How To Heal Your Burned-Out Self

The view from our rented beach house.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman, civil rights leader

Well, I came across that quote the day before I left for vacation. First off, if you like water, sand, and the sound of waves, the beach will go a long way toward healing your burned-out self. It’s been a rough year for me. I won’t go into all the details; suffice it to say that I hope I don’t ever have to go through a year like that again. So by the time I got to the beach, emotionally and spiritually I felt a bit battered and bruised. I spent the week thinking about that quote. Being a journalist, I started asking myself questions, a kind of self-interview. You can do the same. Here’s what I came up with:


Heal Your Burned-Out Self
Where I had coffee every morning.


Who are you living and doing and making choices for? Is it for you? Sadly, for me at least, the answer is often for other people (kids, spouse, relatives, friends, strangers even), which doesn’t leave me fired up about my life. Look, I know you need to think about others. Everybody drills that into you from the time you’re a little kid. But if helping everyone else at the expense of yourself makes you feel dead inside: 1. how are you gonna be able to help anybody else? and 2. what kind of life is that?

What do you need to do to heal your burned-out self?

What matters most to you (not what someone else would like for your life)? What do you most want to be doing with your life? What is your heart telling you? If you get quiet, I guarantee you, it’s saying something. And then the question becomes: Are you going to listen? What’s keeping you from that (hint: what’s your biggest fear)?


When are you going to look at your life as yours & give yourself permission to be who you want to be, to do what you want to do? When will you realize that your life is passing you by as you wait for the “right time”? Hint: The “right time” is right now. When will you choose faith over fear?

Where do you need to be to heal your burned-out self?

Where do you need to be to pursue your passion? Where do you feel alive? Do you love coming home? Do you love your work space? If not, why not? What do you need to do to change how you feel? I ask these questions because I made a choice once to live in a place where I ended up being miserable. It’s hard to feel alive and creative when you’re unhappy just being where you are.

Why do you need to heal your burned-out self?

Why does this even matter? Because I believe that Thurman was right: the world needs people who have come alive. Feeling alive and excited about your life makes you generous and happy and motivated. It inspires the people around you to do/be the same. It also matters because I don’t think you’ll want to get to the end of your life and say, “Whew, I’m glad I risked so little.” I dunno, maybe you will; I hope not to.

Heal Your Burned-Out Self
Another view from our rented beach house.

How to heal your burned-out self?

Your heart knows quite clearly what it is that makes you feel alive. But it’s also very hard to hear when you’re in a battered and burned-out state. So slow down. Slow way down. Take as much off your plate as you can. Put yourself at the top of your to-do list. Then get quiet. Very quiet. Be open and listen. The answers are there.

I also came across this these lines (which I love) by the 13th-century poet Rumi, who wrote:

Let yourself be silently drawn
by the stronger pull
 of what you really love.

Are you living a life that makes you feel fully alive? If not, why not? And more importantly, what are you going to do about it? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.

29 thoughts on “How To Heal Your Burned-Out Self”

  1. Hello, lovely! I’m sorry to hear you have had a rough year, but you know what they say: What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger! It’s always a good idea every now and again for every one of us to sit down and ask ourselves the questions you list above and to take stock of what we have and what we want. It’s a difficult balance keeping everyone else and ourselves happy, and I think burn-out, like failure, is a part of life and helps us learn and grow and gain strength and perspective. 🙂

    1. Hi Dina! *waves* It’s so fabulous to see you on my blog. Yes, it is true that I’m much stronger now ~ I’d just rather have easier lessons, given the choice. 😀 It’s so true that both burn-out & failure can help you learn. I really needed to slow down to get some perspective; I couldn’t do that when I was going a mile a minute. Cheers, darlin.

  2. Hi Shelli,
    Thanks again for sharing compelling thoughts on how to get our lives put back together. I agree with what you have said. Now if I can put away the clutter and take the steps you put forth.
    Wish you the best! 🙂

  3. Dear Shelli,

    You always know just what to say and when to say it. Love that about you!!!

    We, too, went to the beach this summer, but I didn’t get my usual respite from the chaos and or experience any sort of rejuvenation like I normally do. I returned from this wonderful ten-day bliss beach vacation to the month of August unable to sort it out and unable to find the courage to work on my next novel.

    I was unsure of as to why and then I just read your post.

    I haven’t had the year that you’ve had and I hope you are doing okay (I’ve missed you on the social media circuits), but your post resonates with me, especially the part about giving yourself permission and answering the question as to who you are living for. So, thank you for this post and the reminder to focus upon what one really wants from this life. It’s going to go a long way toward helping me sort it all out for myself.

    You’re the best! And, thanks for sharing the wonderful photos of your beach vacation~beautiful!!


    1. Hi Katherine! *runs up & gives you a big hug*

      I always love it when you visit my blog. Makes my day. 🙂

      I’m glad to hear that you got away to the beach, but bummed that you returned unable to focus. I know what that’s like (a post about writing & burn-out is forthcoming in a few weeks). I’m glad, too, that maybe this post will help you get some perspective and get writing again.

      Thanks for the good thoughts. I’m actually doing really well & am much happier than I was. I have a different focus now, or should I say more of a focus instead of being all over the place, which makes a huge difference. I’ve completely missed seeing you around, too, just so you know. 🙂

      Sending you good thoughts & courage & resilience & faith. Rock on, sister. You’re the best, too.


  4. I’m sorry things have been so difficult, Shelli. It looks like you chose a pretty, peaceful place to take some time to heal though. Here’s hoping the next year is much, much better than the past one.

