From Burnout to Brilliance

Burnout is the epidemic of our times. That my top post of all time was on healing adrenal fatigue attests to this.

You’d think someone who gets to create for a living, should be having fun all day. Burnout should not be a thing.

Unfortunately not.

Creatives, mamas and entrepreneurs are just as susceptible to it as top execs, doctors and harried interns in multinational corporations.

Women are more prone to such burnout because their glands are already working harder to regulate their menstrual cycles. And nor does it just affect career women. Busy working mothers trying to ‘do it all’ and those facing the strains of bereavement or divorce are also vulnerable.

Women approaching menopause may be at particular risk, because as the ovaries begin to reduce their own production of oestrogen and progesterone, the adrenal glands try to make up the shortfall.

Jayne Morris in The Daily Mail

In these times of “austerity” when it feels like there’s less money and more work sloshing around, the obvious, necessary answer seems to be to work harder. But our bodies can’t take it.

What I wonder is how do we know what our bodies CAN take?

Technology overload, lack of downtime, over-stimulation, sedentary lives, poor hydration and fatigue all cause the adrenals to rev up too high and become depleted.

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep, stress and energy expert at London’s Nightingale Hospital, Daily Mail

We are told to push harder, to exercise more, to work smarter… yet it always amazes us when young, healthy people drop dead of heart attacks after one too many nights spent in the office. Or running an marathon. We don’t know our limits. Until we hit them hard. And they always seem much nearer than they should be, we are far more vulnerable to “little” stressors than society tells us we should be…

So how do you stop? I know it will sound very alpha personality of me, but I don’t want to be the wuss who needs to take it easy. Most of us don’t. But our bodies have other ideas.

Burnout is the final stage of the spiral – complete exhaustion and chronic fatigue, severe anxiety or depression, panic attacks or serious medical symptoms.

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, Daily Mail

I have hit burnout a couple of times, and tend to run one step away from it at all times. Adrenal fatigue hovers over me and takes me down after every launch, late night or glass of wine. For a week afterwards I am virtually bed-bound.

The problem is we’re all overworking… and so those who drop the ball, work less first, feel like they’re going to be the bigger losers. To work less feels like it will spark disaster. Both on an inner level… but also economically… if I do less, take on less work, that’s more that someone else will be getting. So hand it over, I’ll take that on too. And that. And that. Load me up.

And it’s not just my imagination according to Jayne Morris, author of Burnout to Brilliance:

In the UK the number of people being treated for anxiety more than quadrupled from 2006/7 to 2010/11.

Breathe that one in for a minute.

Being busy is a mark of success. I LOVE to be busy… If we’re quiet I worry about where the money is going to come from, feel guilty that I’m not working… Being creative and an entrepreneur is a crash course in learning to trust the process, trust the seasons of plenty and poverty, summer and winter, to surrender to the constant flux, staying responsive and responsible, whilst knowing you are only partly in control. I am a slow student.

My inner superhero side also want to save everyone else from hardship and stress… so your work, your worries… I’ll take responsibility for them too… I have a good dollop of warrior-saviour complex. Loving you means taking your struggles on for you.

Until I’m carrying a pack so heavy that my body crumples under the strain… sound familiar?

Overwork says:

  • my doing is not valued and valuable than my being
  • when I am doing I feel in control
  • when I am busy I can avoid the constant feeling of impending doom
  • perfection is required


Burnout to Brilliance is a fabulous read. Clearly written and researched it explores the physical and mental fall out on the road to and during burnout including: anxiety, depression, adrenal fatigue in an empathetic and down to earth manner.

When we reframe burnout as a powerful paradigm for self-inquiry and development, it is possible to tap into phenomenal personal learning and the opportunity for transformational change.

Burnout happens when we run too long on reserves. I have written here before about sustainable energy being not just something that we power our houses and cars with… but ways that we live our lives too. Jayne writes this from the heart in an accessible way, offering practical exercises and techniques.

I put the book down halfway through – ironically I was reading and reviewing it in bed – knocked out by adrenal fatigue – and decluttered my bedroom. External clutter is a reflection of internal clutter. It made all the difference.

This is the premise of her book – like having a coach by your side, who will break down the overwhelm into small steps, leaving you KNOWING you can do it. And knowing you’re not alone in your struggles.

And in the end that’s what we all need. Hope. Support and the tools to do what we have not been able to do ourselves.


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