I wasn’t just crying; I was falling apart. My body and spirit pulled out all the stops and said - PAY ATTENTION!
Burnout. It’s not pretty.
In college and early professional career I was convinced that my self-worth was directly connected to how hard I worked.
I believed it so deeply I didn’t question it. I was like the fish who is asked, “how’s the water?” and the fish says, “what’s water?”
Yup, that was me swimming in an ocean of no boundaries, giving myself away, getting swept into the deep currents of self-doubt if I took time for myself.
This is not a sustainable way of life. Something will give, and when it does, watch out – no joke.
Here's what no boundaries looks like.
When I got my first real, professional job at an HIV/AIDS organization, I was in charge of all coordinated volunteer activities covering a wide range of work within the organization and in communities. I was determined to show myself and everybody around me that I was going to be the best Director of the Volunteer Program they ever saw! Yikes.
I dove right in with gusto and enthusiasm. I worked weekends and long days. If someone needed a shoulder to cry on or an empathetic ear was there. I became passionate about organizational change to support staff. Even though I was giving my all and more, I was being emotionally harassed by one of my colleagues (isn't being good supposed to shield me from that? - Nope).
Before I knew it, I was overwhelmed but didn’t know how to pull back. So instead of pulling back I leaned in even more. I rode my bike many miles to work and back to get my exercise in. I threw myself in the cold ocean at lunch time to shock myself back into my body.
No surprise here, the overwhelm turned into anxiety. After a certain point, I couldn’t hide my internal suffering and pain.
After a long weekend of training staff and volunteers, I started to cry at work. I told my boss I was leaving for the day through tears and gasping sentences.
I got to my car and cried from a place I didn’t know existed inside of me. It was deep. It felt endless. I didn’t know if I was ever going to stop. My body heaved through waves of sorrow. My body and spirit demanded my attention.
This was my turning point. I had to figure out how to take care of myself so that I could be there for other people.
I'm the only person who will take responsibility for my time and energy.
Every place I’ve worked will take as much as I’m willing to give. There is no special reward for going above and beyond. More likely, I’ll get more work if I allow it. It’s just the way it goes. I’m not saying this is good or bad. It just is.
I needed to put some boundaries in place.
This is a big one and probably the most important. I had to know...wait, not just know. I had to feel in my bones the truth that I am good enough.
I used to play Mortal Combat. I loved that game. I’d watch the energy bar above my fighter and when that energy bar got too low, I’d get KO’d (knocked out)!
When I was working hard to prove I was worthy, I was not connected to myself. My body threw down on me and I got KO’d.
During my day I imagine my energy bar. How much energy do I have right now? How much do I need to get through the rest of my day? How much do I need to be at my best throughout my week?
It’s not just about getting by. It’s about showing up as my best. It’s about knowing I am able to be resilient because I have the energy to support me.
My breakdown years ago was a hard, in my face lesson. It took me years to establish healthy boundaries to take care of myself.
Working on my boundaries has been huge! I feel in my bones that I am enough just as I am. I am imperfect. I am kind. I am loving.
When I love and accept myself just as I am, I am firmly seated in my personal belonging.
It’s a powerful place to sit.
Here’s a simple practice you can do anywhere to support resilience .
Notice what you feel and acknowledge it.
You can do this anytime, anywhere. Try first thing in the morning before you do anything. Check in with your body. How do you feel? Just notice. What thoughts are with you right away? Just notice. Take one deep breath. Ask yourself what you need to support your energy during the day.
This simple practice of noticing is an act of love. Your whole being will respond.
When I stay connected to myself my energy is full to mid-range most of the time. I am more resilient. I am more confident. I give more easily.
I didn’t get to this point on my own. I found my support people and resources.
One of the more powerful forms of healing is connecting with others, being seen, and acknowledged for who we are.
Do you or someone you know need support?
I can help. Yoga therapy sessions help build resilience. I work with you to discover important insights and take action.
You don’t have to be alone in challenging times. Challenge is an opportunity for growth. I can support you in that challenge.
Don’t get KO’d. Keep your energy up and stay resilient.