My Journey to Burnout and Back: A One Year Update

retreat bridge shot

It was nearly one year ago that I first began to share about my experience with burnout.

Last January, I shared very candidly about the circumstances and lifestyle choices I had made that had pushed me to a place of spiritual, mental and physical breakdown. It was undoubtedly one of the hardest times of my life, and yet I have learned so much and come so far since that time, that a friend encouraged me to share what my journey out of burnout has looked like.

A Timeline

This is sort of an bird’s eye view of the journey that I’ve been on:

  • August 2009- Birth of third child
  • Fall 2009- Began a season of challenging life circumstances, and did not allow myself to rest and recover from birth, but instead pushed myself too hard to keep going, started writing a new book, and landed myself in the hospital with a serious infection
  • Winter 2009/10- More family health issues (mostly my husband), lost several family members to cancer, travelling for work.
  • Spring 2010- Frantically trying to complete my 2nd book, prepare to launch a new website, attend another work conference, and move into a new home.
  • Summer 2010- Launched second website, moved, tried to keep up with gardening and preserving, all the while beginning to experience early signs of burnout and depression.
  • Fall 2010- Realized that I was really becoming undone, started admitting that I needed help, made a plan to sell my new website, but still pushing myself as we began the new homeschool year and I kept up with both businesses.
  • Early Winter 2010- Finalized details for selling website, began to make plans for rest and recuperation in the New Year.
  • Winter 2011- Website officially sold in early January. Started Wellness series here on Keeper of the Home. Began reading as much as I could on depression, adrenal fatigue and spiritual depression. Started to allow myself to rest, began taking supplements and eating specifically to heal my body, and significantly cut back my schedule, both work and personal. Took a 2 day personal retreat.
  • Spring 2011- Starting to feel that the fog is truly lifting. Energy is returning, after 2 months spent doing very little but resting. The spring sunshine helps a lot. I continue to try to give myself more grace to rest and recover, and undertake a one-week physical cleanse to rejuvenate my body. Prepare to go to the Philippines with Compassion International.
  • Summer 2011- Travel to the Philippines (an amazing trip), return home to discover that my friend who was battling cancer is now terminal, and also that I am newly pregnant with #4. Spend the summer trying to rest, doing the bare minimum in the home, grieving and spending time with our friend and especially her family after she passes in July. Realize that although I am better in so many ways, I still don’t have a lot of extra reserves for taxing circumstances.
  • Fall 2011- Energy is returning with the pregnancy. Spend some time working for our family music school, in addition to my business, but this time my husband and I make a plan for extra childcare and household help, and I postpone starting homeschool until my work load lightens up. Perhaps I’m learning a little. :)

Caring for Myself- a Novel Idea That Actually Works

This brings me to these past couple of months, during which I have continued to find new ways to keep a more manageable schedule and do things that keep my body and spirit healthy.

I signed up with the Hello Mornings challenge, to give myself the added inspiration to get up early for exercise and regular time with the Lord. This was one of the best things I did this fall. I had to force myself to go to bed earlier as much as I could (always a good thing).

The physical exercise was so refreshing and has helped me to remain mostly comfortable and energetic as I pass the 30 week mark in this pregnancy. The regular time with God each morning was simply healing and life-giving. I needed it so much more than I knew.

I’ve been careful to ensure that I am getting enough irons, minerals, cod liver oil (fatty acids and Vit A and D), among other things throughout the pregnancy, like eating enough protein and trying to drink plenty of water. I also did a 2-month sugar-free diet (along with a host of other food restrictions) to help heal my gut and reduce Candida yeast, which I know has been helpful. I don’t succeed every day at doing/eating everything I should, but being as consistent as I am able to really does make a noticeable difference.

blue sky through trees

Balancing Blogging with Life

Learning to balance blogging work with life has also been an important part of my journey. Here are a few things that I have given up:

  • Most social media. I am still on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, but my participation level is very, very minimal (5 minutes per day or less, and sometimes not at all).
  • Writing as often. I have brought on more writers over this past year, and this has been such a good decision. They add so much amazing knowledge and unique perspectives, and writing only twice per week (for KOTH- I do some other writing as well) is manageable and enjoyable for me.
  • Doing it all myself. I have increasingly been hiring work out, like design or technical work, and have added a fabulous Virtual Assistant, Lindsey, to the KOTH team.
  • Book writing. I took a year and a half off of writing anything beyond my blog and a few online articles for other sites. No new book projects, until just this past month when I took on two small projects that I felt I was finally ready for.
  • Working during the day. My goal is to not get on my computer before noon (except for checking in with my Hello Mornings group and putting up the newest post on Facebook). Other than that, I aim to spend my mornings exercising, doing devotions, serving breakfast, and then homeschooling. This has been immensely helpful. Instead, I work on Tuesday afternoons (with a mother’s helper), in the evenings after the children are in bed, and just recently on Fridays when my husband is able to be home with the children, and occasionally pop on to check email in the afternoons. I try to avoid doing much on the weekends as well, and no more crazy late nights or early mornings.
One ebook that was truly encouraging to me last spring was Simple Blogging, which really helped me to release myself from the need to be this “perfect” blogger who did it all. I’m not that blogger and I don’t want to be. Letting go of feelings of obligation and high expectations on myself has made such a difference in allowing me to blog more peacefully.

