Burn out. Chronic fatigue, depression, forgetfulness, insomnia, feelings of being run down, erratic appetite and a whole other bundle symptoms that essentially reflect that perhaps we don't have enough joy, pleasure or fun in our lives, perhaps because stress is beginning to take over. If any of these sound familiar that you need to listen up because your body is sending you the warning signs that you're heading towards burn out.
I have spent a lot of time working for charities. In my mid-late twenties my energy and focus was almost entirely on working for the charity sector. I was passionate and furious about the state of the world, of inequality and unfairness, and I threw everything I had into doing something about it.
Until I burnt out. Now when people tell you stories about their burnout they tend to involve very highly paid, stressful corporate jobs where the action that needed taking was to quit their job and go travelling for 6 - 12 months. I am not criticising that path at all and the courage it must taken to leave a well paid job is not to be sniffed at.
But my situation was different. I was stressed out with my job, sure. But I wasn't well paid enough to jack it all in for a year. Plus, I had done that already - I had spent the best part of my early 20s travelling around the world, living off a shoestring, accumulating memories, experiences and debt. This days had been hugely important and valuable to me - but it didn't feel right to do that again.
I didn't 'see the light', and decide to stop selling my soul to the corporate machine. More I was sad, disillusioned and in despair about the issues that I cared so much about but seemed so unable to impact.
For me, the choices I made to give up my job, start freelancing whilst teaching yoga part time, and to just see what happened, all came from a hard-to-ignore voice on the inside telling me to take the leap. The classes, workshops, retreats and 121s that I have been genuinely honoured to teach just came. I stopped pushing, and life just came.
Whether we're reaching burn out through our work, our lifestyle or our relationships, there isn't a simple solution. For some people giving up work simply won't be an option, or at least not right now.
What can you do to start avoiding burn out?
1. Slow it down
If your nerves are frazzled, take time out. Do restorative yoga instead of HIIT training, turn the alarm off and have a lie in, or find 10 minutes for a yoga nidra session. You might not be able to walk out of your job, but you do have control over how you spend the rest of your time.
2. Listen to your body
When you're really in tune, you know what you body needs and wants. I gave up coffee for 3 and a half years, and recently started drinking it again, just if I feel like it. I know now when my nervous system can cope with the caffeine and when it can't. For me, rigid rules day in day out don't work. Paying attention each day - it's harder, I think, but for me it's the only way.
It was daily meditation that really helped me find the courage to take the plunge and leave my job. That meditation helped me to see things more clearly, to uncover the true deep wisdom that had been hidden by all the noise, and to come to that decision to leave my job, Whatever meditation brings to you, be open to the idea that you too have a deep wisdom and that simple sitting in silence for as little as 10 minutes a day can help uncover it.
For me, I feel mentally and physically healthier than ever before, and the doors that have opened up are things my rational, sensible brain could not have dreamed of. We can't know the outcomes of our actions, but we can learn to trust that if we take action guided by the wisdom within, things will be OK. And we will be OK.