Authentic Conversations: burnout recovery story by Lacy

Hi there,

In this series of authentic conversations around burnout, clients and people from my network share their transformative journey openly with the world. The intention with this series is to create awareness and understanding around burnout and chronic stress. My hope is that these stories will inspire others to be brave, challenge their beliefs and speak up on their needs, to avoid burnout and other stress related outcomes. Below you can read the story from Lacy.

Lacy Burnout recovery story.jpg

Hi, I'm Lacy. I am a 30-something, American expat from Virginia, living in Amsterdam with my husband, toddler son & infant daughter. I have a passion for event planning (4 weddings for friends!), I love watching food documentaries & reading cookbooks, practicing yoga, sending snail mail, and exploring Europe with my family. I have worked in the corporate world for over 10 years, in the areas of Strategic Consulting, Client Services, and Digital Marketing focused on transforming customer's digital marketing experiences. This is my story. 

How did you find out that you were suffering from burnout?

I felt it coming for months, well, years. I’ve spent my life being driven by what I believe others think of me, and living solely from my ego. A deep sense of duty, responsibility and desire to please others driving me from the moment my feet hit the floor in the morning until my head hit the pillow at night. I was an honor roll student, honors college graduate, editor-in-chief, ballet soloist, always first to RSVP, first to send a birthday card, first to lend a hand, first to volunteer to lead, and so on. 

I moved to Amsterdam with my family in 2017, where I took on a Europe based leadership role that soon expanded to a global reach. I was working day in and day out while adjusting to a major life transition, with no time for rest, reflection or any bit of quiet. If you had talked to me last year these are the things you would have heard me say…

“I’m working 14 to 16 hours per day to manage time zone demands. I drink 4 cups coffees before 10 AM! I am a working mother, of course, I am busy. We are all busy. Pilates, what? I stopped working out months ago. I feel like my emotions are sitting on the edge of my chest, and I just have to fight through them. If I have to go to one more meeting, I may break. I can’t focus on this meeting or even when I’m playing cars with my son. I’m foggy all day, every day. I cannot miss this meeting or I’ll let my team down. We won’t have a voice if I miss this meeting. I’ve added 4 blocks of time into my day for breaks and recovery. I didn’t even stop for a bathroom break until after lunch. I’ve started working with a coach to help me sort through this stuff. I’m going to start taking Fridays off to help me balance my time better. I worked on Friday, and Saturday. I just have to send one more email. I’ll come to bed when this meeting is over at midnight. I can’t make book club, I’ll be there next month.”

My way of being and the life I was living was unsustainable. I remember sitting in Eva’s practice in the spring of 2018 and she said to me, “You have to take time away from work. Your body is under severe stress, and you need to rest.”

What did it mean for you to be burned out?

On April 30, 2018, in a moment, it all went black. I literally collapsed onto the floor and passed out. I remember coming to sobbing, hyperventilating, saying “I can’t do this anymore.” If my husband hadn’t been there, I may have laid in darkness all day or worse. My body and mind crumbled from the stress I was under, and I knew I couldn’t keep living at this pace. My doctor informed me that afternoon my body was in burnout and if I didn’t make a dramatic change, my health would suffer greatly. I had no choice. It was time for a shift.

What worked for you to heal yourself from the burnout?

Burnout is not one-dimensional. It’s a multi-faceted experience that generally takes time to build up. So recovery is a process of many things, gradually, over time. Finding the right mix of support, both physically and mentally.

I stepped away from work entirely for 5 ½ months. At first, I slept, a lot. My body and mind were desperate for rest. One small outing or task per day was all I could manage for a few weeks. In between sleeping, I worked with Eva, I went to yoga and acupuncture, I journaled & meditated, I went to the park and just sat. I had to dramatically press pause & rewire my entire being in a way that confused my brain and ego, but that I knew in my heart was absolutely necessary to recover. Physically, I started eating regularly, getting on a set sleep schedule, drinking water, and less caffeine, and exercising.

In the last year, talking about my burnout has helped me to process who I was, and to heal. I’ve spoken at the Amsterdam Women in Tech Regatta, on The Selfish Podcast and now I’m sharing my story here with you. Being authentic about my experience, so other women might hear my story & examine their life, makes me feel like I’m not alone. I’ve even met some new friends through these experiences, which makes my heart happy.

I have found over the last year that not only has my mindset shifted, but so have the practical things I do each day to care for myself. These are crucial in helping me to stay grounded and aligned so I make time and space for them on a daily or weekly basis. Let me share them with you as they might be interesting for your daily practice.

My phone is still with me every day, but it has some helpful things I utilize to help me find balance, like the following mobile apps:

  • Insight Timer - guided (timed) meditations, inspirational talks, and peaceful music. I take 15-30 minutes each morning when I arrive at work to listen to a guided meditation.

