On Reversing Burnout

The Key to Reverse Burnout

Are you physically and emotionally exhausted?  Longing for the weekend each week by Wednesday (or even Monday?), dreaming of vacation, or fantasizing about retirement?

I get it and it’s not surprising considering how much you care!  As a helping professional you give so much of yourself.  You’re sensitive, empathic, and dedicated to your client’s success.  

You care deeply and want to provide quality service.  Unfortunately, you can’t do this very well when you are drained, overwhelmed, and burnt out.

Unfortunately, I have seen way too many helpers push beyond their limits until they end up sick and ready to throw in the towel.  I am no stranger to burnout and overwhelm myself while learning to live with an autoimmune diagnosis and starting a business nearly five years ago now.

As a Creative Arts Therapist and group practice owner I know what it means to juggle and I have lived the hustle while learning to surrender and create a lifestyle of sustainable self-care that prioritizes my health.  Part of the journey for me was permission to slow down with time and space to explore as a way of life rather than a vacation to cope with life as a hustle. Within such white space, free from scheduled tasks and commitments,  the freedom to play is born.  

Just like a work of art, the unmarked area or blank canvas is what allows image and clarity to form.   The unfilled space of an artwork is just as important to a composition as the actual objects, lines, or shapes.  Such breathing room is equally important in life as it is art...for artists and non-artists alike.  It gives room for curiosity and spontaneity, the ingredients of play.  

In this space I find excitement, passion, and creativity is sparked and allows for perspective to shift and opportunity to present itself.  And, viola..EcoArt Wellness: A Sustainable Self Care Lifestyle was born.

Play leads to joy which allows for growth and creativity.  Both are the opposite of burnout, fatigue, and the exhaustion of linear, analytical processes.

Sadly, curious exploration is deemed unproductive. Lack of trust in the creative process fuels habitual obsession with getting results and controlling  outcomes. When we’re in this mode, each day can become an exhausting chase rather than a practice of faithfully allowing creative energy to flow and life to unfold.

The value of play is greatly underestimated in our industrialized culture that values mass production, systematized processes, and machine-like output, but, ultimately, we are humans.  We humans need connection: to self, others, AND to our creativity.

Playfulness creates opportunities to connect. Connection reduces stress and supports our health. In turn, healthy humans produce higher quality work marked by creative solutions that emerge from that playful white space.   

As Einstein reminds us, we can not produce creative solutions in the same mind space as the problems were created.

So how did I find my way back to balance and back to play?  How can you find your own way there?

These steps helped me to restore my own Relationship with my creative self and reverse burnout while learning to work more playfully.  I believe they can help you too!

  1. Establish “white space” in your heart, work, and calendar. Let go of some obligatory tasks that no longer feel good.  To do this, you can make a list to identify what you think you “have” to do and what you want to do. Even if this only opens up an hour a week, start there and use this hour to explore what would feel good.

  2. Allow objections.  Your mind may be used to creating reasons why you can’t.  I know because that’s what minds do!  They like to keep the status quo, but you can make time!  Of the things you believe you “have” to do...write down why you think you “must.”  Words like must, need, ought, should, and have to insinuate life or death consequences.  What will happen if you stopped?  Let go of the things that you can and establish intentionality and gratitude for the things you choose to keep, i.e. income from work or nourishment from cooking.

  3. If you feel afraid or guilty about taking a break and creating white space in your life,  consciously ground yourself in a sense of safety and trust.  Remember a time when you feared things would not turn out well but they actually did.  Close your eyes and visualize this scenario while noticing how you feel in your body.  Stay with this sensation for as long as you like.  

  4. Now back to play!  Use the energy of this feeling and pleasant memory to do something you’d enjoy most. This could be anything...rollerskating, writing, painting, a nature walk or hike, biking, birdwatching, read a book, go to a movie, or your work.

 "The opposite of play is not work.  The opposite of play is depression."  -Stuart Brown


Keep in mind that reversing burnout  is a process.   As I crept my way back into a more creative space over the years, I allowed myself to take baby steps.  I would try different things and notice how they felt in my body.  If it felt good, I invited more.  If it felt forced, I found someone who wanted to take that task or I’d try to let it go freeing up more time and space to pursue what feels good.  I learned to celebrate early and often instead of indulging my perfectionism. 

Like the exhilaration of fresh paint on a large surface with no particular destination in mind, grant yourself permission to explore and savor the freedom such exploration can create.

Want support in carving more white space, bringing the joy of play to your work, and creating a sustainable self-care lifestyle?  Let’s chat. Apply for your complimentary Discover Your Vitality Call here.