18-10-20

Allow yourself to face into burnout and see what happens…

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When I first decided to face into my burnout, things got much worse before they got better.

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It’s such a lonely and difficult time when you realise that you’re feeling stuck and that your life isn’t working for you anymore.

You’re still as busy as ever but somehow feeling like you’re busy on all the wrong things.

You’re also becoming more and more drained physically and emotionally. It can be hard to believe that you can find your way out when:

* You’re overwhelmed
* Burnt out
* Feeling like life is passing you by
* You want to change, but what and how?
* You don’t have time to stop and figure it out. You’ve things to do and bills to pay.
* You worked so hard to build your career. You can’t leave!
* Everyone else thinks you’re crazy. Your life looks so good from the outside.

That was me a few years ago. My own journey of discovering a way to balance a career I love with a much healthier lifestyle took a LONG time.

I went on a mission to recover and become calmer, happier and healthier. I’ve spent quite a few hours in therapy, I’ve read hundreds of books, I’ve studied, trained and travelled. I’ve done my fair share of challenging and changing my old habits, beliefs and behaviours. I even got the help of some yogis and gurus in India along my way.

Way before I got to that point, my burn out became a breakdown. TWICE! But I found my way…and my WHY. So I KNOW you can do this, because I’ve been there too.

How did I manage to overcome burnout and and find peace, balance and much more happiness and pleasure in life?

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1. Identify and address your biggest stressor

I removed my biggest stressor. I left my job.

That’s when my breakdown happened. And unlike my idol Brené Brown, this wasn’t my Breakdown / Spiritual Awakening. It was a breakdown.

I’d been running on adrenaline for years. Once I dropped the frenetic pace of life I’d been racing through, the adrenaline switched off completely and I found myself in an exhausted, emotional mess. I felt like my world had imploded. I felt like my mind was imploding.

If you’re happy and inspired with your job, it may still be taking up too much of your time and energy. That leaves you with nothing else for life and for the people closest to you. In that case, you can take stock, have necessary conversations, establish boundaries and redress that balance.

The source of your burnout could be something completely different. You need to identify exactly what is causing the burnout in your life. Hone in on that to make the proper changes to remedy the exact source of the problem. 

2. Take a step back

I took some time out.

Taking time off work isn’t a luxury that everyone can afford. In my case I sold my house, which gave me the financial freedom to take some time out. I knew I was giving up my financial security but I figured if I didn’t have my health, I didn’t have anything. I chose to prioritise that over money.

Take a step back and take time away from the source of burnout. It helps you clear your head, calm your emotions and be in a place where you can deal with burnout rationally.

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3. Slow down

I slowed down. Properly. For the first time ever.

This is the hardest part for most people and it sounds so counter-intuitive. “How can I possibly slow down when I’m trying to balance all these things?!” But you need to, to declutter that crazy To-Do List in your mind and to start to put it into some sort of manageable order.

In my case, I took solo weekend breaks away in a friend’s caravan on a remote beach in Wales. I walked, wrote, read and rested. With nothing of interest to do or see, it forced me to sit still.

And leading nicely into the next point, I journaled. A lot.

4. Journal

I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote.

It’s why I’m still such an advocate for journaling. It clears your head. It helps you prioritise. And it helps you recognise repeating patterns of thought and behaviour.

5. Set boundaries

I learned to say no. I choose how I spend my time. I no longer do things I don’t want to do (where possible) or things that I know will affect my mental health.

When I waiver, I remember the huge changes I made to my life to protect my mental and physical health. It’s vital that I don’t take backward steps to where I was before. I have the difficult conversations. I explain to people how I’m feeling, why I make choices and they’ve all been supportive and accepting. Mostly.

6. Don’t isolate. But choose your people.

Isolation is a key symptom of burnout, so it’s important to be as social as possible. Just choose the right people.

I distanced myself from negative people.

Life is hard. That’s a given. But it’s how we deal with it that matters.

I try to deal with life with optimism and positivity. After I’ve allowed myself to deal with situations and process the emotions. I find negative, pessimistic, competitive and angry people draining. So once I realise that someone has that impact on me, I try to limit my time with them, to protect my own energy.

7. Change your environment.

I spent time in nature.

I walked along a local river, drove to the mountains, stayed by the sea. Nature is grounding and I found stillness and balance when I inhaled fresh air.

8. Don’t self-medicate.

It’s tempting to use legal (or illegal) substances to mask the feeling of overwhelm.

I had to deal with an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Even my counsellor commented that I didn’t drink very much. But it wasn’t the amount that I was drinking, I recognised that it was the ‘why’ I drank that was the problem.

I was trying to numb things or take the edge off, escape from life or sometimes escape from me.

I’m an emotional eater too. Recognising when I was doing that helped me quickly spot when something triggered me.

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9. Find your Passion

For me, that’s personal growth. I read and read and read and read and read.

Spirituality. Personal growth. The law of attraction. Psychology. Neuroscience. Other people’s journeys of healing.

I also studied. Nutrition. Mindfulness. Yoga. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. NLP. Life Purpose. Reiki.

