I’ve mentioned often that I’m in burnout recovery. Since being basically non-functioning at the end of 2021, meaning literally spending most of my time in bed and only doing what was absolutely necessary and routine, I’ve been in recovery mode for the last year and bit. (If you prefer video, scroll to the bottom of this post.)
This is where I’ve learned the most important aspects of living intentionally. I learned to listen to my body. It was so tired. I had to listen to my brain which was so foggy it barely put two thoughts together. I was unable to read as I couldn’t focus on the words or retain the information. I had zero interest in being creative. In fact, the thought of creativity exhausted me.
My self care became high priority. I enlisted the help of two professionals – a therapist and a performance coach. My husband and I ended the relationships with the greatest sources of stress in our life. I took some time off. Then went to work part-time in a routine position where I could go to work and come home and not need to think about work after hours. (Yes, it paid crap.) I’ll be honest, this didn’t do much for my self-esteem, but I kept reminding myself that this was necessary for my healing.
I needed so much rest.
It took nine months before I could read a novel without having to repeat reading pages to ensure my comprehension.
I wanted so badly to write my blog and after some false starts, only this year, a year after starting recovery, have I had the energy and creativity return to finally start sticking to a writing schedule and feel great about it!
Most of all this took patience. Patience, I didn’t want to have but literally had no choice, so accept it, I did. And patience gives a good lesson in intentionality.
Did I mentioned I napped?
My husband and I wanted to garden, he and my son built a beautiful greenhouse from a single car frame we had. Due to our very late spring last year, we didn’t get to planting until July! I quickly realized I had little energy for gardening, so we just planted the greenhouse. And even then only harvested beans (lots), strawberries (maybe 15), radishes (3), and a healthy box of tomatoes. We accepted that that was all we had the energy for last year. But enjoyed whatever foods we grew. It was a good decision to not to bite off more than we could chew. This year, we have our full garden planned greenhouse and outside and just started seeds in the house!
I’m telling you all this because if you are where I was, well, chances are you can’t even read this. Ha! But I want you to know, you’re not alone. And it can get better. I had to learn not to push myself. There were so many times just the thought of doing something exhausted me. If the thought exhausts you, say no. Have a nap instead. If you don’t, recovery will take so much longer.
I remember the first time having a friend over during my recoery, and she stayed for the afternoon. I was exhausted after one hour of visiting. She stayed for four hours. Understand, pre-burnout a four-hour visit would have been normal. For her, this was business as usual. I didn’t have the heart to ask her to leave. But as a friend, I could have. If the situation were reversed and my friend said she was tired, I wouldn’t be offended to leave. I’d be respectful of my friend’s healing. But I didn’t open up with my friend about it. I paid for my decision with three days of set-back after. Fully exhausted, in bed. That was on me, not her by any means. It’s so important to listen with your heart and abide by it. If someone doesn’t understand or is offended, they may not be someone you need in your life, at least during recovery.
I stopped cooking. I’d try to meal plan, but it was hap-hazard at best. We ate out too often but justified it because “we’re in burnout.” I went so far backwards from all the work I’d put into improving my health prior to burnout. I’ve only recently regained an interest in cooking again, but I’ve noticed the recipes and meals still need to be quick and simple. Too much effort and I still get tired or lose interest. It’s helpful if my husband takes an interest in cooking too and we work together. It’s like building a new habit again. But good food heals. Good food is essential to recovery.
This past Christmas, just a few months ago, the gathering was at our house and any meal idea that we mentioned, I mentally couldn’t handle the complexity of multiple dishes. So, we made traditional Christmas dinner in a slow cooker – chicken stew it was with stuffing, salad and buns on the side. Simple. I needed simple. And it worked, no one complained.
I’ve been a minimalist for five years now, which is a great place to start learning about intentional choices, but I’ve learned more about stress, overwhelm and listening to your body and mind in the last year a bit. Selfcare is essential. Listen. Listen. Listen. And abide by your own needs regardless of expectation. You matter. And if you want to get better, you need to prioritize yourself. Get your needs looked after. Intentionally make your selfcare a priority. It takes time. I’m not fully recovered, but at least I’m 80 – 90% more functional that I was a year ago. I feel energized and I’m excited about what I have going on in my life.
If you want to talk, reach out to me. I’m happy to talk to you.