The Burnt Out Yogi: My StoryDec 14, 2018
I have been there. I have suffered burnout and been to rock bottom.
I have seen and felt the results of what happens when we push ourselves too far, and when we are in a place of constant stress – whether mental, emotional, or physical.
I WAS THE BURNED-OUT YOGI
This is my story…
In 2009 I suffered an emotional breakdown and severe burnout. I had given too much of myself to my emotionally toxic marriage and had tried to fix, save, and heal my newly diagnosed bipolar husband.
This experience sucked all the life out of me!
Even though it was one of the most difficult decisions I had ever made, I had to let go and stop trying to take responsibility for someone else’s growth, health, and happiness… and to be responsible for MY life and MY well-being instead.
I signed the divorce papers and a few days later I was on a plane.
On the 4th of April 2010, I went on an adventure, my own personal ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ journey, and over nine months I traveled to India, Bali, and Australia.
I did 4 944 Yoga Sun Salutes for charity; I visited only warm places with beaches, sunshine, and happiness.
I went to heal, gain strength, figure out who I was, discover my passions, have fun, and rediscover my inner light.
This was my Follow the Sun Journey.
I gave myself permission and some space to think, to dream, to discover myself and what I wanted from life. “What was my purpose?”
Along my travels it hit me! My body gave me the answer… It tingled all over.
“I want to do this! My purpose is this! I want to create this healing journey, for other women.”
And so, that is what I did…
Seven years later, after many years of inspiring women to create their sunshine and having founded and run my Yoga and Women’s Wellness company, Follow the Sun, I found myself back in paradise, on a beautiful island, and back to feeling exhausted.
This time it was different though.
I was not emotionally drained and depleted. After my divorce, I decided I would never again lose myself in a relationship like I did before.
This time it was physical and mental. I had lost myself in my work and the running of my wellness businesses!
Rats! I did it again.
I had given so much of myself, I had nothing left to give.
I was so irritated with myself that I was in that situation again!
Once again, I was burned out.
I spent the morning in the warm, crystal turquoise blue water floating on my SUP board gazing at the turtles swimming beneath me. It was beautiful. I was in paradise.
As I lay on a day-bed with white beach sand between my toes, salt in my hair, a frangipani flower behind my ear, and coconut-smelling suntan lotion on my skin, I drank my freshly squeezed pineapple juice, reflected on my day, and thought to myself, “I should be loving life.” But I’m not!
That is the thing about trying to be Superwoman, on the outside it may seem we have it all together. It looked like I lived the perfect life.
To the outside world, I was a successful business owner.
I traveled the world to exotic locations while inspiring women to create their sunshine.
To the outside world, I seemed happy and free, and yet on the inside my body was in knots of anxiety.
I felt trapped, depleted, and exhausted. But I didn’t even realize I had these feelings because I was too busy, and too rushed to listen to my body’s messages.
I had been ‘coping’ for so long now! I had been too strong.
For seven long years since my divorce, I had been the ultimate Superwoman and creating my Empire (and of course feeling like I must ‘do it on my own’).
I built up Follow the Sun a business that was running in two major cities in South Africa and took ladies on International Retreats all over the world.
We not only offered private yoga classes, free outdoor group yoga sessions, one-on-one life coaching, workshops, weekend retreats, and tourist packages but I also created a 9-month Corporate Wellness Program.
For this, I flew up to Johannesburg once a month to facilitate.
I had 20 Yoga Angels and 10 Coaching Angels working for me – project managers, finance people, marketing people, a marvelous wing girl, and right-hand woman, plus business mentors and coaches.
That was only in Cape Town, never mind our JHB branch!
It was a great success.
We were transforming so many people’s lives, and I love what I do.
However, if I was totally honest with myself, I was doing too much. I was tired and utterly depleted!
When I finally took some time out to listen to my inner wisdom and had a moment of clarity on the beach in paradise, I realized she was saying,
“You need space, dear Sharni.”
She whispered, “You need to stop. You need to say no. You need to let go. You need to stop giving to everyone else and remember to look after yourself.”
I won’t lie to you. It was not a painless process.
It took me another 18 months to fully realize I was in full-blown mental and physical burnout and then figure out how to recover from it.
The cost of putting so much pressure on myself, of living with constant underlying stress and eventually burning out entirely in September 2017 had an extreme impact on many areas of my life.
Burning out meant that:
- I had to let go of my relationship at the time as I realized the situation was draining me.
- I put my business on hold as I didn’t have the energy to engage with my clients.
- I spent thousands, including all my savings, on medical bills and healers.
- I had to survive day-to-day with no salary for more than a year and a half.
- For a year I hid from the world – I went off social media – and physically couldn’t connect with my Tribe of Ladies, my friends, or my family (which was highly unusual for my natural bubbly, social butterfly me).
- The most devastating cost for me, the main impact due to my major two burnout episodes, is not that my life completely ‘fell apart’…. but that I did.
The health implications were catastrophic to my life and severely debilitating.
I have learned that without our health, we have nothing!
So, what exactly did burnout look like for me physically, this time?
I suffered from:
- chronic fatigue
- adrenal dysfunction
- stomach issues.
