Bounce Back from Burnout & Regain Life’s Purpose

Today I realized I had forgotten what it was like to laugh out loud. I had been focused on feeding the beast (my business) for so long that I had disconnected from that which gives me joy. I had burnout. To compound this, I do not have the luxury of a robust support system. I’m pretty much on my own when it comes to emotional support. In my family nexus: I’M the supporter, the fixer, the glue, and the do-all Superwoman.

Right now: Superwoman is very, very tired. The fact is, your emotional well-spring will run dry if you do not nurture it. If you don’t receive a recharge – eventually, you WILL hit the wall. I think I finally did. I need to take critical steps to bounce back from burnout and regain life’s purpose.

Because I’m an action oriented career coach and I’m a behavioral analyst by nature, I don’t just sit by and accept status quo. It’s not in me to let my world collapse. I’m not built that way. On the flip side, it is tempting. It’s not easy to pull yourself back together again. I mean, where the heck do you even start?

Beware of Your Inner Critic

If you, like me, feel like you have hit the wall in your life. Your inner critic will do it’s best to drag you down even further. It will tell you that no one cares. It will tell you that your friends don’t like you anyway. It will tell you that you are on your own and there’s no way out. Most of this I ‘heard’ in my own head by 2:00 pm. Just this minute, my inner critic it telling me that writing this is stupid.

“… the critical inner voice is degrading and punishing and often leads us to make unhealthy decisions.” – PsychAlive

My inner critic is an a$$hole. When you are feeling good, that live-in Negative Nelly isn’t quite so loud. But when we are hurt, nervous, worried, upset, sad, or depressed – the negative thoughts get more ‘vocal’. You inner critic is a sneaky built-in saboteur.

My inner critic even stopped me from posting on Facebook as much. At first, I thought it was a good thing. I figured I had stopped because I was too busy. That was certainly part of it, but the REAL reason is because I felt the distance growing between myself and my friends – so I enlarged it by not posting as much as I used to.

I listened to my inner critic telling me that no one cares anyway, so why bother. What a stupid idea that was. I have absolutely no data that tells me my friends don’t care. Beware of your inner critic. It will feed you lies about yourself and others. It will sabotage your life and you won’t even realize it.

Steering Clear of Self-Sabotage

I remember when my good friend, Mary, called me one day years ago. She was freaking out! She was convinced that she would lose her job. While the details are fuzzy now, I remember having the conversation and walking her through was actually happened. Mary had very little actual evidence that she was going to be fired. She had assumed based on how an email was phrased that she was in trouble – fear and low self-esteem did the rest.

Fear is the mind killer. Between fear and your inner critic, it’s a wonder we even get out of bed in the morning. It’s deceptively easy to become a victim of self-sabotage. While my inner critic is still screaming at me that my friends don’t care about me and I don’t matter – I have no actually evidence that is true. The problem is, we don’t make decisions based on logic. Over 90% of our decisions are made based on emotion.

“In fact even with what we believe are logical decisions, the very point of choice is arguably always based on emotion.” – Jim Camp

If you aren’t careful, you will make decisions largely based on assumptions. Because our brain does not like being in limbo – we are driven to jump to conclusions based on little to no information. Our brains wants to have answers. Which gets us into trouble sometimes. While it has taken a few years of practice, I have learned to control my mind to accept a limbo state if I am intentionally aware of it.

If you want to test this, just see how you respond to other drivers in city traffic. Everyone ELSE is a jerk, right?? They meant to cut you off or do something stupid. In actuality, they are pretty much just like you. They are probably making the same assumptions about you, too.

Unfortunately, the natural inclination to jump from no facts to foregone conclusions is very difficult to short-circuit. Remember how sneaky your inner critic is? If you aren’t careful, you can arrive at a conclusion that builds over time based on negative thought patterns and no hard data. However, it took me having an actual crisis to wake up to this problem I now have to dig myself out of.

Let Go of that Which Does Not Serve You

In yoga class one day, the instructor said; “Let go of that which does not serve you” – and it stuck. I really like that phrase and I use it quite often. In this moment, I need to apply that specifically to my current state of mind. What does this mean to me – to let go of that which does not serve me? How can I bounce back from burnout to see that my life has a purpose?

  • Let go of the negative assumptions. I have assumed that my social group doesn’t care about me because I’ve been so busy, focused, and quiet. The truth probably is that, if I assert myself or ask for help, I will have friends by my side.
  • Let go of the ‘busyness’ addiction. Like many entrepreneurs (and workaholics) I need to become better balanced with my work/life. Some sneer at the idea of work/life balance and I will tell you that it’s absolutely critical for your mental health.  
  • Let go of the past and focus on the future. Instead of dwelling on bad decisions or the current miserable state I’m in – I need to focus on the path forward. I’m action oriented. In other words, what am I going to do different tomorrow, the next day, and the rest of this week and beyond – to see the change I want?

