I’m tip-tapping you away from the corner couch of a cafe. Out the window I can see mountains and (you guessed it) rainforests upon rainforests.
I’m here on Burnout-Recovery, drinking (chai) tea and eating (gluten free) cake.
And I’m here to talk about burnout.
Because you know what?
I’m pretty damn sure it’s not just me who gets it.
In fact, I reckon that most people experience at some point in their lives. Maybe over and over again.
ESPECIALLY if they are business owners. Or creative. Or highly sensitive. Or have need-to-achieve predispositions. Or are mamas. Or all of the above.
And considering that’s about 98.7% of my blog readers, I figured I’m in good company.
And it’s bloody well time we talk about it.
So. Burnout. What doth you look like?
Oh burnout. YOU.
You of a thousand faces.
You who looks so different to every person who has you. Each body will react in a myriad of wacky, wonderful ways.
To some, you look like exhaustion. Deep, bone-seated exhaustion that’s hard to shake.
You can look like running out of juice, out of joy for life.
You can look like enthusiasm and motivation going for a long, long stroll into a land far, far away.
You can look like chronic, crippling anxiety. The kind that isn’t really about anything in particular but about the state of everything. It sits on your chest like a rock.
You can look like a vague feeling of being stressed out – all the time.
You can look like panic attacks. Those awful moments when it’s hard to breath, when the world makes you dizzy, when you can’t fight the rising fear that takes over your lungs and propels you into oh-god-am-I-having-a-heart-attack? Is-this-the-end? doom-itis that feels uncontrollable.
You can look like overwhelm. When everything is too much and nothing feels right.
You can look like not wanting to create, not being excited to wake up.
You can look like a deep, dark cave that’s quiet and silent and away from everyone else and everything else and is most definitely the place you want to be.
It may look different to you.
One thing is a constant for everyone though – when you have burnout, it sucks the big one.
Think you’ve got it?
Keep reading – let’s talk about how you can heal it.
The first sacred truth about burnout:
First and foremost, the thing I need to tell you most of all:
It’s okay if you burnout.
It’s really okay. You’re not a bad person. You’re not lazy for having limited energy. You’re not flawed because your body has reactions to stress.
You don’t have unlimited energy. You can’t do it all.
I’m sorry. I know it sucks knowing that. And I know that it sucks FEELING that when your body has hit a wall.
But most of all, you need to know:
In fact, it can be really, really useful to have burnout.
Why The Fluckity Fluck Burnout Can Be Useful
Burnout can be your friend.
It doesn’t feel like that of course.
It doesn’t feel like that at ALL.
When burnout strikes, it feels like an immense ball of suckage hitting you like a freight train.
Burnout, for all of its suckfestival, does have its blessings.
It teaches you your limits.
That you are human.
That you need and deserve and are thirsty for self care.
It gives you irrefutable proof that you need to tend to yourself. That extreme self care isn’t for selfish wankers, it’s essential for everyone.
It’s the body telling you in no uncertain terms – in a way that you can’t ignore – that it needs you to be balanced and happy and replenished in your life.
Because it’s patently unsustainable to do anything but.
It’s the greatest holiday-giver of all time to those who won’t take holidays.
It’s the enforcer of gentleness.
It’s your body’s barometer telling you when it needs rejuvenation and rest and replenishment.
It’s the sound you can’t bear to hear – the one that forces you to sit upright and listen to the voice of your spirit.
And it takes you on a mammoth healing journey.
So let’s talk about this mammoth healing journey, yeah?
Let’s talk about what can help + heal your burnout.
What Can Help + Heal Your Burnout
This is the time for you to start healing what ails you and replenishing your body’s energy supplies.
A Toolkit For Healing Burnout:
- More massages than you think is necessary. As my beloved healer Hiro says to me (in her very loving, honest way) “One a day. And you’ll think it’s over the top because you believe that no self care is the standard.” I still can’t bring myself to one a day right now – but I’ve upped my upper limit to be able to do three in a week (which I usually think is impossible). And it’s worth it. And needed.
- Acupuncture is one of the most powerful alleviators of anxiety around.
- Intuitive healing or kinesiology.
- Creative time.
- Take time away as much as possible.
- Get a freakin’ life. I mean that with a whole lotta love of course. Get some hobbies. Do shit you love doing. Think of what your three year old self loved. And your nine year old self. And DO THOSE THINGS.
- Go be with friends. Go have a ding dang silly adventure (even if it’s just for a day!) with peeps you love. The restorative power of face-to-face gasbagging is cwazy powerful + underrated.
- Chicken Soup actually IS brilliant at healing all manner of maladies including anxiety and burnout!
