This is not a how to avoid, how to tell if you have, how-to-make-your-life-better-in-7-handy-paragraphs (phew) No. It is simply a warning. Do with it what you will. It’s what I discovered recently and whilst I’m not considering this a badge of honour I am an advocate of honesty; so if I can post about the things I do well or have discovered then surely when things go wrong there is value in talking about that?
This summer I can barely think of a free weekend where my wife and I could just relax, travel somewhere (not work related) or spend time at home with no-one else there. We were too sociable. Too hard-working. We wanted to make things go well too well.
The thing about burnout is that you don’t actually notice it coming. Maybe some close colleagues or friends may pass comment on how much you’re doing or suggest that you take it easy a bit. But if you’re in the zone you’ll just brush that straight off. Then you start to get ill. Much more often than is usual. You’ll put that down to bad luck. It’s not. Your immune system is shot. Maybe you are eating well, and you do sports… so physically you feel ok, but essentially your immune system is depleted.
In my case I caught a vomiting virus whilst doing a photoshoot at an event at the height of summer. Fortunately my wife could shoot the 3rd day as I languished in bed sicker than a parrot in a washing machine. I should have taken a few days out after that, but of course there were things to do. So I didn’t. Then I travelled on a 10 hour flight and 2 days later spent 3 days shooting a festival. That was good… it was Raw Food and no alcohol, but of course I got very very tired. Then another 10 hour flight back home and when I arrived there was plenty to do. No rest.
2 weeks ago I developed oral candida, it spread fast. Yeast infections thrive on an acidic base and a tired body is just perfect. I spent 5 days in agony as I tried every possible remedy to balance things out in my body. There is no known cure. No magic bullet. Just 5 days not being able to eat, barely being able to speak and plenty of time to reflect. I wouldn’t recommend it. Yet I cannot have any self-pity because I created this, and so now having had that massive warning I will need to be mindful about my choices. I resolve to do less, to say no more and to spend more time on me away from work. Whilst I am lucky to love what I do I can only be good at it if I am energised to be the best, and that means rest.