Changes I'm Making for a Better Health, Life, and Me!
Experiencing what it felt like to be burnt out was nothing short of difficult, frustrating, and disheartening. In this post, I am sharing several factors that led me to burn out, what I did to regain my energy back, and the lifestyle changes I’m making to achieve my optimum health!
Oh, how amazing it feels to be back home. For me, there’s honestly nothing better than walking through my own front door, making food in my own trusted kitchen, cuddling my cats again, and getting a gooood night’s sleep in my own bed. But these past three weeks away are weeks I definitely don’t want to push aside.
I remember the week before we left to the U.S., I absolutely could not WAIT to go. Not even for the food or the atmosphere (because boy do I miss the place I grew up in!), but I couldn’t wait to have a BREAK. I was completely exhausted, demotivated, hopeless, and plain BURNT OUT. This vacation was going to be my time to relax, rejuvenate, and give me the energy I needed to get my engine runnin’ again. It definitely was all of that, and I am SO thankful. But besides a nice getaway, this vacation was also a learning experience. The levels of exhaustion and hopelessness I felt right before the trip were a sign I was overworking my body.
And those weren’t the only signs. I haven’t had my period since November of 2018, making that several days over 9 months ago today.
Some people could tell me ‘not to worry’ or that I should be ‘grateful’ about not having my period, or even that ‘irregularity in the beginning is normal’. But as a woman, NOT HAVING A PERIOD IS NOT NORMAL.
I fought for my first period, which I talk about in this post. For me, it ‘happened’ after eating lots of food, gaining lots of lbs, and giving myself lots of rest. I was so grateful, yet so naive at the same time. My period was a sign that I was healthy, so I was done, right? I didn’t have to pay attention to how much I was eating or exercising anymore because I was fixed, right?
Getting your period for the first time after a long period of restriction is a sign that things are moving in the right direction, not that you’re ‘back to normal’. Your body is fighting its a$$ off to repair itself, and getting your period is a sign that that part is doing well at repairing itself. But just like anything else that needs to repair, it takes time. Back then, I didn’t know.
So I started telling myself ‘no’ more often, not allowing my body’s healing to take its natural course, and I started restricting some. I became vegan. I got my first gym membership, and slowly introduced exercise back into my life. But I was burning more calories than my body needed me to, resulting in a body that was scared and not trusting of its surroundings to continue repairing.
Until extreme hunger kicked in.
My first period of extreme hunger was one of the most difficult and scary things I have ever experienced. It hit me like a rock one day and I just felt like I was a bottomless pit that could eat all the food in the world. I completely gave up restriction because it was simply not sustainable in any way with the amount of hunger I felt! This is also when I stopped being vegan. I went through dozens of packs of cookies, boxes of sugary, cereal, and I ate more jars of nutella and peanut butter than I can count on two hands. I was gaining weight and I felt it. My clothes no longer fit and I remember never being that uncomfortable with my body.
Yet I tried my best to accept this new, heavier body. I even wrote a blog post all about extreme hunger, weight gain, and how I was dealing with it all, one of my favorite methods to understanding myself and my situation better. Then, on November 20th, I got my second period! It was my body’s reward for FEEDING it. For giving it the nourishment it needed to repair again. Again, I was so grateful. Unfortunately, the negative body image took over and I lost all the weight I had gained. I told myself ‘never again’ and tried my best to eat ‘clean’ and not give in to more cravings than was ‘acceptable’. The result? Constantly thinking about food. Being obsessive about exercise. Not being able to concentrate, prioritize, or sleep well. Extreme stress and anxiety. When you let this all build up, that’s when burn-out happens.
My burn out hit its peak shortly before my latest trip. Like I said earlier in this post, I wanted to use the vacation as a chance to relax and rejuvinate, but also as an opportunity. An opportunity to observe, challenge, learn, and grow.
It was already before my vacation that I knew I had been overworking myself. Not intentionally, of course. I also wasn’t even doing in a way that is typically seen as ‘overworking oneself’. I wasn’t making long days, cranking long shifts at work, or training for a marathon. In fact, it was mostly in my head. I could be wrong, but I feel like that’s the case with more people than just me!
I was putting a lot of pressure on myself every day. I wasn’t giving myself REST. And no, I’m not just talking about physical rest, but mental rest as well. I was going to the gym 5 days a week most weeks, and would tell myself I had to ‘be productive’ in any time I had left. I would wake up planning my whole day to the minute, and would go to sleep already thinking about everything I had to do the next day. I had to eat between certain times, I had to workout between certain times, and I had to sleep between certain times. To say my schedule was strict would be an understatement!
