Recovering from a severe burnout, I started looking for ways that would help me get back to living as normal a life as possible. How a bullet journal contributed to this and changed my life, you can read in this article.
I am not a doctor and this article is based on my own experience. Please consult a medical doctor if you have any complaints and / or symptoms.
Burnout is an illness
Before I can share how a bullet journal helped me see some light at the end of the tunnel again, it's helpful to briefly summarize what I was up against during my burnout recovery.
The word "recovery" was chosen deliberately. In the recovery period I could see a bit further than the blinders that you develop when going through a burn-out. In the beginning of this illness, I couldn't do anything but shrug my shoulders and say "I don't know" while sobbing. Making a cup of tea or opening the door for the parcel service was a huge task and sometimes not even possible. The World Health Organization recognizes burnout as a disease.
When I look back on that period, a few things have stayed with me. The enormous emptiness in terms of energy, totally depleted. The inner fight against this disease, as a mother who wants so much to be there for her children. The lack of understanding and thus lack of support from colleagues and loved ones around me.
After the first year and with the necessary psychological support (which eventually lasted 9 years), I was able to look around a bit and start making some plans. It is from that time that I was able to move on, that I made a step up, and it is that period that this article is about.
What symptoms did I have leading up to the diagnosis
Burnout was diagnosed in 2011, but looking back, the seed for this illness was planted back in 1988. From that time on, I started crossing boundaries, doing a lot of explaining away and pushing away. Fast forward, in 2010 my sick leave increased exponentially. Frequent severe colds/flu, headaches, stomach aches, hyperventilation, poor sleep etc. This eventually led to March 2011 when things really went wrong and from that point on I went completely down and burnout was diagnosed.
Looking back, I had the following symptoms
These symptoms are and associated with burnout:
- always tired and then with a capital T and exclamation point. Tired!
- continual mulling
- no concentration
- quickly get annoyed by trivial things
- feeling of emptiness
- withdrawing from social life
- feeling constantly agitated
- no longer enjoy anything or be able to appreciate anything
- not being able to distinguish main issues from minor ones anymore
Physically, the following was noticeable:
- cannot tolerate bass tones in music
- heart palpitations
- short of breath
- unable to sleep through the night
- cramped feeling
- very restless
- unhealthy eating
- abdominal pain
Pretty nice, isn't it? (not) I'm jumping ahead a few years in my recovery.
How a bullet journal changed my life
During my recovery, I found out that I had to look for a 'new normal', a new balance. Because becoming the same old one is not possible, because I would fall into the same pitfalls again. There is no longer an 'old', but an 'other'. And with that I have to find my way again.
My bullet journal helped me to regain an overview, to find my way, to build new healthy habits, to give insight into the status quo. To speak in business terms; how do I go from the IST to the SOLL.
My bullet journal helps me with
Because my thoughts don't stop and I like a hundred and one things, focus is a must. In addition, by focusing on the things that are going well, the positive experiences grow. In this way, over the years, I have been able to turn the negative spiral of dejection into personal growth.
Gain insight into time use
As I have written many times in my blog posts, I am a visual minded person. A visual thinker. As I have mapped out my time spending, my productivity and relaxation moments have become clear. By applying "time-blocking," I am more able to focus on the actual tasks at hand.
Before, I had the idea that there was nothing coming out of my hands or the thought would haunt my head; "what have I done all day?". By writing down when I had done something, not in advance like with a habit tracker, I got insight into how busy I actually am. The system I used for this is the 'productivity level board' from The Boosted Journal. Click here for my experience with this approach.
In the previous point, I talked about the productivity tracker, the regularity I need, I find by using a habit tracker. By consistently keeping track of what I think is important to do and when I've done it, I develop new, for me, healthy habits. Simple things not to forget, like taking my medication, are also on there.
Using my bullet journal has created a schedule for my days and weeks. It is now very clear to me where my time goes, what I feel is important to put on my to-do list. And that includes ME. By that I mean, I consciously plan time for myself in my current schedule.
I need this time "being alone" to recharge. This doesn't have to be a vacation to a 5 star hotel. Just a walk alone, without music, taking in what is happening around me, is enough. Before the pandemic a visit to the hairdresser or the beauty salon was also part of my self-care relaxation moments. Now that this is not possible at the moment, I look for it in other things, such as walking alone, going to bed earlier and then reading a book in peace or burning a scented candle while meditating. Simple but effective things to take care of myself and to keep the balance.
During my burnout recovery period, I felt the need to get 'out of my head' and work with my hands. I literally implemented this by switching from a "thinking" profession to a "hands-on" profession. But also by giving space to my creative brain. The crafting, writing, drawing, needlework .... etc. has been there since childhood, but being busy with family and work has stifled the creativity under all the 'musts' in my schedule. By using my bullet journal as a creative outlet as well, I have found joy again in watercolors, sketching, designing, etc. Giving in to my creativity has been a very important factor in my recovery process.
Using a bullet journal has supported me in my process towards a new ME, a new balance. I also use the journal as an appointment book, so to this day I have my bullet journal in my hand several times a day and I get happy when I flip through my book. So much more fun than a standard printed agenda with only things that need to be done ... 😉
My bujo provides me with structure, overview, something to hold on to. It's my brain on paper to put it a bit jokingly. It keeps me focused, efficient and productive. I am now goal oriented, keep myself busy with things that are important to me and these I do with full dedication.
It gives me an overall view between the 'musts' and the 'wants'. This makes the balance clear and so it can be adjusted when necessary. And if one day I am not feeling well, for whatever reason, I am not overwhelmed by all kinds of tasks that I must not forget. The moment that I am feeling good again, I pick up my book and see what I had planned and I can make a new planning at my own pace, without forgetting anything. That gives me so much peace of mind!
How does a bullet journal help you in everyday life? Let me know in the comment section below or send me a message through the familiar social media channels or email. I'm very curious to see if it helps you too.