Hands in a heart shape holding an infinity rainbox. Underneath the words Sandra Bell ND Coach
#37 The ND Burnout Cycle

Four main stages can be defined in relation to ND Burnout: Blowout; Recovery; Refurbished; and, Brownout. 

ND Burnout, as covered in previous posts (here and here), is when you get to the point where you are physically and mentally exhausted just doing the day-to-day things of your life. Symptoms of ND Burnout can be needing more sleep, finding it harder to think things through or being able to focus, more emotional dysregulation, needing more time on your own, and increased sensory sensitivity. 

All ND Burnout is characterised by both physical and mental exhaustion. Symptoms of ND Burnout can be needing more sleep, finding it harder to think things through or being able to focus, more emotional dysregulation, needing more time on your own, and increased sensory sensitivity. 

Depending upon aspects such as levels of interoception and alexithymia the first time you become aware of where you are in the ND Burnout Cycle may be when you reach the Blowout stage, where like a tyre blowout, what has been building for a while becomes a catastrophic event where you can just no longer function at all. You probably noticed a decrease in being able to cope with day-to-day things during the Brownout stage, but without the knowledge of ND Burnout or the ND Burnout Cycle chances are you put that down to a personal failing and not that you were in need of a large dose of self-compassion. Along with needing to take a look at what could change to reduce the demands on yourself.

As the diagram of the cycle of ND Burnout shows, it does tend to happen in a cyclical manner, although the transition between one stage and the next can go back and forth. However, in time hopefully you can skip the Blowout stage altogether if you are able to pick up when you enter the Brownout stage and put strategies into place that take you straight to the Recovery stage.

So let’s take a high level look at the 4 stages, starting with Brownout.

As mentioned the Brownout stage is most likely where you start to realise that you are having trouble coping - you snap at the kids more, you feel irritable but are not sure why, people irritate you more than usual, and sometimes you are overcome with such a feeling of  inertia you’re not sure if you can put one foot in front of the other. But in this stage, usually through a combination of sheer willpower and weight of responsibility you do keep moving and getting things done. What you achieve is not always as much as you want or as well as you want to do it, but you do manage to get through your day to day tasks. It is possible to stay here for years, feeling like you are just barely getting through.

The Blowout stage is where everything stops working. You may not even be able to get out of bed. This is the stage where even if you were able to hide what was going on in the Brownout stage you can’t any longer. The deep rest you needed is forced upon you because you just can’t keep going, rather than being something you can choose to put off. The day to day tasks don’t all get done. Being able to move from here to the Recovery stage can be difficult and a few false starts at recovery are not uncommon.

The Recovery stage truly kicks in when you are able to make the hard decisions needed to reduce demands and undertake deep rest by choice rather than because you’ve completely run your tank empty. The more demands are able to be reduced the faster the recovery, although to be clear recovery can take years.

Recovery then moves into the Refurbished stage once a person has recovered enough to feel like they can start to take on day to day tasks without being exhausted by them. It can be tempting to move into this stage as quickly as possible, but without a full Recovery stage the move into the Refurbished stage may be short lived with a relapse back to Recovery, or even back to Brownout or Blowout. This stage is deliberately labelled Refurbished and not renewed or rejuvenated or restored to distinguish that after going through a Blowout, and then a Recovery stage you do not return to your original state, for better or worse going through a Blowout changes you. But even more importantly the aim of Recovery stage is not to return to the state that led you into the Brownout and Blowout stages in the first place. Instead the aim is to be Refurbished where you’ve been able to restructure your life so that hopefully you don’t even get to the Brownout stage, but if you do you have the strategies and resources in place to skip the Blowout stage and go straight to a shorter Recovery stage and back into Refurbished.

I’ll be delving more into the ND Burnout cycle, and strategies and resources you can use in relation to it in coming posts.

Thanks for reading.

I'm here; I get you; I got you!

If you'd like to know more or want to get on the notification list for when new blog posts go up, you can go to the Contact page and send me an enquiry – I’d love to hear from you. 

Please note all information and strategies shared as part of the blog are for information and educational purposes only and do not constitute advice for any particular individual or circumstances.