Offbeat Confessions: Burnout is Real, Shedding Light on the Symptoms of Stress

“Do you ever feel stressed?”

I’m always surprised to hear this question. Apparently, there’s a mythic rumor going around that yogis don’t get stressed (?!?!). Let’s get real, folks, there’s not enough yoga in the world to solve all life’s problems.

And unfortunately, teaching yoga four times a day doesn’t mean I get 4 times the benefits. Don’t get me wrong–I love teaching yoga and meditation. I love helping others relax and deeply connect with themselves. However, at times, it feels like I’m sucking all the stress of other people into myself.

Once I left my teaching job, I didn’t think burnout would be possible while teaching yoga. I would roll my eyes while bendy, little bohemian yoga teachers would complain about feeling emotionally exhausted. Back at the elementary school I was working at, emotional exhaustion was a daily occurrence. I was convinced that the sleepless eyes of school teachers looked forward to spring break more than the kids. I was already teaching 6 yoga classes every week while at my day job– so once I quit–I figured, I could teach as many yoga classes as I wanted without burning out.

Quickly, I realized that idea was bat-shit crazy. There was no way I was going to be able to teach more than 4 classes a day on a consistent basis. I’ll be honest with you– it’s possible to have too much calm. Yoga is not a panacea to stress. Sometimes we need to go outside for a jog, read a novel, or just watch some stupid TV show.

How could I calm my students, when I literally wanted to scream and run around like a crazy person?

I also realized I needed a whole day to separate myself from teaching. Breaks are essential, but sometimes when you are working around your students’ free time, they rarely happen. Not to mention, I couldn’t teach to the best of my abilities when I was feeling burnt out. I would stumble through classes messing up cues and forgetting sequences. It was far from ideal.

Burnout is real– this coming from someone who believed she could muscle through 3 weeks without a sufficient break. I love teaching yoga, but I realized every job, no matter how flippin awesome it is, can lead to burnout. It’s like chocolate cake. Even though it’s delicious, you’ll get a stomachache from eating it night and day.

Listen to Your Signals

According to psychologists, there are 12 stages of burnout:

  1. The Compulsion to Prove Oneself; demonstrating worth obsessively; tends to hit the best employees, those with enthusiasm who accept responsibility readily.
  2. Working Harder; an inability to switch off.
  3. Neglecting Their Needs; erratic sleeping, eating disrupted, lack of social interaction.
  4. Displacement of Conflicts; problems are dismissed, we may feel threatened, panicky and jittery.
  5. Revision of Values; values are skewed, friends and family dismissed, hobbies seen as irrelevant, work is only focus.
  6. Denial of Emerging Problems; intolerance, perceiving collaborators as stupid, lazy, demanding, or undisciplined, social contacts harder; cynicism, aggression; problems are viewed as caused by time pressure and work, not because of life changes.
  7. Withdrawal; social life small or non-existent, need to feel relief from stress, alcohol/drugs.
  8. Odd Behavioural Changes; changes in behaviour obvious, friends and family concerned.
  9. Depersonalization; seeing neither self nor others as valuable, and no longer perceive own needs.
  10. Inner Emptiness; feeling empty inside and to overcome this, look for activity such as overeating, sex, alcohol, or drugs; activities are often exaggerated.
  11. Depression; feeling lost and unsure, exhausted, future feels bleak and dark.
  12. Burnout Syndrome; can include total mental and physical collapse; time for full medical attention.

Each individual also exhibits unique burnout symptoms. Just noticing what you do when you feel stress is a great place to start.

Kelley’s burnout stages:
  1. Crazy sets in; I can’t control my laughter. Something might be funny, but then I will literally just keep laughing. It’s totally counterintuitive–if you’re laughing, you should feel less stressed … but in this case it turns into hysterics.
  2. Carb cravings; I just want sugar. Multiple nights, I have had cookies for dinner and regretted nothing. Salads make me want to gag, and bread is my best friend.
  3. Shoulder and neck soreness; muscular tension sets in. I have difficulty breathing in.
  4. Unproductive and too tired to make decisions; I sit and stare in silence a lot. I was putting my laundry away last week, stopped mid task, sat down on the floor next to the hamper and just stared into space. Don’t ask me why or what came over me. I never finished putting my laundry away.
  5. Ultra-sensitive; I end up breaking down in tears over the smallest things. I just need a good solid cry. Eventually, the tears wear off within minutes or sometimes hours. For some reason, crying helps. I feel more relaxed afterwards.

Identifying your personal symptoms of burnout can be really helpful to dig yourself out of dark place. Even if you can’t stop the stages from progressing, at least you can understand what’s happening and why you feel the way you do.

Stay tuned for ways to recover from burnout!

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