Monday, December 16, 2013

Hurting for the Holidays: Avoiding Burnout by Flowrsinherhair

photo by Jennifer Upton

For the 2013 holiday season, I am hosting a blog series called Hurting for the Holidays.  Twenty-six amazing guest writers are sharing their hearts, hurts, and helps to help those of us who carry an internal ache to navigate this celebratory season.  Find all posts in the series here, and participate via social media through the hashtag #HurtingfortheHolidays.

A few years ago now, I suffered burnout.  It wasn’t a physical condition and it wasn’t a nervous breakdown.  I didn’t flip out or lose my mind . . . it was more a kind of deep and silent emotional fatigue.  In hindsight, I do believe it was brought on by a lifetime of silent expectations placed on me and maybe what I even placed on myself.  I’m talking decades of expectations, rules and manipulations.  Living a life of compliance to those around me and being “nice” at all costs often left me feeling compromised.  

The problem with living this compromised way of life is that you are in a perpetual cycle of sacrifice . . . forgoing your wants, desires, opinions, voice and ultimately your dreams.  I eventually woke up at almost 40 realizing that I had basically compromised myself away and there was nothing left of me.  I was left feeling depleted and emotionally fatigued (burnt out) and completely heart-broken.

I do believe there are many of us woman in this position who find ourselves in this place at some point in our lives.  When life is pushing you this way and leading you that way, and you perhaps never feel like you really have a say in the direction which your life is taking you.  The pressures that bear down on us to be a certain kind of woman, mother and wife can be a silent kind of bullying – even if it’s self-inflictedThe notion that we could possibly have boundaries or say “no” can be a foreign concept to those around us, but even more so to ourselves.

In many ways, being completely emotionally fatigued was in fact, the absolutely best place to be.  Perhaps even my turning point . . . it was in this dark and isolated place that I could silence the outside chaos.  And start to hear the gentle inner voice again.  From a place of absolute desperation to survive – I could start saying “no” to the things I just didn’t need to be involved in anymore.  Not because I suddenly found courage but because the thought of saying “yes” to anything almost lead me to have a panic attack.  

Looking back at the anxiety I felt around that time makes me smile because it’s ultimately what saved me.  Each time I said “no” I started to learn courage and that the world wouldn’t end if I said “no”.  I would like to say I didn’t hide and withdraw from life, and most people warned me not to – but I did!  

In a way it was part of me finding my voice about what I needed in spite of what those around me were saying.  It was one of the first steps I took in hearing myself and walking it out and it was crucial to my healing.  It didn’t matter who unfriended me as I found my voice and my way.  My self-care was just more important to me.  I’ve learned so much the past two years about what’s really sacred to me -- my relationships and especially, my family!

Sometimes I feel I’ve wasted so much time . . . and I don’t want to waste another minute.  For me burnout didn’t just happen -- it was a lifetime of bad cycles.  I’m not sure about you but usually this time of year, I’m particularly tired and entering the festive season can be overwhelming with its own set of financial and family expectations and pressures.  It can bring back those familiar cycles that can lead us right back to the door of emotional fatigue, making us vulnerable to relapse.  

So as we are fast approach Christmas… I’m already starting to put on the brakes and take forced rest whenever I can . . . walks on the beach, early morning quite times, intimate family dinners, creative play and tender moments together as we head into the festive season.

Be gentle and kind to yourself because you’re worth it!

What is it about the word "no" that makes us afraid to use it?  I know I am -- I get excited and want to say "yes" even when I know I don't have the time or the energy, or I say "yes" out of obligation or fear of being judged.  But boundaries are so, so healthy, and I love that Flowrsinherhair reminds us [me] of that.  What things do you need to give a nourishing "no" to this year?

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I am a Cape Town based artist, mother to two beautiful girls and a wife and I'm not only on a creative journey but also a journey of self-discovery as we try and navigate our way through this thing we call LIFE.


  1. Excellent post....I reached the height of my burn out the other day, and you are soooo right....Being that burnt out, can sometimes be such a good place to be, and give you the realization, and ultimately you feel the desperation of the situation, and its easier to say NO, or whatever it is that needs to be said or done...

    I also find this time of year to be the worst in balancing out everything that life entails....especially that strange paradox of living a seemingly normal life, but still inside, overtaken by grief.

  2. this is gorgeous, and amazing, and SO SO applicable for me right now.


"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King