What does it mean to be a success? In your own eyes?
How do you know when enough is enough?
A couple months ago, I was watching the news when Hillary Clinton stumbled as she left the 9/11 memorial, because she had walking pneumonia.
It reminded me of the story in Arianna Huffington’s book about how she literally fell, face down on her desk, collapsing from fatigue, and waking up in a pool of her own blood with a fractured cheekbone.
A few weeks ago, I saw Elizabeth Gilbert do a phenomenal talk in NYC, while on book tour for Big Magic. One of the pivotal stories she told was about how she had gotten so desperately burned out and exhausted on her tour, that she literally smashed herself into a sidewalk post in Germany.
One day last Spring, I had been running on empty for so long, that I up and left my laptop in a taxi. (Fortunately, it was returned by the next passenger, thank Goddess.)
Almost every woman I know has driven herself to the veritable ledge – the outermost edge – of what she is capable of handling, physically and emotionally.
What is up with that?
What are we trying to prove?
What drives us to go further, faster, never stopping, pushing the limits of what is humanly possible? And what is there to do about it?
Women, today, are more overworked, stressed out, and burned out than we have ever been.
Why is that?
Well, women have been ignoring our pleasure for centuries. We were taught to take care of our husbands, take care of our kids, take care of our bosses and coworkers – but we were never taught to take care of ourselves. We were never the priority.
Instead of learning to nourish ourselves, we have learned to ignore ourselves.
Of course, there are consequences. We end up stressed, overworked, burned out and resentful. And when a woman is stressed, her body produces stress hormones, like cortisol. Too much cortisol manifests in countless undesirable experiences like depression, irritation, sadness, loneliness and anger. It creates inflammation in the body, which contributes to so many diseases.
Now, when a woman has a pleasurable experience – which could be an orgasm, or singing along to a favorite aria, or sweating it out in a spin class, or eating the most delicious french fries – she floods her body with nitric oxide, which turns on neurotransmitters such as beta endorphin and prolactin.
When a woman chooses pleasure, she creates health in her body, and her light is back on. She is turned on and tuned into her power, rather than her deficits.
The problem is that none of us were taught that pleasure is a vital nutrient. Rather, we were taught to ignore pleasure and place all of our attention on what our culture values the most: a job well done.
We live in a patriarchal culture, where the masculine and men are valued more than the feminine and women.
To be clear: the masculine is good. The feminine is good. It’s just seriously out of balance right now.
It’s like cardio without strength training, like day without night, or eating only protein with no veggies.
Imbalanced masculine values of our patriarchal culture include:
- Nose to the grindstone
- Win at all costs
- Profit is the goal
- Don’t feel. Be logical and practical.
- Go at it alone, emphasis on the Individual’s gains, not the good of the whole
Meanwhile, we’ve lost sight of what I call the values of the feminine. In fact, many of us have never ever even learned the values of the feminine, or we have deliberately pushed away the values of the feminine. I’m talking about qualities like:
- Tapping into our Intuition and Creativity
- Striving for Connection, Community, Sisterhood
- Recognizing the Interconnectedness of everything and everyone
- Experiencing Emotional range – or simply, feeling
- Receiving, surrender
It is not easy to live a pleasurably balanced life in a desperately imbalanced world. As a result, Sisters, we are burned the f*ck out! Burned, fried, and crispy.
Of course, the real solution is healing our cultural imbalance, in our individual lives and collectively. Let’s keep at that one.
In the meantime, though, I wanted to offer a few of my personal strategies when I start to hit the wall of depletion. These are my go-to’s when I need to shift my perspective and start tipping my scales in the direction of pleasure.
My 3-Part Burn-Out Cure:
- Be stupid. The leap into the ludicrous is vastly underrated. This week when I found myself stressed, I decided to imitate my two-year-old neighbor, Henry, and I threw myself on the floor, kicked and screamed and had a temper tantrum. Full on. Banged on the floor with my fists, kicked and screamed, the works. It was really fun. I even stroked my own hair at the end, when I was running out of steam.
- Be sexy. There is nothing that brings a woman back into her right mind quicker than when she feels hot. For every woman, this might mean something different. As soon as I put on something skin tight or off the shoulder, I feel sexy. Lip gloss has helped me out of more than a few rough afternoons. When you are burned out, not a single shred of your being will want to be sexy. Don’t let that stop you. Sexy, just for you, is a foolproof instant cure for whatever ails you.
- Be soulful. Connecting with your inner divinity through meditation, song, prayer, dance, or placing yourself in the hands of mother nature will immediately pop you back into your own radiance. There are many ways back to sanity, and connecting to our own higher power is the ultimate power source.
Now, I want to hear from you. . .
In the comments below, tell me your top strategies when you’re feeling burned out – what have you tried? What has helped the most? The least? How can you get a little stupid-sexy-soulful today?