This all changed the moment I step foot on the plane to Boston. I knew the way I was living was simply not a sustainable way to go through life. If you’re never being present with yourself and living in the moment, you’re really missing out! Of course, when you’re ‘living’ the strict reality, you don’t realize you’re letting life pass you by. Until you do. And you want to change anything and everything. You want to get your health back and break your routine and everything in between!
The certificate of approval to break routine during my time in the States was a huge leap of faith. It was scary and I didn’t know how it would make me feel, but I felt it was my only option left. My strict way of living was totally draining me, so it was long overdue to make some changes. I gave up almost everything that was keeping me trapped, from exercise to eating times to food rules. And for the first time in MONTHS, I felt energy again. I felt motivation to write, to post, to move, it all came back! It’s amazing what rest can do for you, eh?
One of the most surprising things that happened during this break, however, was the return of my extreme hunger. At first I thought it was a mistake that my body was making. A mistake??? How SILLY does that sound? I knew, and surely my body knew, that I would start needing extra fuel. Because I was finally giving it a break, my body realized it was safe enough to start repairing—a sequence of processes that requires A LOT of fuel.
Now that I’m back, I’m going to support this repairing process in all the ways that I can. Here’s some changes I’m making to my lifestyle to do just that! 👇
1. Honor my Body’s Hunger
At first, this point said ‘eat more’. However, I decided to change it to what it is now because I think honoring your body is the most important, and will guide you to eat however much you need. It’s easier said than done obviously, but I believe my body knows exactly what and how much I need, if I allow it to have a voice. For years, I ignored the voice of hunger, cravings, and preferences. But all that is coming back now and my body is begging for me to listen in the form of extreme hunger. A lifestyle change I’m making is that I’m going to honor ALL that extreme hunger—both the physical and mental aspects.
2. Rest More
Rest! Oh beautiful rest; it’s truly amazing how this simple thing can improve our health and make us feel better. I was an over-exerciser for years, always being go-go-go and forcing myself to work out everyday. I never allowed myself rest, resulting in pure exhaustion and loss of motivation. Not to mention, exercise became more of a chore than a healthy and fun activity.
I took a break from all exercise during my time at Carolina House (6 months) to allow my body to repair and of course gain (much needed!) weight. Only in mid-2018 did I really start incorporating exercise back into my life. It felt so good to finally move my body again and just get that adrenaline rush from a good run or lifting heavy. However, a couple days a week quickly became almost everyday, resulting in a body that was simply overstressed (yes, exercise is a HUGE stressor!).
Taking a break from exercise during my recent trip to the States showed me that I was simply doing too much, which totally isn’t necessary! So as of now, I’m going to tone (ha!) down on both the intensity as well as frequency of my workouts.
3. Be more Social!
And no, I don’t mean social media. I mean I’m going to challenge myself to get out more. I remember that spending more time with friends was one of the factors that contributed to me getting my period for the first time. Finding and connecting with people who understand and accept you for who you are is so important for the soul and for overall happiness! So if anyone (in the Netherlands for now) wants to meet up sometime soon, shoot me an email or a DM on instagram!
4. Use my Planner
This may seem like more of an ‘intention’ than a real lifestyle change, but I still wanted to put it on here because it’s a big deal for me! I’m a HUGE planner, and always have been. However, it’s one of the things that causes me the most mental stress, as I’m always thinking about what I have to do next, what has to be done, etc…these are also the thoughts that keep me awake at night and anxious the moment I wake up. I bought this really trendy planner at T.J. Maxx for $7.99 (maajor steal ammiright?) that has a layout I’m in love with! I’m going to do my best (but obviously not obsess over!) to note important events, appointments, and other things that *need* to be done. If it’s not important enough to write down, then I don’t stress over it!
5. Dial Down the Caffeine
Lastly, I’m going to try giving up my morning coffee! For starters, I’ve never been a huge coffee drinker. As a matter of fact, it hasn’t even been two years since I enjoyed my first cup. I love the taste and just the general idea of holding a hot cup of coffee in the morning, but recently I’ve started to notice I really don’t like how it makes me feel. It’s been giving me the jitters and I believe it’s been contributing to the horrible slump I experience almost every afternoon.
If you’ve seen my instagram stories the past couple days, I’ve started drinking matcha lattes and I’m in love! I also picked up some decaf coffee for the days where I want the taste of coffee, but not the caffeine. I must say that these past two mornings without coffee have been rough (helloooo withdrawal!) but I have never felt this energized in the late afternoon, it’s great!
So there ya have it, the five (main) lifestyle changes I’m making to regain my health back! I hoped you enjoyed reading this and that it inspired you in some way. I always love to hear your feedback, so feel free to drop a comment below!