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My Struggle With Burnout and Adaptation Disorder and How Yoga Helped Me Find Clarity

“I was so often told to leave my relationship and my job, and indeed that was what I was longing to hear deep inside, but I was somehow attached to the toxic relationships. They had become my ‘safe zone’ – the unknown was more scary than staying with the pain.”

Hello! Who are you?

Hi, I’m Melissa. I live in Germany in an old farmhouse complex with 4 generations of my family. There’s me with my boyfriend and baby daughter. My parents and 94-year-old grandmother live in separate apartments next door.

I’m a passionate yoga teacher & used to be a full-time retail manager, but gave that up earlier this year (Aug 23) on my quest for further self-discovery, finding more work-life happiness, and fulfillment in life.

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

Burnout and adaptation disorder.

After being told I can’t have children I felt like I had failed in my natural life purpose. I didn’t really want children, I was more career-focused, but I would have at least liked to have had the choice.

I was a frustrated workaholic not knowing what I wanted in life so I clung to my job because that was always going forward. I was diagnosed with burnout for the first time in 2016. 

I ignored the symptoms. I was constantly questioning life, found it hard to find excitement in getting up and ready for the day, and constantly led fictive aggressive conversations in my head with my boyfriend, colleagues, family, and friends.

I thought it was normal, as we live in an overstimulated world where you never seem satisfied. I thought I was a spoiled brat, not being appreciative of life. I had everything: a relationship, a roof over my head, and a great job that just kept getting ‘better’, which made my inner conflict even worse. Why was I unhappy? 

After struggling with several miscarriages I started doing yoga, and little by little I started to gain clarity over my desires and feelings. Realizing my life was out of place, led to even more frustration.

I dug deeper into yoga only to find more clarity, but with the clarity also came anger and resentment. I didn’t feel respected in my relationship, making me cling to my workplace even more, because there I was a manager and people respected me.

But I was a people-pleasing manager, always putting myself last which was also a stressor, but I didn’t realize this until later. Sometimes you need to get rid of one blockage in order to reveal and become clear on the others. 

So one day I had the guts to dump my boyfriend after 17 years of manipulative belittling and dove into the arms of my now-boyfriend the very next day. I thought all my problems would be solved, but then my dissatisfaction with my job started to rise and got extreme over the years.

Thank goodness I became pregnant and stayed so this time, I stopped working as my pregnancy was at high risk, this gave me the chance to gain distance from my anger towards work. 

Knowing the old job was not at all family friendly nor was I feeling fulfilled by it. I began to take my yoga career more seriously (2021), helping people gain clarity as I did. It was not paying the bills, but I loved it and still do.

But the day I had to go back to work kept creeping closer, and so did my cortisol levels and anxiety attacks. So I decided to quit, become jobless, and be ashamed of failure once more.

The psychologist diagnosed me with an ‘adaptation disorder’ (2023) meaning that I can’t/or don’t want to adapt to my situation in the outside world.

This diagnosis was a slap in the face and simultaneously woke me up from living in denial. The constant urge to adapt myself to things that no longer suited me.

I still suffer from the old relationship and job I quit, as they accompanied me for such a long time in life leaving deep imprints in my behavior and thoughts. This mess is still slowly unraveling day by day.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

I was struggling with panic attacks, eating unhealthy, and sleeping all day (so it would be over sooner) I’d cry myself to sleep at night and when I wanted to feel better I’d drown myself with alcohol until I passed out.

I spoke openly about all my problems to family and friends (but I tried to hide the alcohol problem). I was so often told to leave my relationship and my job, and indeed that was what I was longing to hear deep inside, but I was somehow attached to the toxic relationships. They had become my ‘safe zone’ – the unknown was more scary than staying with the pain.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

When I became pregnant and it stayed, It was a shock as I was told I’d never be able to have children due to chemotherapy I had at the age of 16. Suddenly I felt this urge to take action and get my life sorted out.

My life was no longer only about me. I realized clearer than ever that my workplace wasn’t going to work with a family. I started to feel lost and needed a plan.

At the same time, I was afraid to lose the child, and looking for an online course (Corona Limits at the time, 2021), a guide through pregnancy with yoga included. I couldn’t find one to suit my needs so I decided to become a prenatal yoga teacher myself. 

