Overcoming Burnout: Rediscovering Joy and Purpose

Discover how to overcome burnout and rediscover joy and purpose in your life. Join us on this transformative journey towards WholeHearted Living.

Debs Thorpe

2/22/20256 min read

Are you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted? In this blog post, we will explore the causes and effects of burnout. Learn practical strategies to overcome burnout and cultivate a life filled with joy, purpose, and fulfillment. Join us on the path to wholehearted living.

What is burnout?

Contrary to what many people think, burnout is not just something you can 'get over' with a good nights sleep, it is a shut down of your entire system and it requires an holistic systemic approach to recover from. It is where your system has been dealing with chronic stress for a long period of time resulting in mental, emotional and physical exhaustion.

What causes burnout?

Because burnout is often a result of unchecked chronic stress, it can be hard to distinguish when stress has turned into burnout. So here's some of the things that cause chronic stress, and if unchecked will become burnout:

  • Workload- burnout is still primarily associated with work and if you feel chronically overloaded at work, beyond a pressure that means you can complete tasks effectively, the stress will continue to build

  • Lack of control and resources- feeling like you have a lack of autonomy over decisions that affect you, as well as not having access to the resources you need, can take a huge toll on your well-being and cause lots of internal stress

  • Purpose- feeling like there is a lack of purpose or reward for your work can end up in a lack of motivation and lead to feelings of resentment

  • Support- do you have a community or support network to draw upon? Feeling isolated, alone or misunderstood can impact the effects of stress and lead to burnout

  • Values- if your values clash with your workplace, it can cause prolonged stress and potential for clashes with priorities, this can be especially problematic if it's combined with any unfairness/injustice

  • Personality traits- some traits such as perfectionism, pessimism and a need for control may mean that you are more susceptible to burnout

  • Self care- not taking time for yourself, not sleeping well, not taking care of your needs physically, mentally and emotionally are contributors to burnout

What are the different types of burnout?

Overload burnout- this is where you keep working harder and harder in pursuit of your final goal. You can't stop and don't see the risks to your own health to keep going.

Under-challenged burnout- this is where you don't find your job stimulating or challenging enough and become bored, disengaged and cynical.

Neglect burnout- this is where you feel helpless and like you can't do anything right. You might feel incompetent and experience 'imposter syndrome'

Habitual burnout- this is where your mental, physical and emotional fatigue is chronic. It's the most serious stage where you can become depressed and detached.

I'm aware that this all sounds pretty serious, and there's good reason for that.

I wish at the time of my burnout, I recognised it and how serious it was. It would have saved me so much anguish. It's also been the part of my journey that has taken the most healing, forgiveness and compassion.

My Personal Burnout experience...

I have read about many different burnout experiences and whilst they all differ in their circumstances and affects, they tend to follow similar patterns:

Increased demands at work = increase in personal stress/pressure = inability to switch off = exhaustion/fatigue = time off work to recover.

I've read very little about the indepth experience of burnout or what originally caused a person to get to that point in the first place, or what happens when it's a repeated cycle rather than a one off experience.

Encountering my own resistance in sharing my journey, beyond the initial overwhelm of 'where do I begin?', there is a deep sense of shame. And shame is so destructive because it keeps things hidden in the shadows. We don't want to expose those parts of us that come loaded with shame and so it continues to live on, feeding on the secrecy that it loves to exist in.

Throughout my time as a business owner I had multiple encounters with burnout. The last one was the straw that broke the camels back once and for all and is the one that led me on one of the greatest healing journeys I have ever experienced...

By December 2022, I had been running my own wellbeing salon for over 12 years. Starting it from scratch in an area that I had just moved to, it was the dream of 'living life on my terms' that I had been longing for. I loved the challenge of running my own business, as well as the creative thinking that was required. What started as me and a treatment room grew to a team of eight employees serving thousands of clients a year.

As I take a very honest look back now, there were so many warning signs that this would lead to eventual burnout for me that I just didn't see. I am going to share as much as I can here in the hope that they help you to spot the signs in your life and help you to take the steps you need in order to prevent total burnout.

  1. Living life out of alignment with your 'juice'

I speak about this more here, but I truly believe that we can only press on for so long in a situation that is not aligned with who we truly are. My original plan for my wellbeing business was to become a wellbeing centre that would be a place where someone could come and access various therapies to help them work on a particular issue/concern holistically. 'Wellbeing' is something of a buzz word nowadays, but back in 2010, this was a relatively new concept. It quickly, however, developed into being more beauty treatment focused and that became the backbone of the business. I was an excellent therapist and built a core team of amazing therapists which kept us as a five star rated salon consistently.

Here's the thing though, despite excelling at that career, it was never something I truly wanted. I tried many times over the years to step back and develop the more therapy side of things. But every single time I tried, I got pulled back. Either a member of staff left or got sick, clients refused to see anyone but me, or I encountered narcissists that caused huge trauma. EVERY SINGLE TIME. It got to the stage where I thought there was some weird curse that was keeping me and the businees energetically tied somehow.

I was caught in a trap between knowing I wanted something different and the business being the thing that was providing myself, my family and my team with stability and an income, as well as being a sanctuary for so many clients.

The Covid-19 pandemic feels something of an alternative lifetime now doesn't it? But it hit our industry particularly hard. Being close contact, we had to close at every lockdown, and whilst the employees received furlough pay, for us as directors, there was very little support. Witnessing so many people descend into fear and panic, I drew upon all of my therapy training and continued to help clients where possible with free anxiety support sessions, online resources and relaxation sessions. Thanks to our amazing client relationships, we bounced back well, but there's no denying that a huge shift had happened. That whole period demanding even more from me was eating into a fuel tank that was already pretty depleted. I was witnessing the same thing amongst so many business owners and I sensed that many businesses would close within the next 12 months. Not necessarily just because they were no longer financially viable, just because the owners ran out of 'juice'.

During 2022, I knew I had to work on my exit plan. As per usual, it coincided with changes in the team and whilst we tried to recruit and find people who could push the business forward, it just didn't work. This time I broke. And I knew me breaking meant the business had to close. This realisation was unbearably hard because even though the business wasn't exactly in alignment with my passion, it was my baby that I had literally given everything to for over 12 years of my life.

Here's the tough part and why we begin the WholeHearted Journey with radical honesty, choosing what you need that is truly in alignment with your dreams, desires and passions might mean some difficult choices and decisions need to be made, especially if you have veered away from yourself for a long period of time.

The Road to Recovery...