arrived late for class already felt tired. Perhaps they had a hard time waking up. Perhaps they just needed more rest. Instead of feeling able to address this, and taking a break in the constant knowledge production process of going to school – we had to get up even earlier.
Exhaustion was never a valid excuse in order to miss classes or to take a day off.
Burned out as an adult
My waves of burn-out continued into my university years. I was preparing for a trip to New York after finishing a week of exams and essay deadlines, and my body stopped moving while grocery shopping. I literally could not take one more step.
The waves eventually became a giant flood and my body stopped functioning at the age of 25. I was ill and chronically fatigued for years. Looking back, I realized that I had already had experienced the “warning waves of burn-out” for at least 10 years. Thus, my burn-out was a result of over a decade of ignoring my bodies needs and living a schedule forced on me by others.
All of this has made me wonder…
How are we expected to become healthy humans able to take care of ourselves – when we are not even taught to feel and express our boundaries?
When we have to lie about why we didn’t study for a test, or finish our deadlines on time?
When we do not know how to listen to our bodies, but listen to outside authorities who tell us where to go and where to be – despite how we feel? When we are ‘punished’ for feeling tired?
Boundaries and technology
I was born in 1990. At this time I was lucky enough to not grow up in today’s hyper-technological smartphone-dominated scroll-society. But how about today’s children? How are they growing up?
Watching screens instead of climbing trees, becoming Youtube stars before 10 years old, and spending a lot of time inside.
It really worries me to see how companies are constantly trying to lure us into wanting more. They use psychology in order to make us stay active in their apps as long as possible, until we are completely addicted to them.
Endless scrolling, endless availability online, endless distraction, endless advertising, and endless conversations.
Remember when we used to send messages and there was an actual end to them? Now it is not even possible to “end” a conversation. Messaging someone opens a lifelong ‘chat’ between the both of you. Having the other see our ‘read’ signs, so we feel more pressure to answer them rapidly and keep on continuing the bloody conversation.
When watching a series and the episode ends, good luck trying not to watch the next one – immediately after. A countdown is started and before you know it – you’re stuck in the next episode. And the next one. And the next one. The entire design is based on it.
This is such a different experience than watching a series in the nineties and early 00’s. We used to long for our Tuesday evenings when our favorite show would be on. Just one episode – every week. It was so exciting.
The endless loop
On my Facebook profile I have installed an app called “Social Fixer”. After I’ve scrolled through 50 (!!!) posts, I receive a notice saying: “To keep Facebook from becoming an endless loop, do you or do you not want to load 50 more posts?”
“What the hell? I’ve already seen FIFTY posts?!”
I am being presented with a choice. I am being presented with a boundary. I can now stop and focus on the work I had planned to engage in for the day. To me, this small message has triggered something. To me, it means something. Because this small notice, this message – is a sign of a healthy culture.
A healthy culture is based on healthy boundaries. It is a culture lived by a people who know when to go, and when to stop. A healthy culture understands the boundaries of the natural gifts it is dependent on, and respects them.
Living in a culture of zero boundaries
To put it bluntly, the way we are living is completely bonkers.
Our culture does not show signs of having healthy boundaries. Everything has to become MORE. More profit, productivity, efficiency.
Same day delivery!
A higher maximum speed.
A better Iphone.
You name it – it needs to be better, faster, bigger and most of all – perfect.
Until it crashes.
Because the thing is, Nature does not work like that. The cycles of Nature love death. Crisis. Decay. Darkness.
We witness it every Autumn, and every Winter.
The current burn-out crisis has a lot of correlations with the ecological crisis.
Our bodies – our own ecological systems, are not build to be a 24/7 perfection and productivity show. Neither is the ecosystem at large.
The question that rises is – when do we say stop? When is enough – enough?
Are we living in a world in which none of us really learned about boundaries – the boundaries of bodies and the boundaries of our ecosystem?
The solution to the burn-out crisis and the ecological crisis is an realignment with the Earth. A realignment with our natural rhythms.
The cycles of the Seasons and the Moon can lead our way.
Balancing productivity with rest.
Balancing the outside world with our inner worlds.
Balancing noise with silence.
Balancing the beauty with the ugly.
Appreciating an older age, an imperfection, a lazy day.
Existing apart from our productivity.
Living just for the sake of living.
Having time to look further than our screens – and discover the beauty of this Wild, precious Earth.
The burn-out crisis is an ecological crisis, and the solution is based on boundaries.
Next week my course “Burn-out and transformation” will start. This will be a Love shower for the fatigued and exhausted, and an initiation into starting living your natural cycles and magical Life. Find all you want to know here: https://inthisreality.com/events/