Written by: Sascha Heinemann
The Burnout Breakthrough
In my former role as a sales manager, I experienced first-hand how stress can affect our health, our happiness, our relationships, and our performance. I collapsed from stress. The day of my breakdown was ultimately the day I realized that the way I was working wasn’t working and that I had to change. I was in need of a burnout breakthrough but did not yet know it.
In the following years, I studied all the science, knowledge, and wisdom out there about how the world’s best performers bring out their best consistently without burning out in the process. And over the years and after countless hours of trial and error, I figured out what works for other people and me and what doesn’t work. And what started as my private struggle turned into my biggest passion and purpose in life: to help people who need a burnout breakthrough to perform at their very best, and without sacrificing their health and happiness.
The Warning Signs of Burnout
I was always striving to be the best I can—to achieve more every day—and although this mindset brought me many achievements in my life, it also led me into my biggest crisis.
Working long hours, often sleep-deprived, and low on energy started to become my new normal as I was moving up the career ladder.
I got more and more used to being busy and stressed.
It started to feel familiar, even expected. I didn’t even notice how much it affected me at first. But of course, there were signs.
- Never-ending to-do lists – working long hours trying to catch up
- Tough mornings – it became increasingly hard to get out of bed
- Tiredness and fatigue – constantly feeling tired throughout the day
- Inability to concentrate – being unproductive and procrastinating
- Racing thoughts – it was impossible to turn off the thoughts in my head
- Use of alcohol to relax – trying to boost my mood and calm my mind
I was distracting myself in an attempt to cope with stress and avoid my shortcomings. Unfortunately, it affected my performance at work, but it was also detrimental to my health and well-being. I needed a burnout breakthrough but did not yet realize it.
The day I collapsed from stress was when I finally realized how the choices I had previously made had led me to the lowest point in my life. It was the day I promised myself that I would do whatever it takes to get my energy, my confidence, and my happiness back.
I didn’t go from chronically stressed and unsatisfied one day to being energetic, happy, and productive the next. It was a process with ups and downs, good days and bad days, but slowly there were more good days than bad days.
First, I found myself a world-class coach who helped me to level up my life. But it was only the beginning of my journey. Over the next few years, I threw myself wholeheartedly into transforming myself. I delved into discovering and decoding what it takes to become a high performer plus live a balanced life.
And the secret of my success has been straightforward: STRATEGIC RECOVERY. Once I mastered this life-changing skill, I could perform at my best consistently, without ever burning out or running out of energy again.
The Burnout Breakthrough Solution
We can learn to manage stress by understanding better and embracing the oscillatory nature of stress. Oscillation refers to the rhythmic movement between stress and recovery. Ultimately, it’s not the stress that produces burnout but rather the duration of stress without intermittent recovery.
Our bodies are designed to move rhythmically between the expenditure of energy (stress) and the renewal of energy (recovery). Energy can be defined most simply as our capacity to do work. About every 90 minutes, we oscillate from higher to lower alertness (also known as “ultradian” cycles).
More often than not, and especially when demand is high, we don’t pay much attention to signs such as physical restlessness, wandering attention, and significantly more irritability. Instead, we override it with coffee, sweets, and other stimulants, but most of all by depleting our energy reserves in the form of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. We do not realize we are in need a burnout breakthrough.
These hormones are known as catabolic energy. While catabolic energy provides you with an energy boost to combat stress in the short term when used on a long-term basis, it imparts physical, emotional, and mental tolls that are potentially destructive and ultimately undermine your effectiveness.
Often the assumption is that effective renewal requires a notable amount of time. However, it’s not the quantity of recovery that matters; it’s the quality of your recovery that matters. It’s how well you recover, not how much time you spend recovering. Just as it’s not how many hours you work, it’s how much you get done in the hours that you do work.
When we now look at ways to refuel, recharge, and re-energize in short periods, it’s possible to significantly relax the body, quiet the mind, and calm our emotions simply by changing the way we breathe. For example, breathing in through your nose to a count of three and out through your mouth to the count of six prompts a significant feeling of relaxation in less than a minute allowing you to recover mentally and emotionally.
Many people view meditation as a spiritual practice. However, meditation is a tool to improve our mental focus and promote recovery. One good meditation technique involves:
- Sitting quietly and breathing deeply for as little as 3 minutes a day.
- Counting each exhalation.
- Starting over when you reach ten.
Many studies have confirmed meditation’s wide-ranging benefits, but meditation is simply a means of relaxation and an antidote to stress at the most basic level. The practice will give you a burnout breakthrough.
It’s also no coincidence that many athletes wear headphones as they prepare for competition. Researchers have recently discovered that music improves the body’s immune system function, can increase the amount of the feel-good hormone dopamine and reduces stress.
Now, breathing deeply, meditating, and listening to music are all forms of passive energy renewal. Active renewal requires that we raise our heart rate through physical movement or forms of stretching. Even 5-10 minutes of movement breaks during the workday provide mental and emotional recovery. You can even build movement breaks into your busy schedule by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking to another department instead of sending an email.
These are all forms of energy renewal and recovery that we can do in a short timeframe. When we take regular renewal breaks, we perform better, feel better, and accomplish more. We are most effective when we alternate between active renewal forms, such as exercise and movement breaks, and more passive forms of renewal, such as meditation, listening to music, and sleep.
My Purpose, Vision, and Goal
For far too long, we have all been operating under the false assumption that feeling exhausted and burned out is the necessary price for success. My own experience and my clients’ burnout breakthroughs have shown that this is far from true. My mission in life is to help as many people as I can to realize this for themselves to perform at their best without sacrificing their health, relationships, and happiness.
My mission in life is to help as many people as I can to realize this for themselves to perform at their best without sacrificing their health, relationships, and happiness.
Related: How Do You Arouse Curiosity?
Sascha Heinemann: In my former life as a professional tennis player and corporate sales leader, I learned the hard way what it feels like to collapse from stress. On my recovery journey, I learned everything about resilience, well-being, and sustained high performance that I now share with others. The basis for my philosophy is oscillation, the rhythmic movement between stress and recovery, to achieve maximum performance and well-being. My holistic approach helps individuals become physically energized, mentally focused, and emotionally resilient—for desired results at work and home.