It was 2007, and my 30-year-old self watched Britney Spears shave her head while the reporter dropped the word “burnout” into the sentence like it was funfetti. That will never happen to me, I thought. Fourteen years later, I left my body long enough to watch myself break down while loading up a moving truck as a #FreeBritney podcast played in the background. Oh, the irony.
My path back from burnout was paved with as much fanfare as the actual breakdown itself. My loved ones and I tried everything we could think of to get me back to baseline: watercoloring, gardening, new diets, journaling, you name it. I started simply, downloading a few meditation apps to remind me to breathe. But the non-stop notifications just stressed me out more.
On a whim, I signed up for a 10-day silent retreat thinking I would be surrounded by nice monks who praised me for my meditation skills while Disney birds chirped encouragement. Instead, I got a 4:30 a.m. wake-up gong, an orb spider as a roommate, and 40 strangers in self-care to whom I secretly gave witty nicknames. At the outset, I was assured Vipassana would grant me insight to see things as they really are. While I certainly reacquainted myself with who I am and what makes me happy, I didn’t have the out-of-body experience others speak to.
Like the Japanese tradition of Kintsugi, I celebrate the scars that life has given me and observe the beauty they left behind.
I decided I needed to focus my energies closer to home. My husband built a zen garden with a Koi pond so I could have a nature-driven space dedicated to slowing down. Sure enough, it helped me find my grounding—I simply had to learn how to sit still. Next, I dove back into the minimalism I’d briefly explored when Marie Kondo told me all my socks should spark joy. Goodbye Things was the book that inspired the most action and resulted in a garage sale big enough to concern the neighbors. I followed it to the letter, getting rid of anything that was not functional and beneficial. (I even tried to get rid of a few cats, but apparently that wasn’t cool.) Now everything in our home is purposeful and nothing distracts. It leaves our spaces feeling more inspired and less cluttered, which, in turn, means we are using our communal areas more.
With my home life in order, it was time for an escape. No one said recovery would be cheap, and indeed, we even tossed every penny we had toward my burnout. Miraval in Austin was the best place to spend them. From intuitive sessions to horse painting to shamanic cleanses, I allowed myself to get lost in the shuffle of self-fulfilling activities. I trapezed blindfolded and learned that life is what you pay attention to while forest bathing in the moonlight. Miraval will forever be the place that allowed me to take a break from the storm of burnout—not simply because of all the amenities, but because it taught me that unplugging to care for yourself is imperative.
But self-care is only half the battle. Sometimes you need a hand from a loved one—or their favorite head shop. My mother, with a devilish grin, gave me a pack of CBD gummies. With one down the gullet, life started to mellow out in a way it never did with a cocktail, but only until I began to work through the possible scenarios of police raids and drug-sniffing dogs. So far no one has come for me—perhaps because, as it turns out, everyone is on gummies.
My last resort was possibly the most obvious one: I needed to simplify. For my type A, Enneagram 3, over-achieving self, this was a hard reality with which to come to grips. But I finally learned—through much therapy (add that to the list!)—that you must heal your life before you can start to heal yourself. So I reduced my business footprint and social obligations to what was essential, then I restructured my life around my new intentions. This scaling back has given me the mental space I needed to, at long last, rebuild what I’d depleted.
For the last seven years, my identity was tied into my business; I said yes to everything because I thought I had to. After a year of shifting my balance, I’ve swapped my rushed morning shower for a lingering soak with salts, flowers, and oils. (If Cleopatra had time for dramatic baths, so do I.) And I finish my day not with utter exhaustion on the sofa but by putting on my favorite music and moving like I’m in a modern Prancercise video. I’ve traded overworking for balance, I’ve said yes to myself instead of others, and in the end, not only am I more myself, but my family is more connected, too.
If I’ve gleaned anything from my experience, it is that even strong women can break. And like the Japanese tradition of Kintsugi, I celebrate the scars that life has given me and observe the beauty they left behind.