I hope you all had a nice Christmas!
Christmas 2017 was kind of special, but good. This is a very personal post, the type of post I didn’t plan to publish on this blog. But it’s an important post.
The autumn has been very intense with lots of big projects, tons of e-mails showering over me while I tried to focus and finish off things, I’m in a stage of my life where lots of energy goes to thinking about what I want to do with the rest of my life (aka midlife crisis), and when I have many things that I need/want to accomplish, I tend to not look after myself. I just want to go on working to get things done.
While I’m able to stop doing my paid job at around 6 pm, after that I want to continue working on my other plans, but find that I’m too tired to get anything done. I forget that a human being also needs to eat, sleep and relax sometimes.
In early December I started suffering from tinnitus (imagine what a nightmare for someone who loves silence as much as I do) and I never slowed down or was able to relax. My heart was always on full speed, and so was my brain. I slept very little, didn’t eat much, and never spent time on hobby things, such as playing music, going for walks, reading, photography (other than quick shots on special occasions) or anything else that I usually do just because I enjoy it. Blogs and website management has always been a nice hobby and stress reliever but now it had become a burden, and my brain wasn’t able to focus enough to produce anything decent anymore.
During the autumn I had a scary situation when I suddenly couldn’t see, because of weird dark spots dancing before my eyes. That was my first serious warning sign, but I slowed down for a few days only, until later one night in mid December when I worked in the hospital we found that my heart was up to 100 bpm while sitting on the couch having a cup of tea.
Then I decided that I’d had enough and that my life had to change.
In my country, there is the concept of “hitting the wall”, and exhaustion syndrome (not the same as chronic fatigue) is now a medical diagnosis. In all other countries they call it burnout syndrome, which is a quite good description of it, but it’s not good enough, because it’s so much more than work-related stress.
It’s an illness caused by – very simply put – an imbalance between long term stress and recovery from the same. After a long period of stress where you never relax and let yourself recover, the body starts shutting down. Some people get total shutdowns, I know people who drove around without finding the way to their own house. Or people who sleep for days after performing simple tasks – even after doing nice things such as having coffee with friends, or they are unable to do that sort of thing at all. Other people still seem to function ok, but get these “lighter” symtoms that I have – that still are serious warning signs that should make you realise that this is it, this has to stop, you can’t go on like this.
I decided to take January off work. I will only finish some small jobs I was working on before Christmas. I won’t work in the hospital for several weeks, will take time to slow down and do things for the sake of enjoyment, and make a plan on how to make time for these things when I start working again.
I will take time to create photos – but without great ambitions – and find beauty even in the simplest of situations, and in the worst of weathers. I’ve learned that while you can take amazing photos by being super ambitious and making exact plans on how to create them and even waiting for the perfect light to appear, my most beautiful photos have been the spontaneous shots of situations I just run into. My favourite shot on Christmas wasn’t a pretty bokeh shot of Christmas tree decorations, but this one of my nephew and the Christmas tree. It was one of those unplanned moments where I just happened to have the camera close enough to take a picture.
But the total focus for me now is recovery and learning how to enjoy life again. Spending time on the right things, the things that give energy and enjoyment.
I’ve been looking for some articles on this in English, but didn’t have any great success with it. Most of them simplify it down to specific aspects of work-related stress. But I eventually found one article that is the closest to a decent definition and that goes through some different studies on the topic, and is a very interesting read.