- Set containers around your work. No more working on weekends. Stop working at least a couple of hours before you go to bed.
- Naps + going to sleep at “Granny o’clock”
- If you’re a mama: enlist support, in any kind of way you can. By hook or by crook, you need time where you’re not tending to someone else’s needs, and instead are listening to your own. I’m so grateful to the woman who said to me when Starry was six months old: “Leonie, give the baby to Chris for the afternoon. And go into the studio. And do some painting. Get some headspace. You need it. Don’t take this the wrong way, but you need to.” And when she said that I was all “YEAH RIGHT AS IF I COULD EVER DO THAT MY BABY NEEDS ME TOOOOO MUCH.” But I soon realised that baby needed much more a sane and happy mama. And I handed her over to the care of my husband, and took care of me. And it made all the difference.
- Have some freaking footbaths. Think essential oils and flowers and all that shiz. SELF CARE CENTRAL, LAYDEE!
- Rub lavender essential oil on your wrists.
- Have dedicated time where you DON’T think about work. It’s why I read trashy Victorian romance novels: because it gives me a brain holiday. My 24/7 Idea Making Machine (aka my noggin) goes into Lie-on-A-LieLow-In-The-Pool-Sipping-Frappes mode. In a word: giddy bliss!
- Use Emergency Essence or Calm and Clear.
- Eat protein and greens.
- Stay away from sugar, caffeine + stimulants. They’ll make you feel extra cray cray.
- If you are dealing with a situation that is stressful or that you need support around, find a good counsellor.
- If you have ongoing anxiety, see a Doctor. I’m all for hippy woo-woo techniques, but when anxiety and post natal depression kicked my butt, western medicine was a great healer and support for me.
Here’s Some More Blessings of Burnout (Even If It Doesn’t Feel Like That Right Now)
My wise friend Mr P said something once upon a time that’s stuck in my mind ever since.
We were carpooling to work back in the day, and in the midst of silence after a conversation about nothing, he said suddenly:
“Miss Leonie, I’ve always thought breakdowns are misnomers. Because so often they really are breakthroughs.”
Or as Tina Kennedy shared:
“Everytime I’ve melted I’ve emerged in better form.”
And it’s true.
I’m grateful for every burnout I’ve ever experienced.
It’s taught me more and more what it is to be a Leonie. What it is to be creative and sensitive and kind. And most of all, what I need in order to survive and thrive and shine in the world.
As Hiro says to me
“You’re going to emerge from this burnout with an even clearer picture of what it takes to keep you well and happy.”
And it’s true. What a blessing.
Burnout is like getting a university degree in self care, in being so disciplined in the art of healing yourself and tending to the soft voices inside you.
Burnout teaches you what it takes to be splendidly human, wondrously creative, and intrinsically you. (Click to tweet this)
And this is all good work to do. As you become wiser at this whole self care thing, as you become better at the Art of Thriving As You in the world, you’ll take that message into who you are, and what you teach others. You’ll teach your kids what it looks like to tend to themselves. You’ll teach every mama and woman around you that it is good and holy and needed and true to be replenished.
This is the work that needs to be taught.
Here’s another blessing of burnout:
You’re going to get better at recognising burnout, and stopping before it hits.
The first couple of times that I did burnout?
I did them proper good. Think: collapsing, needing three months of holiday, panic attacks on the street.
I ran towards burnout like a freight train was my saviour.
And then the train hit me and I realised:
Nope, it wasn’t. More work wasn’t going to save me.
Also: this hurts.
Since then, I’ve become much better at that whole
“Hey look, I can see lights coming down the track! I wonder what that is… oh HEY! Fuc*, it’s that freight train again! Pull up! Pull up!”
And I stop sooner and sooner.
And it hits me softer and softer.
Until it becomes a creative rhythm:
“Oh hey. I’m feeling a bit of burnout again. I need to be replenished. I need to take some time off. I need to take really good care of myself. Where’s that list of tools that help again?”
Here’s more blessings of burnout:
It’s a wonderful excuse to love the shit out of yourself, and tend to yourself with more nourishing things than you’d normally do.
Write a list of all the ways you could help yourself heal right now.
Listen to the voice. The one that tells you:
I need to nap. I’ve always wanted to try out reiki healing. I want more time at the beach. I need to be surrounded by candles. I would like to doodle with rainbow crayons. May I please have some vitamins. I need to be cared for.
It’s the voice we often ignore until we are forced to listen.
And thank god we are.
Because that little voice is leading us home.
Back to our selves. Back to our bodies. Back to our souls.
Thank you burnout,