I can’t consume enough information. I’m still learning…and growing.

10. Exercise

Exercise might seem like a weird suggestion as it takes up some of that precious energy you need to manage. Exercise is super effective in helping you blow off some steam and act as a mental release valve.

I found yoga.

Initially I even raced my way through yoga practices. I did high intensity yoga shred workouts. It wasn’t until I almost broke my toe doing burpees — yeah, don’t worry, I get it. Burpees in yoga! — that I realised that what I needed to do was slow the feck down. In all areas of life. Epiphany.

11. Find your Community

I discovered Spirituality. Or rather, I finally opened up to spirituality. I’ve always been spiritually curious, searching for something I could grasp onto. But nothing connected. Maybe I just wasn’t ready.

An Ayurvedic consultation led me to start a daily practice of spiritual reading, yoga, pranayama and journaling. I went to India for yoga teacher training and spent a month in Rishikesh, the spiritual home of yoga. Later, I spent another month in Goa and Karnataka, immersing myself in yoga and spirituality.

Yoga for me is a way of life. And in that, I found my community, my tribe.

12. Ask for help

Asking for help might mean reaching out to a trained professional who can offer you solutions, treatments, support and coping tactics. There is nothing more powerful than owning the fact you are overwhelmed.

I found myself stuck in the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’. A dark, empty period of personal growth and transition that made me want to turn the clocks back and make it all stop!

That led to breakdown number two. This one really was more of a Breakdown / Spiritual Awakening but I didn’t know that at the time.

I had five months where I experienced suicidal thoughts. Underlying it all, I knew I wasn’t depressed or suffering from anxiety. But after a few weeks of low mood, I was concerned that I couldn’t continue to fend away those thoughts while feeling low. I faced into it and I reached out for medical support and counselling to try to finally uncover my thoughts, habits, behaviours, addictive personality and any other demons that were lurking. Medical support was poor but the counselling was transformative.

13. Acknowledge your role

Burnout doesn’t just happen to us. There are things we do and choices we make that contribute to it. Please don’t beat yourself up about them. Acknowledge any potential unhealthy habits that could have led to your burnout out, so you can work on those while you recover.

I let go of my perfectionism. Okay, I’m still trying to let go of perfectionism.

I put enormous pressure on myself for things to be ‘just so’ or how I think other people expect them. I’m trying to recognise when the perfectionist takes over and let her go pronto. It’s a work in progress.

14. Are you ready to move on?

I relocated to a Mediterranean island. Alone.

I’ve always had a very clear vision of how my life would be someday. Living by the sea, living simply, buying fresh food from the local market and spending lots of time outdoors.

I always imagined I’d live that vision when I reached retirement. But suddenly I realised, why wait until retirement? Why not live that vision now when I’m young enough(ish), fit enough(ish) and strong enough to deal with such a major move?

So in February 2020 I did just that. I moved to Mallorca, to a gorgeous, light, bright, airy, top floor apartment in Palma. I walk to the sea in 15 minutes. I shop at the local markets. I regularly get out into the mountains, countryside and beaches. I work from home and I work from co-working spaces or cafes when I know I need company. I’ve adopted a little dog so we walk to the sea every morning.

Setting up in a new country hasn’t always been easy, but it was the right lifestyle choice for me.

15. Don’t complicate things.

I live more simply.

I don’t have a car. I don’t buy much stuff (I already have too much stuff and I don’t want to clutter my lovely space). My favourite social events are coffees and brunches. Okay, okay, I also love a glass of Verdejo in the sunshine but I’ve no interest in nights out, or even fancy dinners.

I became vegetarian during my time in India so even my food choices are more simple now.

Every morning I enjoy coffee, writing, reading on the balcony and pottering about with a few plants.

What would I do differently?

Everything has worked out great for me but I had a lot of ‘detours’ and it took a long time for everything to eventually fall into place.

If I had to do it all again, I would get more help. I would seek out that support much earlier.

More importantly, I would have taken time to fully consider my options and plan my exit strategy before I left my job. Then I would have a lot more of the pieces in place before taking that leap.

I’m determined that no-one needs to go through those toughest of times alone. All my twists and turns helped me find a process that works, that I now share with my coaching clients. Now I get to help others to recover from burnout, restore their health and live calm, happy, balanced lives. And you can too!

That’s why I guide people just like me and you through the process in my Burnout To Balance Coaching programme and Burnout To Balance Online Self-Study Course. Find out more here….

 

The books that got me through this difficult time

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I read so much that there’s far too much to be able to recommend everything right here. Here’s a link to my reading list.

But if I had to select just a few, the books that had the most profound impact on me were:

The Secret, Rhonda Byrne

Love Is Letting Go of Fear, Gerald G. Jampolsky

Lifeshocks: and how to love them, Sophie Sabbage

Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder, Gabor Maté

The Power Of Now: A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle

Your True Home, Thich Nhat Hanh

Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind, Joe Dispenza, D.C.

Tuesdays With Morrie: An old man, a young man and life’s greatest lesson, Mitch Albom

The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown

 

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