*Dear elephant reader: if you’re single & looking for mindful dating or conscious love, try out our lovely partner, MeetMindful.
Have you ever felt totally engaged in your work, where the hours could fly by and there was still more to achieve?
And…have you ever watched it all fall apart?
Back in the day, I worked 12 hour days and tried to make everyone happy. One day after rushing my Mom to a medical appointment and returning to my overflowing inbox, I made a small mistake and felt it all crumble. The world I had tried so hard to create and hold together just didn’t work.
Here’s how life got good again:
I dropped my bundle…and I didn’t pick it back up.
The first thing I had to accept was that I was saying yes to everything, and I’d bitten off more than I could chew. I used to respond to this advice by saying “chew faster,” but suddenly I was so burnt out that I couldn’t go on. The best thing I did was drop everything, rest, then make more conscious decisions about how much of that bundle to pick back up. I started getting disciplined at leaving the office after 8 or 9 hours, and eventually went part time to pursue other interests.
I also became better at saying “No” to activities that weren’t top priorities or not my responsibility. That’s not to say don’t be a team player—just don’t offer yourself up as the team doormat. Which lead me to my biggest lesson:
People-pleasing is for pushovers.
This has been one of the toughest lessons of my life. It is so ingrained in me to be “nice” and want everyone to like me. But guess what, even when I did everything for everyone… I found that most people didn’t give a damn. Seriously. It was so hard not to become bitter when I realised a lifetime of people pleasing had left me nothing. But eventually I was able to embrace the freedom of being let off the “nice girl” hook, and choose a life that was fulfilling and a lot more authentic.
I even quietly admitted to myself that it was okay if not everyone liked me, because I don’t like everyone either. Gasp!
Get a life
When I was working those crazy long days, even my fiancé and our wedding planning took a back seat. And guess what? It was he that stood by me when I fell in a heap, not the people who wanted me to work harder. As I pulled back and reviewed my choices, I managed to carve out time for my interests—studying naturopathy, writing, exploring the beautiful hills where we live, a few good friends and family and our home and garden. All those boundaries I’d been reluctant to put up helped me to create the space I needed for the life that would give back to me and be fulfilling.
You are what you eat
Before I began my studies in naturopathy, I thought this was a metaphor (and a cliché); such as having a heart of gold, or being as healthy as a horse. I now know it to be literal. Our bodies are a series of chemical reactions. These reactions are fuelled by the chemicals we add to or create in our bodies through sleep, food, stress, meditation and exercise. Choosing a lifestyle that creates positive effects on the body is essential for recovering from burnout. Sadly, coffee is not my friend anymore, but more like that enticing bad boy one occasionally can’t resist.
And sleep is my new bestie.
I found an awesome naturopath who is encouraging me (still a process!) to cut out sugar, and who changed my experience of life with some well targeted magnesium and amazing “adaptogen” herbs that support the adrenals (such as ginseng and lavender), as well as CoQ10 to help my cells make energy. Of course everyone is different, but it could be worth discussing with your health professional if these supplements could help you.
Hindsight is 20/20
Once I had a few strategies in place to pick myself back up, I was able to look over how I lived my life that might have led to becoming burnt out. It’s all too tempting to blame demanding workplaces and busy schedules, but ultimately taking responsibility for ourselves is the only useful approach. I learnt I have to be careful to get regular exercise, as all my roles and interests involve sitting. I also prevented this by arranging a standing desk at work.
I looked at the foods that contribute to that wired feeling, such as sugar and caffeine, and I made my life way simpler.
Your strategies may look different, but when you have some strength it’s worth looking back to see what you can learn. Other important lessons are early warning signs. When I reach for potato chips and only want to read gossip magazines, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m heading down that slippery slope. The only difference is that now I catch myself at the top and no longer need to ride all the way.
I keep my commitments simple, sleep as much as I can, eat organic and try to move my booty.
So if you’re in that scary place, take comfort. The road has been walked by others before you, and we know there is much you can do to make life simpler and find your resilience. Hold on.
Author: Kathleen Robb
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Wiki Commons