    You are right about the steps to pull out of burnout though. One of these days, when I’ve finally had enough of some things, I may sit down with your list and reevaluate some things that stress me out. 🙂

    1. Hi Kristy!

      Thank you for the good wishes; things are really quite fabulous here now. I know you mentioned before about taking your own time off, how glad you were that you did. I’d refused to do that on my own & the universe decided I needed a break ~ enter the burn-out. Funny how you don’t realize how nuts your life is until you take a step back from it, at least I didn’t.

      Hugs & a smile for you! 🙂

  5. Hi Shelli,
    I’m sorry to read you’ve had a rough year, I can sympathize. So glad you’re taking time and will put yourself first. Great steps and a wonderful quote. Thanks for sharing.
    Loved the beach house photos – it looks like the perfect place to re-connect with your soul.
    All the best to you [heart]

    1. Hi Sandy! *waves like a mad woman*

      It’s lovely to see you again. Hope you had a fabulous summer.

      I love this: “the perfect place to re-connect with your soul.” It really was, something about being barefoot in the sand that just soothes what ails you. Thanks for being sympathetic. Life is really good here nowadays. I’ve slowed way down & am much happier. I don’t think I’ll be ramping it back up anytime soon.

      Your book is next on my TBR list. Can’t wait to get started!

      Cheers, darlin. [heart] right back at you.

    1. Hi Rob! *waves*

      You’re welcome. Thanks for the fab compliment. I’m so glad this post spoke to you. Makes me happy to hear that. 🙂 FYI: You came up in conversation over the weekend: my husband & I were chatting about Atari & Pong ~ lol.

      You have a blessed day & week!

      Cheers, my friend!

  6. Hi, Shelli. I’m sorry to hear the year has been a rough one for you. I hope things improve, especially as we head toward the holidays…
    As to what you ask of us in the post, I think I’m going to sleep on this. I think I’m fairly confident in where I am, what I’m doing and why, etc., etc.; however, instead of allowing my head to answer far too quickly, I think I’ll wait and allow my heart some time to potentially surprise me.


    1. Hi Jimmy! *waves back*

      It’s lovely to see you again. Thanks so much for coming by. You know, things are a lot better now; I needed to take some time off & regroup. I’m so glad to hear that you’re going to let your heart answer you. Stop back & let me know what it says. 🙂

      Cheers to you!

  7. Wow, that post certainly hit the spot! After six years of teaching, I lost my sense of self and I certainly never got my writing done when drowning under the endless grading and planning of teaching English. I’ve always felt most alive when writing, and now that also includes editing. The reflective quality of your post bodes well for you and for all of us who realize we can lead lives that make us come alive.

    1. Hi Jeri! *waves* I’ve heard that about teaching, that you can never get your own writing done. I’m so glad that you’re writing & editing & that it makes you feel alive. Makes me smile to hear that. 🙂 Cheers, darlin.

  8. What a great reminder to slow down and focus on what really matters. I feel there can’t be too many reminders to do this in our daily lives. And of course the beach and ocean is such a perfect place to do this. I hope the coming year brings you calmer waters.

  9. Hi Shelli,
    Your blog post just hit the spot. I go to the beach (ocean) for a week every summer. It is wonderful and very relaxing. I love it and look forward to it every year.

    I was experiencing burn out too and took a year off from writing to normalize myself. But I am still involved in too many things especially on the computer. It is hard to keep up a blog, a website, social media, and write at the same time. And I don’t even have little ones or a husband. However, I DO want to keep involved in my children’s lives, too.

    So how do you include all this and keep your sanity? In my case, my writing suffers. I decided to give up some of the social media, or at least spend a lot less time on it and this has given me some relief.

    Sorry you had such a rough year. But thanks for the blog, it was very helpful.

    1. Hi Dorothy! *waves*

      I’m so glad this post connected with you. I agree that it’s hard to keep up with all the computer stuff & write at the same time. I had to give up some of the social media stuff, too. And I started posting less on my blog over the summer to give myself a break. At some point, IMO, you have to prioritize. Like you, my writing was suffering & the writing was what was more important to me.

      I’m very glad that put yourself first & that you’ve kept your sanity. 🙂

      Thanks for the good wishes. Cheers, darlin.

      1. Thanks for the reply, Shelli. It’s good to know I’m not the only cutting back on a few things to keep my sanity!

  10. Beautifully said. Loved your self-questions. It is true that if you aren’t alive and have a burning passion for what you are doing in life, you’re going to fizzle eventually. That beach rental looks heavenly.

    1. Hi Charissa! *waves* Thanks so much for the lovely compliment. Made me smile. 🙂 It’s so true that without passion, you’ll fizzle at some point. That vacation really was heavenly & exactly what I needed. I highly recommend the beach. Cheers to you!

  11. Hi Shelli,

    Just wanted to say thanks for your post and I’m so sorry that you’ve had a rough year. Your post really resonated with me as I am currently feeling very low and have completely lost my sense of self over the last year. I run my own therapist business and have got into the habit of putting myself at the end of a very long list to the point that I have completely lost my mojo and interest in everything and everyone around me (and encountered various health issues along the way). Which really is not like me at all as I’m usually a very strong, independent woman. I’m on holiday this coming week and I’m going to do some serious thinking so thank you very much for making me wake up and acknowledge the need that I need to give some serious thought to my passions and what ignites me in my life. Something which hasn’t happened for a while and is very long overdue.

    With gratitude and love,

    Julie 🙂

    1. Hi Julie! *waves*

      I’m so sorry you’ve had a rough year but am really glad to hear that you’re going to take some time for yourself to find out what really makes you come alive. It really will change how you view your life; at least it did for me. It spurred me to make a list of all the things I want to do while I’m still around, things that make me feel excited like a little kid when I think about getting to do them. I hope that happens for you, too.

      Cheers, darlin & *hugs*

  12. Pingback: Simplifying Won't Kill You (& It Might Just Save Your Life) - SHELLI JOHNSON

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