Are you familiar with that gnawing feeling inside? The knot in your stomach, or the lump in your chest that you’re meant for something more? I knew there was something greater inside of me, something the world needed. I just didn’t know what it was. I’d looked for it in other people, in a variety of jobs, and a whole slew of side hustles over the last four years.
Not knowing what I was looking for, I did all that I knew how to do – I got busy, being busy. You know the kind of busy that you’re not really moving in a particular direction, but you’re always on the move? Even backwards at times. I started to search, trying different side jobs, ventures, anything I could get my hands on that could spark the feeling I had long desired inside me. Something that would illuminate the path I’d been longing for. It wasn’t long before this need to discover my path became an obsession. Unfortunately this obsession led me to becoming very skilled at burning my candle at both ends. Sometimes determination can be a bad thing when it doesn’t include room for rest.
Stress does fascinating and terrible things to the body, mind and soul. Everyone has different signs, signals or feelings that arise when they’re reaching their limit. For me, my body tends to tense up, I start losing sleep and eventually I’ll wake up with a cold sore; the tell tale sign that I need to slow things down and rest. Getting to know your own signals, and then honouring your need for rest will save you a pile of discomfort and hurt.
There was a moment throughout this experience where I truly pushed myself beyond my own limitations and the Universe was forced to step in to intervene. The level I reached with my experience with burnout is one for the history books.
June 2018 was the climax of years of hustling, and I’d now been working long hours at my day job, and even longer hours on my new business that was set to launch in a couple weeks. I’d been putting off taking a mental health day for weeks, months even. Being the one responsible for opening the store, I wouldn’t let myself call in. Either way I felt myself reaching the point of doing too much, and my sleep quality was beginning to deteriorate.
After spending an entire weekend playing in a Corporate Challenge Slo-Pitch Tournament totaling seven games and a whole lot of sun exposure, I was sunburnt, sore and utterly exhausted. I woke up Monday feeling like I’d been hit by a freight train. I remember rolling out of bed, moaning and most likely complaining to my partner that my lips had never been so sunburnt. They were swollen, achy and sore. I went about my morning, jumped in my car and drove to work. I managed to push through all of Monday and Tuesday on literal fumes in my tank. I was still putting in long hours, no breaks and preparing for a 11 day kick off launch for my new business. Anyone who saw me in that first week of June would have a clear as day picture of what textbook exhaustion looks like.
June 6th is a day I’ll never forget. It’s when everything I’d been pushing down, persevering through and ignoring finally came full circle. By this time in the week my lips had swollen to three times their normal size. It was then that I realized it was more than just sunburnt lips, it was also one of the worst outbreaks of cold sores I’d ever experienced. My lips looked like they’d been pumped full of botox; even Kim Kardashian herself would have been jealous. It was hard enough to go to work right now with how I was feeling, but now I LOOKED awful too. Every ounce of my body was screaming at me that morning to stay in bed, to call my boss and let him know what my soul was crying out for. To finally take that mental health day. I didn’t do it though, I pushed on telling myself I could get through the rest of the week and recharge over the weekend and get just enough rest to be ready to kick off my business launch.
I take the same route to work every morning. It was along this familiar route that the Universe finally decided to make herself known and step in. I was exiting off the highway onto another major roadway. I was driving in behind a semi, and as he whirled into the merge lane he had such momentum that it caused the suction effect to pick a piece of drywall up off the side of the road and hurl it directly into my path. It hit my 2013 Buick Encore square in the nose as I quite literally drove through “a wall”. There was no avoiding it, I had to drive straight through. Shocked, panicked, alive I slowed down only to get increasingly upset at the driver, and for some strange reason at myself (as if I had control?). I put the pedal to the metal and cursed a few lovely sentences in my vehicle as I pursued the semi driver. I managed to pull him over only to have him say that it wasn’t his fault, have a nice day! That was it. I reached my breaking point. I had finally hit a wall…literally. It was in this moment that I put any ugly crying girl you’ve ever seen to shame.
I called my partner in complete tears, and with every passing breath I was losing my grip on “keeping my cool”. I was bouncing in between blubbering and hyperventilating, I’m sure he barely understood what I was saying. Since I was already pulled over I took a look at the damage – it was minor. I’d lost my emblem, tow hook cover and damaged my hood slightly. Though the front end of my car looked like it’d had a bag of flour explode all over it (or illegal drugs). I took some deep mindful breaths and pulled myself together, by thin and weakened threads – I still had to get to work to open the store and I was going to be late. I spent the rest of my drive being grateful for the little amount of damage, and the fact that no one was seriously hurt (in between waves of emotion and tears).
Once I safely parked. I leaned in to my tribe. I had joined Sarah’s Unstuck program and had an incredible support team that had known all about what I’d been going through. I went live in that group and poured my heart out, with laughter, big crocodile tears, ridiculously reflective glasses that probably hid my red eyes, and my sore and swollen lips. The Universe finally got through to me. I was finally ready to listen, and I was definitely done pushing myself day in, day out. I needed rest. I was sent home for my mental health day shortly after my boss arrived to work.
Since that fateful day in June, I’ve been able to establish better boundaries, though there are still times I work longer and harder. I’ve also eliminated my corporate job and pursued the business I launched that week full-time. Burnout and stress are very real in our working world. If you can learn anything from reading this is to listen to your body, take rest early, and know that should you choose to push yourself too far – the Universe will likely step in and FORCE you to rest. It can show up unannounced and at anytime and in any way.
Remember that your body is always speaking to you.
It is always communicating and sending updates on how you’ve been treating it.
Call it intuition.
Call it signals.
Call it warning signs.
Call it whatever the hell you want.
Just don’t ignore it.
Once the Universe is forced to step in – you never know what she’ll do to wake you up, or slow you down.
Olivia Shwetz is an Intuition Reactivation Coach from Alberta, Canada. Find her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/wakethewildwithin/ and check out her 8-week program: Naturally Intuitive http://bit.ly/Naturally_Intuitive