Self discovery as a key to recovering from burnout.

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

I used to travel the world to escape myself and explore everything else. Now I go within.

A wise woman in Aitutaki once said to me, “Laura, one day you will realise that all the travel in the world will not even come close to what you will discover when you go within.”

I didn’t get it at the time. In fact, I thought she was crazy.

You see, I was at the very beginning of an amazing journey through the South Pacific, South and Central America and Canada. What could be more fulfilling than meeting interesting cultures, learning different languages and exploring culinary delights?

I had a ball that year! I expanded my mind, became conversationally fluent in Spanish, and gained access to new worlds. I visited some of the most amazing places in the world and felt completely full up and alive.

Looking back, I see that I was completely burnt out from an intense 5 years of tertiary study. Travel, for me, was an escape from ‘real life’. From the duties and responsibilities of my new career as a primary school teacher, and most importantly, sweet relief from my ever-present anxiety that seemed to be associated with school.

So when I returned home, essentially nothing at all had changed within. My limiting self beliefs were still there, as well as an unconsciously held question driving all my actions:

Am I good enough?”

A second burnout, it seemed, was inevitable.

Unsurprisingly, when I embarked on my teaching career, I gave everything I had to my job, as I had given my all to my studies. Within 3 short years I reached that same place of physical and emotional exhaustion. Even now, it’s difficult to admit my struggles, due to an old perception in society that showing weakness or vulnerability is unacceptable.

Brene Brown says “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

Admittedly, I was not self-aware enough at the time to recognise how much I was struggling, and to ask for support before it was too late. I honestly thought that every teacher struggled through every day, every week and every damn term, hoping to arrive at the holidays with all their marbles intact and their body still functioning. I reached a point where the only way forward was to leave teaching, which felt like a major step backwards and a personal failure.

Sometimes, however, doing the opposite of what society expects is exactly what you need to do in order to regain your sense of self, and feel whole again.

My journey of self-discovery since burning out from teaching has taken me down many unexpected paths, including meditation, yoga teacher training, massage therapy, exploring my tūrangawaewae abroad, gardening, aromatherapy, and personal development courses. I have transformed my relationship with work and with stress, and it is still a daily practise to notice the old patterns towards compulsive working, recognise the beliefs driving those actions, and choose a new path.

This weekly blog is a space to share some of my wellbeing learnings with you. Tēnā koe i tō pānui mai, thanks for reading.

“The only journey is the one within.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

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