Where I am At – The road out of burnout

I used to get excited at (or at least liked) the thought of baking or cooking something I would love to eat — oat bread, brownies, gluten free pancakes, pesto sauce, etc. This morning, I suddenly craved for pesto, thought of making some pasta and homemade sauce, but then started to feel anxious. How am I going to make it when I don’t have basil leaves? I have to go to the grocery then. Seriously, I don’t feel like going to the grocery. Suppose I was able to get some, I’d have to put them in the blender with some nuts and garlic after I figure out how much ingredients to use. Hmmm. I don’t really feel like figuring things out right now. I don’t really feel like messing it up if I make a mistake. And best of all, I don’t really feel like cleaning up after I’m done. I was on leave for an entire week, sleeping and lazy-ing it off and I still feel tired. In fact, I think I’m mildly depressed and burnt out. (Did I get the spelling right?) The things I used to love to do, I dread doing. I have thought of pouring out my thoughts into my blog for several months and it’s just now that I was finally able to get myself writing.

What happened?

Some three years ago I started out on a strict diet due to a medical diagnosis that took me and my family by surprise. I didn’t want to get a surgery and so I went for the naturopathic alternative. On my first few months, my doctor put me on something similar to a ketogenic diet, but at the same time pescatarian. And then I shifted to a sugar-free, mostly whole foods, vegan diet. And then just months ago, to a mostly pescatarian but sometimes vegan diet. Last year, I also started working full time. I would prepare my food during weekends or sometimes week nights. I’d go to the wet market and/or grocery, and sometimes went the distance to get more affordable produce. I would even bake gluten free stuff. I studied recipes and did lots of trials and errors. I wasted money on failed recipes and vegetables that rotted inside the fridge because I had no more time (or energy) to prepare them. Sometimes my mom or my dad would help. Most of the time it’s all just me.

Sometime last year, I also started visiting an herbalist around 2-4 times per month. We were allowed 15 leaves per year (sick and vacation leaves combined). I used up most of them for my herbalist appointments. Durning the past few months, I would go on leave out of sheer tiredness mentally and emotionally. I dreaded meal times. I would often find myself without anything to eat during lunch break. I would end up cheating, e.g. eating something that’s not good for me, or overspending, e.g. consuming my budget weeks in advance. This lifestyle was hard on me emotionally as I would struggle with guilt and fear and desperation most meal times. At first, when I was still able to prepare my salads, fruits, and homebaked desserts, I had less guilt. But I struggled with my schedule and had very little time for anything else, even rest or sleep. When I slacked, I struggled with guilt and frustration and fear. Every. Time. It drained me. “No packed meal” when the clock strikes “time to eat” or when my tummy starts to rumble would send me to a mild panic. At other times, the dilemma was whether to cook or sleep. There are days when I would be so sleepy from my supplements or insomnia (yeah started to get this one too) and hungry at the same time that I either sleep my hunger off, wait ’til I’ve cooked up something (after going to the grocery), or just grabbed whatever’s available at the resto downstairs (aka cheat again).

The Cheating Dilemma
Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

But when you come to think of it, it’s not all that bad. I struggled with overspending but I never ran out of cash. The worst thing I had to deal with financially was the fact that my savings before I started working looked almost the same as my savings today. At least, I did not get into debt! I couldn’t say though that my medical condition is way better. It worsened a little bit three months into my new job but gradually improved afterwards and then sort of reached a plateau with my lab tests improving or worsening a bit month after month. Recently though, I could feel a prominent mass in my abdomen and it is very distracting whenever I’m on my belly or on my back. It feels heavy and is very disturbing. It’s my new source of mild stress.

For like 2 months now, I have been cheating a lot on food that are bad for me. I think it’s the burnout and stress and frustration just weakening my will to resist “comfort foods.” It’s a vicious cycle.

Two months ago, I came across an article which listed the symptoms for burnout. I am proud to say I passed the test by 100%. (lol). For the first time in months, I found vocabulary for what I was going through. But the cause of burnout was not just my diet but also my work. No, I wasn’t overworked. In fact, I get to leave the office on time every single day, unless I choose to do a little bit of overtime just to not disrupt my flow when in the middle of a task.

The cause was the increase in administrative tasks. They were writing tasks with an administrative bent. And they were not very creative. I swear, if some people find “difficult” work difficult, I find “easy” work difficult. Months ago, work started to feel like slow death. I was tweaking templates. It felt like tracing stencil over and over. And although stencil is fun, applying the principle to writing makes no fun for me. The terrible part for me was I’m not even sure if I am “making a difference” and using my strengths and skills. Something in me was screaming out, “I’m not wired for this kind of work.” I thought that for sure someone else would be very happy to be doing what I was doing. Why not just give this job to someone who will be happy to take over it?

Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful for my job and I do not believe that work always has to be fun. But there is a certain monotony and loss of faith in what you do that will kill your passion and cause you to lose sight of what you’re good at. These are things that need to be resolved, not brushed aside. I am not a fan of complaining, nor am I a proponent of “find the perfect job” philosophy. There is no such thing as a perfect job and workplace. There is a place though where you will grow because the conditions are a “perfect” as there is enough discomfort that will stretch you and a certain comfort because you’re doing what you’re wired for. Notwithstanding, I would encourage honesty. Dissatisfaction with work should not always lead to burnout. Lack of quality rest might. Moreover, dissatisfaction with work may be resolved with acceptance or coping (for things that may be causing discomfort but are really good for you) or initiative (to cause change that may be good for your department or the entire organization).

But when you combine the two — dissatisfaction and lack of rest — you know it’s not headed somewhere good.

The interesting thing was around this time, God also spoke to me to start asking Him what’s in my heart. And just a month (or more) after I started praying (asking) a certain request to God, He answered it with a new job! This does not solve my burnout problem though, and my diet problem. But God has taken me thus far and I am believing for full recovery from burnout before I start in my new job roughly 5 weeks from now.

Now going back to the pesto sauce. After writing all this, I suddenly feel like whipping up some pesto doesn’t sound too tiring anymore. Maybe it’s because you listened to my rant. (Thank you very much.)

Yesterday, I was at the mall preparing my employment requirements. For the first time in months, I walked around the mall window shopping and just chillin’ like I’ve never done in such a long time. Imagine, for the past 12 months, all I did was work day in and day out that a leisurely walk in a mall was out of the question. Every time I would buy something, I always buy in a hurry. Hayst. So now I’m starting to re-learn a new rhythm. I need to rest and slow down and do things that put no pressure on me whatsoever. I am learning to be intentional on this. And I am learning to prioritize it.

I have also vowed to schedule a regular vacation from work regardless of whether I feel tired or not. It’s my personal campaign against burnout. It’s a workaholic’s rehabilitation program. And hopefully, it will become my new habit.

I’m not yet sure if I should do the pesto sauce because it’s raining hard outside and I don’t have a car to go to the grocery. In any case, I think I’ll just cheat again on some regular pastry with lots of sugar in it!

P.S. I’ve been praying for a cook who will prepare my meals for me! We (my family) prayed for it for months and finally found one! Oh happy day! God thank you for your faithfulness!

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