Has All of This Really Made a Difference?

In a word, yes.

I wouldn’t say that I am back to the ideal place that I would like to be, healthwise. I am probably back to functioning at about a 90% capacity, but compared to those times a year ago when it was more like 20-40%, that is a vast improvement.

I still occasionally struggle with mild depression. I still sometimes push myself too hard and begin to feel that burnt out feeling. I can tell when my stress levels are too high, because I begin to sleep more poorly, find myself irritable and emotional, and get eczema on my hands. I’m more aware of how I am doing, and am quicker to take steps to make things better.

There’s a reason this post is about my journey, not simply my recovery. It is truly a journey, one that I am definitely still on.

I have learned so much through this experience:

  • I really, honestly cannot do it all. Not even close.
  • I need to be far more dependent on the Lord than I ever realized before.
  • It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help.
  • It is not a sign of weakness to need to rest.
  • When we pick up extra things, something else has to give. The equation doesn’t work if we constantly add, add, add and never subtract.
  • Caring for my physical body and my emotional health is not selfish. It enables me to care for my family from a place of wholeness and strength.
  • Life is meant to be enjoyed, something I still struggle with. But it is a very good and God-given thing to have fun, to laugh, to take delight in people and experiences and the things that He has given us.
  • Our bodies are intricately and wonderfully made. The Lord often uses our health to speak to us, if we’re willing to listen.
  • No amount of personal productivity, or success in meeting my own goals, or even doing “good” things for others, is worth damaging my relationships with God or my family for. Ever.

Thank you for letting me share my story, both last year and now. I am thankful and humbled to be in community, not only with the women in my “real” life who have loved me so well, but also with all of you. So many of you shared your stories and struggles so vulnerably as well, and it is a privilege to walk this journey with you.

Have you ever walked through a season of burnout? What have you learned about keeping yourself healthy, and what actions do you take when you feel yourself becoming unbalanced?

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. I recently learned the power of taking care of yourself. After baby#1 I ended up back in the hospital with post pardum pre-eclampsia and anxiety. I struggled to get the blood pressure under control for much longer than the doctors could explain and struggled with the anxiety for over a year. I realized that part of my problem was overload on information. I was reading everything online that I should be doing with my baby and everything that could go wrong, etc. Just had baby#2 and am happy to say I’m doing great. I let my husband give LO a few ounces of formula at night so I could get more rest, napped every day, I only allowed myself a few minutes of online time to check only email and facebook, I carefully guarded what was showing on our tv to be only something that would make me laugh, didn’t watch the depressing news, sat out in the sun, and only worried about what we needed to do with our baby instead of what everyone was saying we should do. I also meal planned so I didn’t have to worry about that among other things. What a difference it has made! Thanks for sharing and good luck on your continued journey. Lo2 is sleeping good praise the lord so I hope to start getting up before the kiddos as I know that will make a great difference!

  2. Thank you for sharing what you went through and your journey back out. I have been on a similar journey the past year+, and while my physical health has been getting better, I am still sick often, just not AS sick nor AS often. I’ve learned alot from God, though. About being thankful for my sicknesses. About being content where I am–whether well or whether sick. About rejoicing for each day the Lord allows me. sick or not–rejoice, worship, be content….it has helped so much.

    This time has also allowed me to let go, and trust God for what needs done. My husband has helped so much. I hate to see him doing things that I consider MY work as a wife, but when I am sick, I cannot do certain things, so I thank him and I am grateful for his help. He’s seeing I can’t do it all, too! ;) (Like yesterday, we had company coming and the house to show today, so I finished up the cleaning and clearing out of stuff we’re doing in order to move/show the house/etc. I told him what I needed to work on after naptime, but he went ahead and did the vacuuming and dishes for me, and then he cooked most of the supper. None of which I expected, but he saw that it would help me to not get too worn down, which sets me over the edge with my health.) :)

  3. Kari Coppinger says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey. Continuing to pray for you, often when I see your posts on Facebook. Glad we got connected through MYM during your blogging trip.

  4. So much of what you have shared I have experienced…I have been through a year of recovery myself and actually, for me, I had to take off as many parameters and my desire to try to fix it and just rest and be for a bit. I don’t know if that makes sense…and the story is long and involved. But basically, thank you for sharing…there is such a relief to know that I am not alone.

  5. Amazing article! Totally what I needed to read, although I relate I haven’t been through all you had in a year! How did you process the deaths? I lost my dad when I was 15 and now dread cancer and losing loved ones. I understand what you are saying about enjoying life and that’s OK and good, but how do you avoid fear or dread?

