Burnout: More Than a Catch Phrase

Earlier this year, I retired from being a hands-on healer. I prefer the term “retire” over “quit” because it reflects the respect and passion I still feel for the profession. To me, “quit” implies I could no longer stand working that job for one more minute, that I no longer had the passion required to do the job right, and I desperately needed to move on to greener pastures.

But I still love the healing profession, and my goal in my new career is to help the healers so they can continue to do their best work without worrying about whether their marketing content is readable or if their new book has any typos in it.

The reality is—and it’s taken me the better part of the year to truly understand this—that even though I still loved the profession I was in, I was completely, 100% burnt out. I was so burnt out that it has taken me the better part of this year to recover.

I wrote this in April 2019. The pain and frustration is palpable, but I still felt guilty for wanting to put myself first after so many years of putting myself last.

When I did my last massage on March 30th, I celebrated. Then I went on vacation. When I got home, my husband and I agreed that I’d take April for myself, to train for my brown belt test and to just recover a bit from the stress of the last couple years.

April went by. I tested for and received my brown belt. May saw my birthday and our anniversary. June went by, and July, and August. And while I did bring some money in with my new business, in reality I spent most of my time with my dog and gardening. And it felt amazing.

It has only been within the last couple months where I have genuinely felt the need to start working again. And the work is slowly coming in. And I love it. It fills me with the joy that had been missing from my last career for the last few years. I am looking forward to growing my business exponentially and helping all those amazing healers get their voice out to those who need to hear it.

I made it nine years as a full-time massage therapist, which is incredible. The burnout rate is somewhere between three to five years, so I did pretty well for myself. The thing is, I had hoped it would be my last career. I had planned on staying in the industry until I was too old to do it anymore. I loved it that much.

But, I didn’t take care of myself. My modus operandi was to givegivegive until I hit a wall, take a week off, and repeat. I did this in a six to nine month rotation for nine years. I took no time off for injuries and regularly took on my clients’ emotions and energies without taking the time to divest myself of them after (I know how hippy-dippy that sounds, but anyone in any kind of caring role understands that all too well).

All these things build up over time, and if you don’t invest in some serious self-care they’ll weigh you down until you can’t get up. It’s the unfortunate reality that I spent nine years convinced that basic truth didn’t apply to me. Well, big surprise Kate, it did. And does.

It turns out, this year has largely been about me taking care of myself. That it has taken the better part of a year to heal from how I chose to live my last career is disturbing. The effects weren’t so much physical and mental and emotional. I did it to myself, and I paid the price. I am just lucky enough that I have a supportive partner with a good job, which allowed me the luxury of taking the time I needed to heal. I don’t take it or him for granted; had the circumstances been different, I’d still be struggling in a career I could no longer do and suffering greatly for it.

A large part of my healing process this year has involved being outside with my two best guys. They fill my heart.

I guess I’m saying all this as a cautionary tale. Burnout is real, and its effects can be long-lasting. Self-care is such a buzzword these days and I almost hesitate to use it, but it is so real and so necessary. Don’t do what I did. Don’t play the martyr and work yourself to the bone. Don’t give everything you have to everyone else, leaving nothing for yourself. Don’t use the excuse (like I did) that self-care is too expensive. It doesn’t have to be. However little you make, there is something you can do that will give your mind, body, and Spirit some time to refresh. Even if it is taking the long way to work so you get an extra five minutes of peace to yourself.

Be “selfish.” Take that time for you. You can’t give what you don’t have, and if you don’t have compassion for yourself, you’ll be hard pressed to find it for anyone else.

You don’t have to burn out like I did. Find ways to take care of yourself so you can keep on loving your passions and engaging fully with the world.

You are worth it.