Burnout is bad. Duh. We all know this. 

Yet, many people continue to run on empty. Why is that?

I suspect that when you don’t know anything else outside of a lifestyle filled with work-work-work, you do what you know.

Take me for instance. Back in 2015 while sitting on the New York City subway, I broke down in tears from major burnout. 

It wasn’t cute having passengers stare while I was sobbing in the corner seat on my way to work. I had become a broken robot and could barely function.

I was so over being nonstop-busy, but busy was all I knew. 

“I did then what I knew now how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” —Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s classic quote hits home. It was hard for me to do better because I didn’t know better. You see, I really wasn’t aware of it at the time, but now I understand that me giving too much and neglecting myself had a long history in my family. 

The women in the generations before mine came from a history of indentureship in the Caribbean and were taught to put their heads down and work hard. Since their lives were 100% in service to others, the lesson in my family was sacrifice, and that legacy was passed down to me. The behaviors of working nonstop to care for everyone and everything else but myself were woven into my DNA. 

Fast forward to me sobbing on the subway, I wanted to do better, but with a dead battery and a broken spirit, I didn’t know how. 

I was too overwhelmed to beat my burnout alone and self-care was a completely foreign concept, so where did I start?

I started with a life coach. She asked me a simple question.

What do you need?

There was a long moment of silence.

No one had ever asked me that question before. I was never taught to identify what mattered to me. Truthfully, I didn’t know that my needs mattered. 

It took me a while to answer, but once I took a deep breath and tuned in, I acknowledged that I needed rest, support, and the space to finally do me. 

Boom. Just like that, I named my needs. This exercise was feasible, fairly fast, free, and freeing. Not only did I feel empowered, but from that day on, I felt a surge of energy and enthusiasm to forge a fabulous future for myself. 

This super simple inquiry to identify what I needed helped me directly connect to what mattered most inside so that I could feel fulfilled! 

So, if you want to get back to better, but you’re not equipped with the resources to hop on a flight to Fiji or run away to a rain forest retreat, you have another option–start by asking yourself this question:

What do I need?

Give yourself a few minutes to tune in and let the answer appear. Maybe you’ll come up with one thing or a list of 20 things. Maybe you’ll want to pose the question once a day or once an hour. 

Whatever answers unfold, name them and write them down. Don’t panic–there’s no right or wrong here because whatever rises will be true and valid specifically for you. 

I’ll admit this–beating burnout is not an overnight fix. However, taking time to tune in to name your needs is one of the most effective ways to begin the recovery process. The information you gain each time you engage in this exercise will be your window into knowing better so that you can make life-serving choices that help you do better.

Long-lasting happiness, hi. 

As for you, burnout, bye!