Focus on What Gives You Joy

Because I’m a perfectionist workaholic, it’s my natural inclination to bury into my work and pull away from the world altogether when I’m in pain. Fortunately, my reasoning brain knows that is an incredibly bad idea. Isolation will not bring me joy. Even if you are a die-hard introvert, isolation isn’t healthy. While sometimes recharging means reading a good book or going for a walk. On the other hand, most people’s emotional support groups resides in friendships.

“… people continue to have a need to affiliate with others.  Indeed, the lack of such connections can lead to many problems, including loneliness.” – Phycology Today, Shoba Sreenivasan, Ph.D., and Linda E. Weinberger, Ph.D.

I’m not sure that my friends know how important the role is that they play in my life. From time to time, I feel that they think I’ve got it all ‘figured out’. I have a thriving business, awesome clients, and I speak regularly at conferences – my life needs are met, on the surface. Even a certified career coach doesn’t have everything all ‘figured out’. No one does. We are just humans doing the best we can with what we have. Some days that’s hard to do.

What’s really crazy is – we don’t always think that we can rely on one another to help. Oh sure, I’m not anxious to go dump my problems on my friends. That’s not the point. The point is – just being around those that make you laugh, bring a smile to your face, and get you out of your shell is really darn good for you!

3 Critical Steps to Bounce Back from Burnout

When you’ve hit the wall, how can you get your superpowers back? In many ways what I’m sharing is intensely personal and I’m not extremely comfortable writing about it. Regardless, in defiance of my inner critic (who screams that “no one cares!”), I figure that there are more people than just ME that suffers.

I have forgotten what it feels like to laugh out loud in joy. I have a tightness under my rib cage that says laughter can help ease the emptiness inside. My immediate personal nexus doesn’t really have a sense of humor. At least, not like it used to be. I’m a part-time caregiver. This plus running my own business is exhausting. The good news is: developing action plans is my superpower!

1. Awareness

I would be remiss if I didn’t make the point that awareness is the FIRST step towards any action plan. It’s not uncommon that you will achieve a burnout state and not even be aware that you’ve hit the wall. If you don’t understand what’s going on, you cannot overcome it.  You may be burned out if you are experiencing:

  • Reoccurring or ongoing fatigue (mental or physical)
  • Every day is a bad day and you don’t look forward to anything.
  • Feeling helpless, trapped, or defeated.
  • Loss of motivation, nothing seems to lift you up.
  • Sense of failure, self-doubt, negative outlook.
  • A feeling of detachment from the world and isolation.

2. Reach Out

The very first item on my ‘bounce back’ mental list is to reach out to my external support group. My friends. I will be very intentional about setting aside the time to be around those people that make me feel more like a whole person. Friendships are a two-way street, you have to put out effort too.

  • Be open to those you trust that you are struggling. Do NOT reach out to people you cannot rely on or have let you down in the past. This is not the time to take chances.
  • You don’t have to share your innermost issues with your friends, but you can ask to be included in activities.
  • If you don’t have an immediate external network – seek one out! Anything from book clubs to running clubs are social networks that enhance a healthy state of mind.
  • Take the effort to go to social gatherings. You don’t have to go out EVERY day, but invest in a sense of ‘attachment’ to something larger than just you.
  • Volunteer work is also a great way to be involved and develops healthy mental responses/hormones.

If you are not capable of reaching out, please seek immediate help by calling the hotline below:

Call 1-800-273-8255 – Available 24 hours everyday

3. Seek Counseling

Because I have a heavy load to carry in life between entrepreneurship and caregiving – it’s incredibly helpful to have professional assistance along the way. There is deep value in having a trusted resource with tools and knowledge you can rely on to reach your goals. As a coach, I KNOW that having a coach is tremendously helpful!

  • Do your research and connect with several life coaches or counselors before making your decision on the best fit for you.
  • A life coach (or career coach like me) is a very personal decision and trust is paramount. Take your time, interview several professionals and go with someone that you feel comfortable with.
  • Because your friends are not necessarily the people you should dump your life troubles on, it’s important to have someone who is certified and unbiased to assist you in the next steps to healing.

Regain Life’s Purpose

Everything in life is a process. It was a process that got me to this place and the realization that I needed to bounce back from burnout. There are no ‘instant fixes’ and it will take energy to get in a better place. I’m confident that I can that feeling of inner lightness again. I will laugh again. While my purpose is clear, I need to refill the empty well so I can give the support others need from me. You cannot give what you do not have.

It’s important to realize that, even when you are the hollowest inside, it is a temporary state. The only constant is change. It actually take intentional effort to remain static.

Trust the process to get whole again. It’s my deepest and most heartfelt wish that you have gained some hope from this, that you now have an idea about the first good step for you. If you are burned out from something – then take a break from that thing. If it’s work, take time off. If it’s the people you are around, get some distance. Mental clarity is a critical first step.

Be aware of your surroundings. If you do not have a built-in support group just as I do not, you will need to be more intentional about developing a balance in your life. Most importantly, do NOT let your inner critic boss you around! You are loved and needed in this world. If you do not have anyone to say that to you … I will: “You Are Loved!”

Let go of that which does not serve you and bounce back to your life’s purpose, my friends.