This was when the idea was born to teach other pregnant women. And there was nothing more rewarding. I created my own online course.

This was the first step I took to my NOW-life, the main turning point in realizing my job was toxic. I realized that teaching yoga and helping students get unstuck lit me up.

I decided I wanted more, and have been moving in this direction ever since. The more people I can help the more the happiness floods into my days. This reflects on my health, the way I treat others, and myself.

If I would have taken more time to tune into myself in the first place, I would have realized this much sooner. But I never gave myself the time to think a thought to an end.

100% of my improvement was a result of doing yoga and learning to pay attention to things that no longer served me. Leading to better circumstances: healthy relationships and pregnancy. 

And then 50% of my improvement was due to my circumstances of being a mother with a new perspective, and 50% of the actions I took out of these new circumstances: the ambition to sort out my life, leave my job, and get help.

Melissa Burgard 1
Image Credit: @sisorella_gluecksmomente on Instagram

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

I went to a psychiatrist to have my sanity approved for ‘myself’. I wanted to do it because at one point I thought I was going crazy. Family and friends were at one point no longer an objective source of advice, so I trusted my gut and got help.  

Sometimes it can help to get the opinion of a ‘professional stranger’ free of any emotional connection to you. This helped me gain so much simplicity in my complex problems.

The thing I didn’t like was that he immediately wanted to put me on medication, although I had just had a mental breakthrough. A total shift of thought patterns that needed to be digested. I refused to take them and asked for a second appointment in the near future instead. He decided to give it a shot and it worked.

Before deciding to take any antidepressants, sleep over it. Numbing things out won’t necessarily make them go away. But working with and through your problems will.

It doesn’t mean that you’ll feel like the pain never existed, but you learn to live with it. It’s part of your life experience which makes you who you are. 

Furthermore, don’t underestimate the power of yoga. With the relief of bodily tension, trapped emotions are set free. Hidden blockages coming from self-limiting beliefs, trauma, and more. Untangling these can be both confusing and liberating.

Bringing things up to work with from your subconscious. For me, it brought up unexplainable feelings that eventually led to realizations that helped me take action and move toward a better life. That’s why I became a teacher.

I still haven’t healed from my situation fully. I have days where my thoughts spiral around the thought that I wasted half of my life putting up with things that broke my own values. But I know it’s most likely never going to happen again.

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

Yes, I share my story openly hoping to help others gain clarity faster, helping them on their path to self-reflection and eventually enlightenment.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

Take more time for yourself, and learn to trust your gut. It’s crucial to stay in touch with your true needs and values, maintaining a healthy mindset and a balanced life.

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of responsibilities, endless opportunities, and distractions and forget about ourselves.

Taking a few moments every day to focus on ourselves, journal our thoughts and feelings, and disconnect from screens can help us reconnect with our true inner selves.

This sounds simple but it’s hard work and can be very confusing and frustrating. But I strongly believe that numbing out your feelings with medication won’t get you anywhere. The problems will remain when you drop the meds, and you’ll be in the same place you were before.

I like to compare it with a plant starting as a seed: It keeps on growing non stop pushing its way through all the soil (your inner resistance and struggles)

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Burnt Toast by Terry Hatcher was my first inspiration for self-care.

George Kelly – Personal Construct Theory: This book helped me understand the complexity of each individual and how they perceive the world from a completely different view even if they are seeing exactly what you’re seeing – sounds simple but it’s an eye-opener.

Ina May – Guide to Childbirth: Not only for pregnant women! This book helped me understand that you need to let go, heal, and process your subconscious blockages in order to give birth to something. I know this book is about how women have trouble giving birth when they are emotionally blocked, and in my opinion, it transfers to most things in life. Not only a baby but also art, music, creativity, being yourself, etc.

(Not a book.. but) Do Yoga! I encourage anyone who feels in any way stuck to practice any type of yoga. Because during yoga practice, you are fully indulged with your thoughts in the body and not in the mind. This pause is essential for breakthroughs and deep connections to your own inner self – which is not comparable to anyone else.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

You can read more about me here, or find me on Yoga Alliance, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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