Breaking Free from Burnout: My Journey to Resilience and Recovery from C-PTSD
Research shows a strong connection between burnout and the onset of PTSD symptoms. The evidence indicates that experiencing burnout significantly raises the likelihood of developing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
A new book ‘Turning the Tables on Burnout‘ by Author, EFT practitioner and Transformative Coach, Ann M. Diment, looks at this link, explains her experience with C-PTSD and burnout and provides invaluable tips and techniques to help you effectively navigate the stresses of work life. We’re honoured that Ann chose to share her story with us in the guest blog here, but has also pledged that 10% of the profits of the book will be donated to PTSD UK.
“Have you ever found yourself in those rare moments of solitude, lying in bed or standing in the shower, when your body and mind seem to be screaming at you to stop?
You know, those times when you feel frozen, as if someone has flipped a switch in your head, declaring, “That’s it! I’m done. I can’t face the world today.”?
Or perhaps you’ve had those days, or even weeks, when you’ve wished for a magical remote control with a shiny ‘pause’ button, just to catch your breath and escape the never-ending to-do list that haunts you.
For me, those moments defined much of my twenties and thirties. When panic, overwhelm, and breakdowns became my involuntary response to triggers that seemed ordinary to others. It was a terrifying, lonely, and often miserable journey, I wouldn’t wish those feelings of despair, isolation, self-loathing, and fear on anyone.
As I delved deeper into understanding why this was happening to me and how to prevent its recurrence I realized that many of these were symptoms of burnout. It led me to shift my focus towards educating, advocating, and coaching others on the nuances of burnout, helping them break free from its relentless grip.
Sadly, the reality is that if you’ve experienced burnout once, unless you identify its root causes, and make changes to how you value your time and energy, it’s likely to revisit you. Our Western society’s work culture promotes the belief that hard work equates to success, pushing us to maintain ‘always on’ levels of productivity. Without robust strategies to establish and maintain boundaries for safeguarding our time and energy many of us become entrapped in a never-ending cycle of burnout that chips away at our health and mental well-being with each revolution of the burnout wheel.
What I didn’t realize until I turned 38 years old was that my brain had been moulded by a series of traumatic childhood experiences resulting in what was diagnosed as complex PTSD (cPTSD).
These experiences had equipped me with coping mechanisms that, in themselves, were exhausting. When combined with unmanaged workplace stresses, it created a perfect storm for burnout.
Following my diagnosis, I embarked on a decade-long journey to unearth how these early experiences had influenced my self-perception and my role in the world. It meant unravelling the behaviours and habits that I had used to shield myself from harm, many of which were work-related. These included people-pleasing, overworking, a never-ending quest for perfection, and harsh self-criticism for even the smallest of mistakes. These tendencies made me susceptible to bullying and exploitation, as I’d always say ‘yes’ to any task, no matter how unreasonable, and shy away from conflict.
The roles I held were already intensely stressful, and I couldn’t switch off from constant work-related rumination and worry. This spilled over into my home life, causing problems with my family.
It took a family tragedy to pull me out of this cycle. We had to relocate over five hundred miles away, plunging us into another cycle of stress and trauma, as we cared for terminally ill relatives, navigated grief, faced job instability, and moved homes multiple times in just five years. All the while, I was on a parallel journey of recovering from PTSD, but the traumas just kept coming.
In 2018, a pivotal moment occurred when I offered to assist a friend who was training as an EFT practitioner, and I learned the art of tapping. Its profound impact on my stress levels and trauma healing prompted me to train as a practitioner myself. Over the past five years, I’ve gradually shed the traumatic baggage I had carried for so long, finally regaining control over how I wished to remember and share my life story and I’ve embarked on a new career path, doing work that brings me more joy!.
The most significant revelation in this inner journey was that my career in health and safety was my way of striving to keep others safe because I never felt safe myself due to my early experiences. I was deeply passionate about ensuring the safety of others. However, when people failed to prioritise their own safety and the safety of those around them, it would stress me out, ironically making me more vulnerable to burnout. I decided in 2019 to ditch this line of work and go back to art college for a ‘grown up gap year’ and this was the final piece in my recovery journey as the creative projects I undertook during that period of study enabled me to express and release the traumatic parts of my life story in a safe and empowered way.
These experiences and realisations led me to write my first book, ‘Turning the Tables on Burnout.’ In it I share my experiences and provide practical tools and tips for creating a ‘resilience toolkit’ that can break the cycle of burnout in a trauma-informed way. I want to help more people to understand the underlying reasons for their burnout (whether or not they identified as having PTSD) and remove the stigma and self-criticism associated with it.
Why have I called it ‘Turning the Tables on Burnout’? Well, think of your beliefs as a tabletop – solid, sturdy, and stable. We often don’t view them this way, but they are merely thoughts shaped by our experiences and understanding, whether from our own lives or those passed down by family, friends, and society. These experiences and understandings serve as the ‘legs’ supporting our table.
One of these legs, concerning burnout, often falsely claims it’s the individual’s fault, perpetuated by society, employers, and media that use the term ‘resilience’ to imply that those who burnout can’t handle their schedules or are somehow inadequate. In the book, I address and dispel some of these common beliefs about burnout, aiming to shatter the stigma they create. The idea that burnout is a personal ‘weakness’ or failure needs to be removed from under your table immediately!
The first part of my book is an exploratory journey into understanding burnout’s true nature and its underlying causes, as well as how it can harm your mind and body. In the second part, I explain how to recover from burnout and build resistance to it, providing tools you can add to your resilience toolkit.
To maximize the book’s benefits, I’ve included ‘burn brighter step’ action points and reflection questions at the end of each chapter, along with a downloadable worksheet available on my website.
As a token of my appreciation for the invaluable work done by PTSD UK in supporting individuals living with PTSD, I’m committed to donating 10% of all profits from the book to their cause.
Join me on this transformative journey as we turn the tables on burnout, smash the stigma around mental health and trauma recovery, and embrace resilience and recovery as part of our personal narratives. Together, we’ll unlock the potential to live healthier, happier lives.”
To preorder the ebook- use this link https://amzn.to/48mv8RB and to access resources and more you can go here https://worksafeandwell.co.uk/turning-the-tables-on-burnout-book/
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Treatments for PTSD
It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Traumatic events can be very difficult to come to terms with, but confronting and understanding your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD. You can find out more in the links below, or here.