These manifested as symptoms of:
- depression and anxiety
- debilitating fatigue
- brain fog
- hormone imbalances
- tingling fingers
- ringing in my ears
- seeing stars
- feeling faint and dizzy
- feeling bloated
- stomach cramps
- only having one menstruation period in 5 months
I couldn’t stand up or hold a conversation for more than 5 minutes without feeling like I was going to pass out, I was not able to work on my computer or to be on my phone for more than 1/2hr a day without feeling sick.
I couldn’t get out of bed, never mind exercise or get through a Vinyasa Yoga session.
My emotions were all over the place, I was constantly crying, I felt like a failure and had extremely low self-worth and self-confidence.
My body was in constant fight or flight mode.
My nervous system was shot and no matter how much rest I took, or how much time-out I had in an Ashram, I didn’t feel better.
For a normally positive person I had a very negative mind set.
I was irritable, angry and I was in constant fear and lack mode.
I dropped balls, I let people down.
I didn’t have the energy to face the world and I didn’t like the person I had become.
This was as a result of me trying so hard to be Superwoman and putting myself under severe stress for many years.
Watch this video where I was interviewed by Natural Medicine World at the beginning of 2018. This video was before I put myself on my ‘Burnout Rehab & Recovery Program.’ Click the image below:
What happened next on my Journey?
After my major burnout, after being put on antidepressants for four months and then going off them because the side effects were awful (by the way I healthily went off them and working with a naturopath, just before you think I was going off meds on my own.)
After not being able to cope, after losing my health and being incapable of living a ‘normal’ life, after disappointing and almost losing my clients, I had a moment of clarity.
I needed to let go and redesign my life.
It wasn’t just about enjoying the odd bubble bath or massage or going on a holiday or retreat to beautiful locations.
It wasn’t only about doing work that I loved or having fun, laughing, and enjoying a glass of wine with my girlfriends.
It wasn’t the healthy living routine of doing Yoga, eating clean, having a daily meditation practice, and getting to bed early; I was doing all of that!
I needed to go deeper.
I had to honestly look at my life choices, my unhealthy patterns, and my limiting beliefs that were holding me back.
I needed to dive deep and redefine, realign, and redesign the way I was living my life.
During 18 months I admitted I was #theburntoutyogi.
I let go of EVERYTHING in my life that was no longer serving me.
I redesigned my work life, doing less, earning more passive income, and spending less time on my computer.
I let go of all my ‘stuff’, and now I am totally location independent, feel so much lighter, and can live wherever I choose.
I have simplified my day-to-day activities, and I even cut off my long lifeless hair.
My most massive shift was not only realizing that I was pushing myself too hard but also that I was a people-pleasing, perfectionist ‘yes’ girl, who aimed to have everything – success, love, money, a family and do this all plus ‘save the world’ and EVERYONE in it.
No wonder I burnt out!
Eventually, I stopped.
I released the fears that were driving me and the expectations I put on myself.
I slowed down, ceased everything that I was doing and how I was doing it, stepped back into my power, connected with my inner wisdom, and got back into the flow.
I admitted I was the Burnt-out Yogi and I put myself on my own ‘Burnout Rehab and Recovery Program’ for 10 Weeks.
I spent months resting in Bali as well as seeking treatment with traditional Balinese healers; working with naturopaths and functional medicine doctors; seeing EFT practitioners; doing gentle Yoga; reiki; daily massages; weekly acupuncture and Chakra meditations; visiting astrologists and angel card readers; as well as changing my diet, lifestyle, thinking patterns and limiting beliefs.
Read more about my healing plan and Burnout Recovery Program in this blog – ‘My Life-changing Burnout Recovery Journey.’
Since then, I have completely got rid of anything toxic that was draining my energy.
I lost excess weight, I let go of fear and obstacles that were holding me back… and now I feel happy, alive, radiant, and free again.
I have transformed my life so that I now:
· Stress less and live more
· Control less and surrender more
· Cope less and flow more
· Work less and earn more
· Criticise less and accept more
· Rush less and experience more
· Fear less and trust more
I have redesigned my life to stress less & live more!
Since then, life has unfolded magically…
I still can’t believe how it has all flowed!
Yes, there were times when I was dealing with utter fear and panic, ‘what-ifs’, and all the emotions that come with letting go of the old and moving into the unknown new.
However, I also know that everything worked out exactly as it was meant to… and I am so grateful for the hard times as well as the good times… because each one of those moments had been a gift to encourage me to learn and grow.
I soak up these many magical moments and scooter through my new home of Bali. As I weave through the rice paddies towards a new future and listen to Eddie Vedder’s song, “Better Days”… I reflect on his perfectly poignant words:
I feel part of the universe open up to meet me
My emotion so submerged, broken down to kneel in
Once listening, the voices they came
Had to somehow greet myself, read myself
Heard vibrations within my cells, in my cells
Singing, “Ah-la-ah-ah, ah-la-ah-ah”
My love is safe for the universe
See me now, I’m bursting
On one planet, so many turns
Singing, “Ah-la-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah-ah, ah”
Fill my heart with discipline
Put there for the teaching
In my head see clouds of stairs
Help me as I’m reaching
The future’s paved with better days
I take a deep breath, breathe in the feeling of freedom, and open up to wherever my future may take me.
Excitement rises in my belly as I realize…
THAT… COULD… BE… ANYWHERE!
Sending much love & light
To support yourself on your journey, fill in your details here and I will email you my FREE eBook – SUPERWOMAN UNPLUGGED: 5 Simple Steps to Live Your Best Life… By Doing Less!