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Dr. Karina Smith

Some helpful ideas when recovering from burnout.


exhausted woman with head against wall at work

Have you ever experienced burnout?


Perhaps you have witnessed a loved one going through burnout?


This often results from being in a situation for a much longer time than you had the capacity to withstand, like a high-pressure job, or years of intense study, or even a long-term relationship.


Some of the common symptoms of burnout can include:



· High levels of daily anxiety.


· A feeling of dread waking up in the mornings.


· Insomnia and difficulty sleeping even though you feel extremely tired.


· Feeling emotionally numb.


· Losing a sense of purpose or direction.


· Very low tolerance for loud noises and busy environments.


· Disengaging from friends.


· A loss of interest in things you used to love doing.




And there are probably lots of things you and I could add to this list.


That all sounds pretty intense doesn’t it!


In Chinese medicine we talk about something called “prenatal Qi” and “daily Qi”.


Prenatal Qi is a bit like a trust fund of money that you were born with, that you can withdraw funds from, but cannot make deposits into.


Your daily Qi, is more like a daily allowance of money you can spend.


If we spend more of this daily amount (which is cultivated from our sleep and nutrition), we begin dipping into our trust fund.


If we do this for too long, we burn through our reserves = hello burnout!


When this happens, one good night of rest or eating nourishing food for one day, is not enough to help us continue to power on.


We run out of steam very quickly and can no longer cope with our lives.


This situation commonly leads to people hitting the wall, or having a crisis of some kind that makes them quit their job, break up with their partners and find some quiet place where they can continue to crisis away from everyone else.


At the same time there can be deep confusion as to why this has happened to them, and what can they do to get out of this mess?


Needless to say, the recovery from burnout can be a long slow road.


I have met and worked with a number of clients that are recovering from burnout. They don’t usually tell me that they are coming to see me because of burnout, it is usually something else like thyroid dysfunction, chronic fatigue, weight gain, anxiety or depression and other situations where their body has begun to push back on them.


When we dig a little bit deeper together, we uncover that there has been a significant period of time where they have been under pressure, or pushing themselves beyond their ability to have enough rest to sustain their life.


Here are some healing gems that I consider to be the most helpful to remind yourself of, when you are recovering from burnout:





Your old patterns will resurface.


How did this happen to you in the first place?


What kinds of behaviours and boundary leaks allowed for such an extravagant expenditure of your Qi?


Was it common place for you to burn the candle at both ends?


Are you able to recognise when your body is asking you to stop for the day and rest?


Did you always feel obligated to say yes to other people and give them your time and energy even when you knew you were really too tired to do so?


Were you really tough on yourself with how much exercise and physical exertion you “should” have been able to do every day?


All of these patterns (and I know there will be some others that are unique to you), will have some deep emotional and psychological layers to them that have been driving your decisions for a long time.



And because of that, when you are recovering, these tendencies that lurk beneath the surface, are usually still lurking underneath as we are healing and recovering.


So, on days when you might get a new found rise in energy, some of these deep patterns may tempt you to push yourself harder than you can handle, and set you backwards.


It might sound strange, but hitting burnout and literally being stopped in your tracks can be the most profound way to start really observing yourself


It is very important to start building awareness around these habits and impulses so that we can create a more balanced way of being.






When recovering, you must save 1/3 of your daily energy!



putting money in a piggy bank

As a flow on from the first point, this is my recovery rule for patients.


I will say to my patients “now, there is a good chance that tomorrow after today’s treatment you may wake up and feel like you have a lot more energy, if that’s the case, you are only allowed to spend 2/3 of that energy, and 1/3 has to go back into your energetic piggy bank so you can start rebuilding your reserves.”


Because the temptation for these people will often be that they wake up and feel great, and think “Yes, I’m back”, to which point they proceed to do a huge day of gardening, or go for an 8km run, or clean their whole house, and then, the next day, they are completely and utterly spent.


Back to square 1 of building reserves.


So, at the point that you feel there is still 1/3 left in the tank for the day.


Stop!


And call it a day.





Rebuilding your reserves takes time.


As frustrating as it may be, the rebuilding of your energy stock levels, can be slow.


Patients can learn this the hard way by overdoing things a number of times before they surrender to the fact that they must listen to their body as they are healing, and soften the expectations they have on themselves to bounce back too quickly.


If they did bounce back quickly, there is a very good chance that no lessons have been learned, and no new behaviours have been shaped.


It needs to be a slow and steady journey for people to start learning how their old ways are no longer of service, and what changes need to be made in order to create a truly sustainable way of life.






Can you find some access to joy?



What is it that brings you joy?


The kind of joy that asks nothing in return?


It might be watching seedlings emerging from the soil, or drinking your morning coffee with the sun on your face, it might even be watching cute videos on cats trying to get into glass bowls!


Whatever it is, (and when you are recovering it is likely to be small and simple), having access to joy begins to mend the heart.


This is a key element for healing, when burnout has left you with a feeling of numbness or detachment.


Let yourself notice the next time a small smile and feeling of warmth spread through the chest from a joyful moment of watching the sun rise, or a small child get ice-cream all over their face, or a puppy trying to catch its own tail.





The healing journey will require you to reset new boundaries (mostly with yourself).


This is big!


Redefining your boundary lines is an epic part of protecting yourself from a return visit to burnout town.


This might mean learning how to get comfortable with saying no to people.


Or allowing your self-care to move to the front of the queue.


This will give you the chance to build a better relationship with yourself, and learn to recognise the small warning signs from your body before you have a crash.


Friendships may end.


Careers may change.


New habits and hobbies will likely emerge.


You are allowed to take your rightful position of being in the driver’s seat of your life.


Creating new boundaries is an extraordinary opportunity for a rebirth.





Hopefully there are some ideas here that you can explore for yourself, especially in this time of world recalibration and redefinition.



My final words of support to you would be,



go gently with yourself.



Love Karina x









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