  • Relaxation Melodies - great for mixing and matching relaxing sounds to sleep, while in transit, or to listen to while you’re meditating.

  • Apple Watch Breathe App - Set how often you want to be reminded to stop and breathe during a day & it will send reminders to do so if you have missed a session and encouragements based upon your heart rate and other health factors. Will go for 1 minute and vibrates for inhale/exhale to keep you focused and steady. Also measures your heart rate. 

A great way to take in meaningful topics is by listening to podcasts. These are just a few that I have found of interest and I continue to listen to weekly or even re-listen to from my favorite guests:

  • Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations, my favorites are Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ainslie MacLeod, Brene Brown, Gary Zukav, Father Richard Rohr, Elizabeth Lesser, Wayne Dyer

  • Goop - mostly health-focused and woman-led topics

  • On Being

Body-mind-soul alignment:

  • Authentic Leadership Coaching with Eva :)

  • Acupuncture with Sandra Guy at Heavenly Star Acupuncture

  • Cognitive Brain Therapy with a licensed therapist

  • Yin Yoga 2-3x per week

Self-care rituals:

  • Sunday baths with meditation or inspirational talk

  • Listening to podcasts and meditations while in transit or doing chores

  • Morning meditation after getting to work (15-30 min)

  • Reading every night for no less than 30 min, simply because it makes me happy. I keep at least one spiritual book in rotation at all times, alongside the fiction books I enjoy.

How did you know you were recovered from burnout? How did you feel?

I’m not the same person I was before, my entire being has shifted. It needed to for me to stay alive. I don’t know that I’ll ever be fully “recovered” from my burnout. 

But, I did come to a place after 4 ½ months of finding a good rhythm where I felt I had enough physical energy and mental stamina to gradually return to work. With support from my husband, my manager and Eva I found a sustainable way to reintegrate at work, and into a new role that was right for the new me. The support was critical and continues to be one of the most important things for me, alongside the actions mentioned above that help me feel grounded and connected to myself.

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self to prevent the burnout?

Stress and burnout are real. Burnout has become a bit of a fluffy buzzword that society paints with a rosy brush giving advice like, “take a day off to rest'' or ''just take a yoga class to destress from burnout.” But burnout isn’t just about taking one day away or one yoga class, it’s about the recovery and re-connection of your mind with your body and soul. And as women, as leaders, and as members of society, we can’t continue to support unsustainable ways of being by asking our bodies and minds to work at warp speed day after day.

I’d say to my 20-year-old self, “stop and start”. Stop living for others. Stop seeking validation from your ego. Stop living from your head. Stop making decisions for Mom and Dad. Stop caring what Sally next door thinks or says. Stop driving so hard. The corner office isn’t going to make you happy. Stop.

Start sleeping. Put your phone away. Start listening to your heart. Start listening to your body. Start saying “no” when it doesn’t feel right. Don’t over-schedule your weekend. Start coming in last. Start lying on the couch. Start connecting with your heart. Start being real about who you are. Breathe. You are good enough just as you are. 

I want to thank Lacy for her bravery in sharing her recovery story. I hope you will take her learning to heart, and listen to the wisdom she has gained through this experience.   

Together we can change the narrative around burnout by being open about how we deal with the challenges in our lives. As being open in our vulnerability is the real strength. Women owning their stories, aligned with their bodies and souls, are the real power women, and the new leaders we need in our (business) world and society.

My wish is that this story inspires you to become real about your own life. To be brave, to start to reflect on your beliefs and lifestyle. My desire is that you take your body and soul seriously, and that you can see that you are more than just a walking head. A head that constantly pushes us to do more, and better.

The first step is to take a moment to pause and reflect. To start to connect with your body and soul. This practice of pausing and reconnecting with your body will help you to transform your life, so you align with who you truly are. Living from an aligned mind, body and soul gives burnout no chance to take hold.

Eva Visser Plaza Authentic Leadership Coach.jpg

Hi, I am Eva, and I support women who are working hard to climb the career ladder, or grow their thriving small business. 

I facilitate them to create a life and career with purpose and wellbeing, so that they can create a balanced and conscious life. I do this by helping them to reconnect with their body and soul. This alignment creates authentic leadership and contributes positively to our current changing world.

If you have any questions about burnout, or you feel you are ready to ask for support to create purpose or wellbeing in your life, feel welcome to contact me. Find out the different services I offer for women like you.

I would also love to hear from you if you have had a burnout, are now recovered, and wish to share your story on my blog to inspire other women. If so, you can contact me here.

Posted on May 27, 2019 and filed under Authentic Conversations.