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Healing from Burn Out

For those of us who work in healthcare, or are care givers at home, the feeling of burn out is familiar. If we are lucky it only lasts in waves. Every once in a while we feel the burden and if we have a chance to leave and replenish ourselves, we can return with a charged battery. If we are caregivers at home with a sick family member, the burden is deeper and the burn out can turn into a chronic issue, manifesting as pain or depression.

In my 15-year career as an ER nurse, I had three major burn outs. Each time I was at an emotionally intense moment of my life that forced me to make a decision and stop my work. By listening to my inner voice and following my calling I took a whole new path in my life journey and I learned the most valuable lessons of my life.

From listening to my clients I know that burn out can also happen in any other job setting. A toxic job environment and continuous high stress forces the body to shut down. I remember someone telling me that they want to disappear when they are in their work environment. I also had a momentary feeling of freeze one time during a very high stress ER day, where I could hear and see things around me but I was not able to move or talk. Sometimes burn out can come as an aftermath of a traumatic event. If the person does not have the resources to help them understand and heal from the trauma, the stress and anxiety from it can escalate into a state of burn out. Sometimes the burn out itself can become a traumatic event. After I left the toxic work environment walking on the path that would take me to work would bring a flash back of the trauma. Even being around the building would give me a sense of doom!

Sometimes we feel stuck at a job because of our financial commitments, or our own view of ourselves. I encounter that in a lot of women whose sense of self worth is tied into their work and they force themselves to remain at their job even if men are bullying them. I also see that in men who feel forced into providing for their family by continuing a high stress job without being properly appreciated. Being in a toxic relationship is another situation where it can lead to burn out, as well as the lack of emotional support from our closest community and feeling isolated. Sometimes I encounter burn out in people who are going through intense medical procedures, such as chemotherapy, or even after a surgery, abortion, miscarriage or a traumatic birthing experience. Complications after childbirth can also be detrimental to people. I remember working at a NICU as a nurse for a few months and seeing how drained some parents can get after months of dealing with complications of their new borns.

Some of the signs of burn out are pains that come and go, getting angry easily, palpitations, shortness of breath, panic attacks, having a hard time falling asleep, or waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to sleep. Low appetite and losing weight, or stress eating and gaining weight, excessive thinking and ruminating, feeling low energy and fatigue, especially in the morning, depression and anxiety, or a general sense of not enjoying life, menstrual irregularities, fertility issues and low libido can also become a problem.

If the state of burn out lingers without change or acknowledgment on our part, it can lead us towards chronic issues. The burn out can start affecting our hormones, especially the thyroid and adrenals, and lead to thyroid issues or in a more intense level to adrenal fatigue. Also it can affect our immune system and lead to chronic issues such as autoimmune conditions. The lack of yin and nourishment and support is at the base of all autoimmune conditions that I encounter in my acupuncture practice. A heat that is rising out of a yin deficient state is like a fire that is burning even though it has consumed most of the coals. This heat is burning us from inside and until we find a way to cool it down we are going to get consumed by it.

So what should we do when we are in a burn out? One of my clients recently asked me that. What if you cannot quit that job, what if you are a care giver at home, what if you are in the aftermath of a traumatic event and the damage is already done? The main word that I can think of is “resource”. If there is one thing I want the reader to take away from this blog it is that. Burn out is a personal process. Like grieving, we each have our own ways, our own limits, and our own resources.

Have you had this experience in the past? What has helped you in the past? If not, where do you feel at peace? What are the times where you notice you don’t have pain. That you are taking a deep breath of relief, that your nervous system is grounding and regulating itself. That you even have a faint feeling of joy for being alive. That you are able to see the green grass and trees and flowers and you feel they are nourishing your soul. That you can Be in the present moment and not in the fog of a mental argument that has happened in the past or is yet to happen in the future. If you know the answer to this question, you have figured out the first step. Next is a matter of discipline. The more you place yourself in that zone of peace and grounding, the more you are able to come up with practical solutions that will help you leave the place that is draining you.

Change is possible, that is the most important truth about life. In fact the only thing that is true in life is change. I recently learned that about my nervous system and was amazed by how quickly one can shift from a state of burn out and trauma to a state of relaxation that is palpable in everyday matters. For some people it might take days or even weeks and months of steady practice and for some it can happen quicker. That is where having a sturdy discipline comes into play.

My father was assassinated last year in his house and my trauma was palpable in my shaking months later. Every time I was in contact with people about him, even if this was just a text, my whole body would shake and tremor. After I found out the news, my refuge became the mountain trails and a little waterfall by my house. I go for a hike and sit by the water, feeling the energy of the water wash through me. I come back feeling hope and a shift in my nervous system. Recently I came together in a cleanse group with my polarity community and worked with a hypnotherapist that I met through the group. Things started to shift and after my session with her I noticed the shivering is gone.

As a practitioner of energy work, I truly value receiving a session from another practitioner. Every once in a while I feel the need to ask someone else to help me shake my energy. That’s another resource that we can use. Acupuncture, massage, reiki, polarity, sound therapy, hypnotherapy, meditation, going for long walks or hikes in nature, running, yoga, tai chi, swimming, exercising, or playing music. Any kind of body-mind action that will shift and clear our energy, shake our stress, ground our nervous system, and open up new pathways in our brain. To see the truth that will help us find solutions. To be open to more light in our life.


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