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What Really Happens After Burnout

Sometimes people think that “burning out” is just like getting a cold; you get some rest and get over it. I wish that were so. For many, it’s just not. That’s why I wanted to write about what really happens after burnout.

It’s a very personal experience, of course. But research suggests that “burnout takes a profound physical toll that cascades well beyond our professional lives.” It’s a condition that leaves its mark on the brain as well as the body.

doreen with beautiful tropical vista in backgroundMy burnout story started sometime around a cruise we took as a family for my 50th birthday. That was December 2013. Where I was so tired I had trouble enjoying the beauty around me. I was glad that our daughter found a few friends on board the ship, because she hardly noticed. So my poor husband bore the brunt of my unhappiness.

There was a particularly dramatic meltdown in the lovely historic port of Curaçao. Tears. Angry words. I didn’t even want him to touch me.

I got a bit better as the week wore on, thankfully. But back to work after New Year’s, things weren’t getting any better.

Fast-forward to that fateful day in May 2015 when I decided to make big changes, and proceeded to put myself first.

But even after you’re “back,” healthy and rested, I don’t think you are ever the same after a burnout.

Like a beautiful china doll that gets dropped and has to be glued together. She may be back in one piece, but when you hold her to the light, you’ll always see the cracks.

What really happens after burnout is that you’ll always wonder if you can still play with that doll and do all the things you used to do. Maybe you can, and maybe you can’t. The uncertainty, the fear of going down that dark road again, hopefully will stop you from the more detrimental behaviours.

Burnout affects your brain and your body

Physically, most of the time, I know my limits. I stay within them by eating the right foods. Drinking enough water. And getting enough sleep. When I don’t, I pay for it. Mostly with lack of energy, and some “mental fogginess.” Like I’m in someone else’s body for a while.

cracked face of china doll glued together

Photo credit: Aimee Vogelsang, Unsplash.com

But that uncertainty also can take away my mojo. My confidence.

In real terms I believe burnout has made me less decisive. I didn’t use to “hum and haw” over what I can do next in business. I used to take the plunge – damn the torpedoes! Believing in the adage, “do it no and beg for forgiveness later.”

Now I have to think about it. Weigh the pros and cons.

Less reckless and more contemplative, some might say. Kinder. Perhaps. At times that just feels less confident, and plain slower! What the hell is wrong with me, I’ll wonder…

You might think, ah, “that’s just getting older.” Maybe… But I don’t believe that’s the whole story. I’m still trying to figure it out. And that’s why I’ve decided to do what I’m doing today: warning other women entrepreneurs not to go down that same path.


So while I get wistful for those days when I didn’t use to care what would happen if I went at that reckless pace, now I see it is better. I’m wiser, kinder to myself, and to others. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss that adrenaline rush of pushing through a heavy schedule!

Let this be a word of caution to you. We’re all different, with different thresholds for pain and stress. But don’t try to test your limits. Be kinder to yourself. Have more ME Time. Make time for your relationships. Because a broken china doll is never the same…

Yours for love and business,

Doreen's signature in blue



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