    • It’s hard to say how I processed the deaths. The two family members were not particularly close (not parents or anything) so that was a little bit easier, it just took a bit of time to get over. The loss of my friend I am still working through, often on a weekly basis. In that situation, I just have to let myself grieve it when it comes, and continue to remind myself that God is sovereign and in control, and that somehow (even if I don’t understand) he is working things out for our good and his glory. It’s totally about giving it up to him in faith and trust. I’m not sure how else to do it, really.

      As for avoiding fear or dread, that is something that I do struggle with at times. My husband has also had cancer, and sometimes I get fearful and anxious about losing him or I imagine or dream about scenarios in which I lose other loved ones, like my children. Those moments are really hard and I have to just pray through them and ask the Lord to help me to give my anxieties to him. I can’t dwell on them, I just have to keep giving them up, over and over and over again. It’s such a process. I totally don’t have the answer. I’m so sorry for the loss of your Dad. So hard. Thanks so much for sharing.

      • Thank you for sharing Stephanie. It’s nice to know that it isn’t just me who gets incredibly fearful and anxious with imagined scenarios of losing my kids or husband. I agree I, we can’t dwell on them and I need to work on truly giving them over to God. Thank you for being so honest. I love your blog and am so grateful to have stumbled on it tonite.

  6. I appreciated your sharing about overcoming burnout. I have recently experienced this personally. I also believe I have adrenal fatigue off and on as well as other health conditions you mentioned. Small world! In my case I was working several jobs which led me to not as much time with the Lord and for just down time of my own. I didn’t begin to drop the jobs but the Lord had two of them end I feel due to my prayers for relief. Due to having the depression in the midst of the burn out I wasn’t thinking straight and found I couldn’t even make the simplest of decisions. I am not out of the woods yet. I am still working through my schedule and trying to tweak it so I can find time with the Lord and for myself. One of my jobs is extremely physical and now I find I have carpal tunnel symptoms and an old SI joint issue is flaring up so I am getting some warning signs here yet find myself not able to decide what to do otherwise for work. I live in a small community where there are not that many jobs. I often times consider doing something with writing. This is where I am at today. Thanks for sharing. I appreciated it knowing others are going through similar and how they have overcome. God bless!

  7. It is so refreshing to see bloggers be open and honest with things in their life. Successful blogging takes a lot of work. I can completely see how you have been tired (emotionally and physically). I’ve been there where you take on so much and you feel yourself wearing down. Thank you for sharing what you have done to help your body recuperate. It’s always good to see ideas on how to rest and re-energize.

  8. It so encouraging to read others going through this journey. I would say I’m in the midst of a burn out trying to figure what I need to release and start making a commitment of excercising and early morning times with the Lord. Thank you for the words of encouragement.

  9. I, too, am so glad that I took the good morning challenge, even though I don’t check in on the website. I actually look forward to waking at 5am everyday to have about 2 hours of quiet, alone time. It is so good for my soul!

  10. Hey Stephanie, I’m so glad to hear things are on the up and up. It sounds like you’ve made a lot of wise decisions this year. Thanks for sharing your story with us. Bless you, Emma

  11. Thanks you so much for sharing with such honesty. I have experienced a similar season, though maybe not quite as intense. It is a terrible feeling when you have nothing left, and yet you feel you must go on. Your journey helps me to see even now some areas I need to continue to work on.

  12. Thank you for your honesty and openness… I have had a similar season of life (minus blogs, family business) but with a chronically ill child instead. Pregnancy #3 was a surprise and she came fall 2009 as well after a move and renovation… I was in survival mode with trying to fight for my middle daughter’s health, care for a newborn and homeschool. Looking back I see how bad things were, but not sure how I could have dine things differently, except of course rely on Him for all my needs…. I’m currently in the third trimester of pregnancy #4 and have a much better outlook on the journey- though there are still days that I need a breather and remind myself what (who) the TRUE priorities are . Thank you for sha

    • Whoops! Thank you for sharing- today was one of those days that I needed an outside reminder…..

  13. Stephanie! Thank you so much for writing this! I really was blown away with the truth you shared in getting to that burnout and what you did about it. I was so inspired that I wrote a post of my own in response! I too have lived in a cycle of burnout for the past 4 years as my husband and my life has been crazy with moving, new jobs, new kids, etc… I am just now learning to say no to many things in order to keep my energy and health. I have some minor health issues that I need to address but most importantly, to stop pushing…Again, thanks for sharing! and I met you at Relevant :)

  14. Thank you for sharing this! I have actually been going through my own season of burnout and am trying to hear from the Lord what I should do to fix it. I appreciate this post greatly and the tips you have given. I have been making some of my own goals and trying to take baby steps… and some giant steps ~smile~ to regroup. Many blessings to you!

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