author blog mental health Mar 19, 2021

Burnout, a curse and a blessing.

I have been nursing for 29+ years, and if you had asked me if I ever thought I would start to hate it, I would have laughed.  A nurse is all I ever wanted to be. When I signed up for nursing, I knew it involved long hours, working weekends and holidays, and that I would deal with death often. But what I didn’t expect was it to slowly, then very quickly beat me into the ground.

When feelings of resentment, emotional exhaustion, and honestly feeling numb to events going on in the work environment surfaced, I pushed them down, way down. These feelings hit me by surprise, and initially, I didn’t know what to do with them. But after years of avoiding my thoughts and emotions, I finally started taking note of how I was feeling and began to ask what those feelings were trying to tell me. I avoided diving into those feelings for years!

Despite thinking I could muscle my way through another challenging experience, the years had beaten me down, and the lack of enthusiasm about work, even continuing education and emails, made me crazy. I was fed up and mentally exhausted!

 I share this to let you know you are not alone. Even if you are not a nurse, I know many can relate to feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and burned out. Add in 2020, and now we have a real it is a shit show. 

A  few key signs that may be trying to tell you, you are heading to or are already burnt out:

  • Emotional exhaustion and numbing yourself as a way to deal with it.
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Loss of compassion (compassion fatigue in the nursing profession or a caring role)
  • Mental fatigue
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, Gi issues, trouble focusing and more.
  • Extreme lack of energy
  • Lack of motivation

I had almost all of those six years ago.

Many definitions of burn out refer to the exhaustion and cumulative effects of stress related to a ‘job.’  I believe burnout can happen in any area of your life, whether you are a stay at home mom raising the next generation; caring for an ill family member(s), or a woman trying to ‘do it all.’  Where ever your burnout comes from, the results are the same. Mix in comparison and perfectionism, and you have the perfect storm. Add in the covid19 pandemic of 2020, and this storm turns into a hurricane of burn out. With the pandemic, many have lost their jobs, creating financial stress, homeschooling kids with no idea how even to do the work, and many are working from home while trying to do all the things, like homeschooling. Families can’t be together, and socializing has become a stressor instead of a stress release with guidelines and rules sometimes changing by the hour.  Some of us sit, even if we don’t agree with all the mandates and watch others go about their life, with no regard for guidelines put in place to try and help the greater good. We can call this covid fatigue or burnout. We are ALL exhausted months into restrictions, and I believe this has fuelled burn out, much like adding gasoline to a fire.

I know in the nursing profession, burnout is high. It is happening sooner for younger/newer nurses. I work with many nurses in their 20’s and 30’s, ones having been nursing under ten years and already feeling burned out, and a number have recently left hospital/bedside nursing for this reason. Changing this environment is a whole other topic!

Burnout was my curse and my blessing in disguise. Yes, a blessing, hard to believe, I know. This is the juice I want you to absorb. I wasted a lot of time avoiding the feelings I was having; why? Because I was ashamed of those feelings. ME, who had/has an amazing life, I was exhausted, frustrated and felt like something was missing but had no idea what. I tell you this, so you know, it can happen to anyone, and you truly never know how someone else is feeling.

Waiting for change that never happened, it finally became painful enough staying where I was that I went in search of something different. I realized I had to create change myself! 

This is where the blessing started to come in. I went in search, honestly, of another job, a way to create an income so I could leave nursing; it felt that awful. I felt that burned out. What I found was the world of personal development. This world helped me realize that we can create our own happiness. We need to stop waiting for outside circumstances to create our happiness. 

I was not completely miserable in my life, I had many of life’s blessings and incredible experiences, but I was miserable and unfulfilled in my work. I realized that I was missing my true sense of inner peace on this journey back from burnout. It was missing because I wasn’t willing at that time to acknowledge my feelings or truly feel my feelings and dive into what they were trying to tell me. THIS was the blessing, taking note of what they were telling me and taking action on changing them.

The blessing for me in all of this and what I would love for you to take away is:

  1. Recognizing and admitting something needs to change (that thing was ME). 
  2. Your happiness is your responsibility—no one else’s. My mentor Marsha would say, “taking radical responsibility for your life.”
  3. Please pay attention to what you are feeling, ask what they’re trying to tell you.
  4. Create the positive change you desire.
  5. Evaluate your core values.
  6. Respect yourself more, implement self-care practices that nurture you. These have been game-changers in how my days go and how I feel moving through them.
  7. This one is CRITICAL; move yourself up to the TOP top of your priority list and start to care better for yourself, emotionally, mentally and physically.
  8. Set very clear boundaries. These are something I never had in the past, which hurled me into burnout.
  9. If you need to ASK for help. Whether it is a friend, mentor, therapist, it may be the hardest thing you will do, but it will be one of the best things. 
  10. You are not alone.
  11. We all need to speak up about the hard things, to support each other and understand #9. 

The fact that I have been in those exhausted, burned-out shoes is why I help women end exhaustion, boost their energy and create more time.  I know how it feels to do all the things for years and find yourself in a place feeling like something is off; something is missing and exhausted from it all. I see you. I feel you. You are not alone. You can create the change you desire.


Peggy Birr

Peggy Birr has been a nurse for over 29 years, most of that time was spent in the ER. Peggy always felt this was the way she could help others. Living everyday like it was an emergency, the chaos and self sacrifice, 25 years into her career she hit a wall and knew something had to change. After her own journey to create the change and positive impact in her life, she recognized so many other women were at risk of hitting the same wall, feeling unfulfilled and frustrated. This helped her understand the areas that women needed help in that changed their lives. She wants every woman to live their most fulfilled life, a life they are obsessed with. This is her zone of genius, guiding women to thrive not just survive every day, caring for their overall wellness; mind, body and soul. Peggy is a women's Empowerment Coach, Self Care - Self Love advocate, and your very own cheerleader!


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