I thought it was totally normal. I thought everyone went through what I was going through. I actually wrote a leadership blog post about the hustle and grind driven by purpose. That if you’re passionate enough about what you’re doing, you’ll push and sacrifice for it. Yeah, you may crash and burn every once in a while, but hey, just take those couple “crash days”, sleep as much as you can and get back up again. Because you’ve got a life to live. You’ve got a team to lead and a vision to move forward. Push. Hustle. Grind. But at what cost?
- Ignore the constant tension headaches, migraines and digestive issues caused by stress. The countless time and money spent on doctors, chiropractors and massages with no relief in sight.
- Ignore the way you are “on” all day at work, truly loving what you do, but completely disconnect when you get home and can barely make it out of bed. Or how the littlest things with your kids and hubby really set you off (hint - the answer lies in the nervous system).
- Push away the fact that driving toward your purpose completely consumes your life, leaving little room for anything and anyone else.
- Push away the moments when emotions start to arise. Not crying for 25 years is totally normal, right? Push away the voice inside you saying something is deeply wrong.
Ignore and push… until you just can’t anymore.
I didn’t know what was happening at the time, but now I understand I had been in that hustle and grind “go mode” since I was about 16 years old. Twenty years of non-stop functioning in the fight/flight adrenaline rush that was required to live and lead at the pace I was at. Around the end of 2019, I hit what I call “the apex of burnout and PTSD”. Both extremes were so present in my body and emotions that I had no choice but to completely hit pause on life and figure out what the heck was going on.
Others were telling me I just needed to rest more, eat better, exercise, pray and worship more, visit this doctor and take that supplement… but I was doing all those things. What was I missing? It wasn’t until a therapist and inner healing prayer person both gave me books on trauma in the same week that I began to realize how my body was keeping the score.
Like so many others, it took hitting this wall to learn a few key lessons…
- Our bodies aren’t made to run on adrenaline and in fight/flight for years or decades straight. It’s like opening your car up on the interstate with the pedal to the metal cross country. You won’t make it. Our bodies ARE designed to function in fight/flight for shorter, necessary seasons of crisis. Then we HAVE to process what happened emotionally and in our nervous systems (what I call “closing the loop”) during those times and return to a more restful and restorative pace.
- Your body remembers what your mind forgets. As I was processing through the trauma that had accumulated over the years, I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh. I totally forgot about that.” But my body didn’t. My nervous system and brain were still holding on to those moments and memories. Even though what had happened in the past was in the past, the mid-brain where trauma is stored and nervous system doesn't know that. This is the definition of trauma - anything that feels too big and too overwhelming for your nervous system to fully process at let go of.
- There are often underlying emotional barriers and beliefs that set you up for the crash and burn. So many things build up throughout our childhood, teen and young adult years, but one memory that came up for me more recently was my first time hearing about the Glass Ceiling. Remember learning about that? The limit on advancement in a work space, especially for women. I was in 6th grade and I remember thinking, “I WILL be one of those women who break through that barrier”. That belief taken on at eleven years old subconsciously drove me for the next twenty-five years.
It’s been over four years since I hit the wall of extreme burnout and PTSD. That process of healing my body, nervous system, mind and emotions has been one of the hardest of my life. At times it literally felt like walking through the valley of the shadow of death. And yet, there’s hope! There’s hope for a life that is light and easy and free.
I continually have people tell me, “Liza, you’re such a light!” That comes from somewhere. For me that's because, ultimately, the joy of the Lord is my strength. Am I always in that space? Absolutely not. Just ask the people who know me best. But because of the years of patient and persistent healing work and loving and supportive friends and family, I’ve experienced a release so deep within that now I can walk with even more of a lightness in my step.
If you’re currently in this place of crash and burn (or you know deep inside that it’s on the horizon), this is how I would encourage you…
- Understand yourself more fully. Ask yourself questions, like, “Is there more to my story?” What parts of your story have shaped your thoughts and beliefs as well as your body and nervous system where all those stories are held? More importantly, what stories need to be RELEASED? And how have you personally been uniquely wired and designed to heal? For each of my clients, there is no cookie cutter answer.
- Give yourself grace. Being deeply driven often comes with having a harsh inner critic - that part of us that drives us to do more, be more, and to do it with absolute perfection. The answer to that is self-compassion. To see yourself as a human being with faults and failures. That it’s safe to be just you when maybe in the past it hasn't felt that way. We often can give others incredible amounts of grace and compassion while at the same time having difficulty extending that to ourselves.
- Learn & live at your personal “pace of grace”. One of the most eye opening revelations for me was the amount of rest that I truly need. One of my gifts is that I can push hard and fast. Even though that caused my burnout, that part of me hasn’t gone away. I still run at that pace when needed. But after taking a certain personality test with a business coach, I learned that however long I run in “go mode”, I need to take just as much time in “recovery mode”. The reality is, as I continue to learn this balance, I get just as much done, if not more - and have more fun doing it! I can learn to live life with my hands off the wheel AND foot off the gas. How freeing is that? That’s MY personal pace of grace. Have you discovered yours?
Liza Heidelberger is an emotional and nervous system health coach with a background in leadership & training, education and ministry. Her own story of burnout, trauma, and deep healing emotionally and within the nervous system led her to what she does today. She is a certified mental health coach, Internal Family Systems (IFS) practitioner, and Tension and trauma Releasing Exercise (T.R.E.) provider.
If you've done all you know to heal, but are still hitting a roadblock, understand that there is more to the story. Taking the necessary steps to heal at deeper levels brings so much clarity, peace, and purpose!
You can connect with Liza at lizaheidelberger.com, on Instagram @liza.heidelberger or join her Facebook group: Living RELEASED with Liza.
Disclaimer: The words and comments herein are the opinions of the author and not specifically of Business Woman Sioux Falls as an organization.