How to Replenish When You’re Burned Out

“How was your trip?” I asked. “It was wonderful, but I broke my foot,” Anna said with a laugh. She then described stepping into an ‘ocean pothole’ while surfing.  “It was great fun, but it wasn’t the first time my body told me to stop when my brain said keep going! Now, I have to slow down, for 6 to 8 weeks.”

Anna went on a yoga retreat in the Costa Rican jungle on a mission … to recover from overwhelm and reclaim her joy. “I can’t believe I went. I’m so glad I went,” she said.

We oversee complex schedules and fragile childcare logistics, without breaks, for years. Moms speak the language of exhaustion. Burnout, however, can consume all of your remaining energy. Whether it’s from a crisis, or the daily routine, feeling drained and disconnected is soul-crushing. It promotes irrational worry about other people’s expectations, while we fail to meet our own.

Listen to Your Inner Alarm Bells

How did Anna know she needed to hit reset? She said, “I was pretty irritable.” I laughed … having lived irritable for weeks at a time. She added, “I was drinking a lot more … that’s a sign for anybody. I drank way too much at that party … to the point I was throwing up!” I nodded. We reconnected at a friend’s holiday party two years ago. Anna said, “I’m 45 years old! I had to ask myself, what’s happening here?” Wise! Seeking numbness, which can take many forms, is another storm-cloud worth paying attention to.

Use the Escape Hatch to Reset

“In Costa Rica, I was with these strangers … I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t want to know anyone,” Anna said. In the recent years, she lost her Dad and two of her close friends lost loved ones. She said, “In addition to the regular mothering (for my son) I was ‘mothering’ friends and family. I had enough!” The intensity of day-to-day life leaves little room for managing emotional hurdles, like grief.

Go From Nurturer to Nurtured

Anna, fiercely independent and capable, is used to doing the caregiving. She said, “This injury forced me to be vulnerable. I didn’t plan it… I literally fell into a pothole! However, I had to allow people to care for me. Something I’m not comfortable with.” I nodded in agreement. So many moms offer help yet few ask for it. “These women were incredibly nurturing… they were so earnest, giving and tender. It was unusual for me and very lucky for me,” she said. Although no one would choose getting injured on vacation, she sees the benefits. “I view this (experience) as positive. Our bodies know more than our minds know and we can find healing in the most surprising places,” she explained. Yes!

Give Yourself Permission

I asked how she decided to take the Costa Rica trip. She didn’t hesitate and said, “I knew my family could handle it. Although I needed it for 20 years, maybe 25, there was no opportunity.” Sigh! Anna said, “It was an ‘aha’ that our son was doing so well in high school, academically and socially, I knew he could handle it. It allowed me to go.” Moms are so conflicted about time away from our families… even when we desperately need it. Anna told me about a trip she went on over the holidays, “I had a blast, I saw friends and family. My son later said, ‘that was a boring trip for me, but you had fun, so I’m happy we went.’” Wow! She said she realized, “…He needs to see more of that. (Seeing) me happy to make him happy.” Yes!

Rediscover Control & Choice

Anna is intent on bringing the happy back into her daily life. Restoring a sense of emotional balance and purpose after burnout requires effort and there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer. Although not everyone can plan a trip away, experts recommend reclaiming control, wherever it’s possible. In the Harvard Business Review, Elizabeth Grace Saunders shared, “…adopt an ownership mindset, that sounds like this: Others may have contributed to my situation, but I have the ability to make choices that can improve my present and future. Thinking in this way gives you the license to choose, even in small ways, to take action to recharge and build momentum.”

Open up to Serendipity

Anna explained the meals on her Costa Rican trip were healthy, delicious and Ayurvedic. “After the retreat, I got very interested in yoga and Ayurvedic practices, particularly the mind and gut connection,” she said. Anna started receiving positive signs from the Universe before she arrived home! She said, “The best way to go through the airport is in a wheelchair and on crutches. People are so nice to you!” I laughed. “I needed help with just about everything and happened to get assistance outside of the ladies room from a woman, who not only happened to be another Child Psychiatrist, she’s a pioneer in the integrative medicine field!” Amazing! Anna plans to incorporate this expertise into her work. She said, “I want to deepen my understanding of my body and incorporate it into my medical practice.”

Yes. Fun is Self-Care

In Psychology Today, Sheri Bourg Carter states, “… Every high-achieving woman I have ever known had one thing in common — a passion. If you’re like most victims of burnout, that passion has probably lost its meaning, leaving you feeling physically exhausted and emotionally depleted. But rediscovering it (or finding a new one) … can be the spark you need to reignite your flame.” Anna’s committed to living differently and following intentions she set on her trip. She found a program to further her integrative medicine studies. “At first, I planned to study in Boston (close to home.) Then I realized, I can take a course in New York instead and stay with a good friend once a month,” she said. Professional growth can coexist with fun.  Few make time for passion pursuits and it’s the type of self-care that can transform your life. Anna acknowledged, it took a lot before she could embrace this new way of thinking. She said with a laugh, “Like with my foot, I needed to break.”

Thank you to the amazing Anna G.! A Child Psychiatrist, and occasional yogi, she’s now studying how to improve the lives of her patients by bringing integrative health into her medical practice. Anna credits her amazing Costa Rican retreat, with Shireen Damghani,  as the catalyst for her reset.

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