I feel burnt out and zoned out

Ian asks…

I am CEO of a company and my life has been great — focus minded, career tracked and stress free (good stress only).

But a few months ago I had an anxiety attack (heart palpitations and faint feeling). I had a huge number of tests and was diagnosed with adrenal exhaustion. I also felt hyper sensitive and hyper aware, and my thinking patterns changed.

Then I began experiencing deep sadness, a feeling that time is passing me by and insomnia. I am now also experiencing a sort of ‘derealization’ like I am zoned out and losing touch with reality. I have an emotional numbness… even my family are starting to feel like strangers to me. Please help.

© Daniel Horacio Agostini
© Daniel Horacio Agostini

Everything you’ve described tells me that you’re experiencing burn out. Our vitality can trick us into thinking that what we’re currently doing is fine.

With health, there is usually no immediate cause and effect. We can run on adrenaline, drawing on our “base” vitality for a long time, years even.

But eventually you’ll get a sign, a message from your body that you can’t keep doing what you’re doing. In your case, it was an anxiety attack and the discovery that you were experiencing adrenal exhaustion.

You can have all the tests in the world but I can tell you with 100% certainty that there’s only one true cure: to correct your lifestyle. This is the only way to take the pressure off your mind and body, and experience health and vitality in the long-term. 

There’s no such thing as good stress. I completely understand what you mean by it — a small amount of stress can sharpen the moment and make us feel alive. However, that’s a state you want to achieve naturally, rather than through stress and stimulants such as caffeine (I’m guessing caffeine is part of your world).

You can understand what you’re experiencing more by analyzing human evolution. For 99.9% of our evolution, we experienced anxiety only in short bursts, for example as a result of an encounter with a wild animal. Anxiety is a “fight or flight” state. It’s do or die, survival. It’s a state that is intended to save your life. In the modern world we have so many pressures on us that just were not there as human beings evolved.

Most of us now live with a kind of low-level, background anxiety that has become so normal, we don’t even recognize it anymore. That in turn is then accompanied by spikes of “clear” stress, as the events of the day unfold. This is a long way from our natural evolutionary experience. Our bodies are simply not designed to cope with it, long-term.

So how to correct your lifestyle? First thing’s first, give yourself some breathing space. I recommend taking a week or two off work. Use that time to read and implement the Happy Guide book. I’m going to put humility to one side and tell you that there is no other book like it in the world — that’s why we created it, it was badly needed.

It will tell you how to gradually introduce new habits that create the state of health and peace of mind. I guarantee that there is nothing more helpful you could possibly do for yourself right now. Correcting your lifestyle is the answer to everything you’ve described above.

You now have a clear, direct path back to feeling how you once did — happy, healthy and “real” :-)

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Michael Kinnaird is the author of Happy Guide, the result of a 20 year exploration into what works for health and happiness.

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