I invite you to imagine a river that’s run dry. It’s the middle of a severe drought, and nothing is moving. This is the riverbed of someone who has burnt out.

Next, I invite you to imagine a stagnant, polluted river full of rotting debris. The stench invades your nostrils, and there’s a feeling of sluggishness in the air. This is what it feels like to have taken on way too much, forsaken what brings you joy, and grown irritated and resentful.

Next, imagine a river that is blocked by a dam. Above the dam, the land is flooded, and the water moves slowly. Below the dam, the water is only a trickle. The flow is way too still. You grieve the vitality and abundance that once ran deep. This is like the river of someone who is experiencing a frozen state after experiencing trauma.

Now, imagine a free-flowing river in radiant health. You feel energized and alive standing beside it. The sense of growth and possibility is palpable. Big difference, right? 

Your body is like a riverbed for life force energy. 

Life energy is flowing through you and all other living beings, now and in every moment. Your callings, longings, and desires are the voice of life energy speaking through you. Your ability to access this energy informs your ability to feel inspired, get clear about what you want, and take energized action. 

We use words like drained, exhausted, depleted, burnt out, depressed, tense, tight, and closed to describe what it feels like when energy flows in a suboptimal way. If you fill your life with obligations that don’t give you life, overwork yourself, or struggle with unhealed trauma, you can feel physically stagnant and depleted. 

Many of my clients come to me because they’re burnt out (even if they don’t yet know they are). They’ve become caught in a spiral in which they work too hard, which depletes their energy, which makes their work less effective, which makes them feel like they need to exert even more energy to keep up. As a result, they burn out and stop caring about work they were once passionate about. If this has happened to you, you may be afraid that your passion will never return.

If you are burnt out, you need to replenish your energy so you can rediscover your sense of desire and get clear about what you want. 

If you attempt to make significant changes while you’re depleted, you may have difficulty making wise decisions and feel even more drained. It can be almost impossible to get clear about what you want when your energy is low, and all you want to do is turn away from the world.

The good news is, just like a river, while you are alive, you will always have access to the life energy within you. Connection to life energy is your birthright. Although trauma can create blocks and overworking can drain you, the effect is not permanent. Your riverbed just needs to be tended to so that the river can flow again. To replenish your energy and feel inspired to create again, you must take care of your body.

But what if it’s scary to say “no?”

If you’ve taken on more than is good for you or burned out, it may feel scary for you to put on the brakes and say “no.” If you attach your self-worth to what you do rather than who you are, it can be scary to take a break. 

I live in Western Massachusetts, which is known for its magnificent seasons. Although I relish in the lushness of summer and the beauty of autumn, I appreciate how winter reminds us of the need for deep rest before the rebirth of spring. 

In our Western, capitalist culture, we forget that humans are subject to the natural rhythms of life just like any other creature on this planet. Our bodies are not just cogs in a system of work. Our bodies have rhythms, too.

Rhythms are the repeated notes that hold life together: 

  • The tide comes in. 
  • The tide goes out. 
  • The sun rises. 
  • The sun sets. 
  • You wake up. 
  • You fall asleep. 
  • Every morning, you stretch. 
  • Every evening, you eat dinner. 
  • Every night, you go to bed. 

Like the seasons, passion for anything— even the things you care most about— waxes and wanes. If you’ve been working nonstop for a long time, you may need significant rest before your excitement for life returns. 

Practice: Honoring Your Body’s Rhythms

Although all humans need certain basic things: sleep, food, exercise, different people have slightly different rhythms. I invite you to take out your journal and free-write about what rhythms might nourish you. 

For example, most people wake up in the early morning and go to bed about sixteen hours later. But a small percentage of people are night owls; their circadian rhythms tell them to stay up late into the night and wake up in the late morning. No matter how hard I wish I needed less sleep, my body insists on getting eight and a half hours. 

From now on, pay attention. Take notes about your energy as you go throughout your days. The more you pay attention to what your body needs, the more your rhythms will reveal themselves. The more you honor your body’s rhythms, the more energy you’ll have, and the more your creative juices will flow again.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Much love,

 

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