On Burnout

Filed under personal on June 27, 2023

I got back from a month long holiday to Europe on Monday, and was struck by how different I felt after landing. For about 18 months now, I’ve just been completely rundown. I have had no original ideas of my own, I haven’t written any music and I haven’t had any remotely inspiring moments despite my frequent jaunts into the reserves around my home.

It starts small

A little while ago, I started feeling sick most of the time. It wasn’t a major thing, maybe a sniffling nose or a small headache that I could take a Panadol and power through. I was constantly tired from this and its impact on my sleep. It would bubble underneath the surface for a few months and then spill over all at once, leading me to take more than a couple of sick days here and there.

Ongoing effects

At some point, it just became my new normal. I simply ignored it. I didn’t really feel like doing anything engaging after work, and my little side projects just kind of atrophied or reduced in scope until they didn’t really exist. I had small bursts where I wanted to do something, but it wasn’t common.

In the 3 months or so before my trip, my diet just completely feel off the wagon. Usually I eat pretty clean to support my gym routine and control my weight, but I just stopped caring just because it was exhausting to think about.

The switch

We landed in Prague in late May, and for the week we were there I lived on a diet of pilsner and goulash. Just that small change alone felt like a month of rest.

From there, we went to Germany and France, through music festivals and concerts from a few of mine and my wife’s favourite bands. I sat down on the grass on the first day of Hellfest while Hollywood Vampires were finishing their set, looked over at my wife sitting next to me, and said “This is my happy place”.

For the first time in a while, I’m feeling content with life (for the most part), and I’m humming my own little riffs in my head again while trying to put them into a recording. It’s definitely a feeling I’d long forgotten about.

How I plan to avoid a repeat

Honestly, I don’t know if I can. I’ve pretty much ensured I won’t have leave again until next February, since I switched from a contracting role into a permanent one and had to start building up my hours again. But with flights being as expensive as they are at the moment, I suppose that’s not such a bad thing. I’ll definitely be paying more attention to what my body is telling me in future to try and fix another slump as soon as I can.

Stephen Gream

Written by Stephen Gream who lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. You should follow him on Minds