My energy burnout happened so subtly and slowly I didn’t realize it was happening at all. Most importantly, I didn’t even realize that I was the very one creating this path for myself until it was too late and I was sick and had completely run out of energy. It took me a while to feel ready to share this, but I think it’s time we women begin sharing more of the real, raw things. Keep in mind this is my own story, which means your experiences may be very different. I think that has been one of the most difficult things for me to accept after speaking with counselors and friends about this topic. We all have different needs, wants, and capacities; we are all on our own journeys in this beautiful thing called life. But I’ve learned that if you don’t like how you’re feeling, only you can change it. I’m sharing my experience with you and below that, I’m sharing the ways I’ve turned my health and wellness around in the hope it may help some of you as well. My journey isn’t complete, but I’ve been enjoying diving into books, articles, and documentaries that are helping me create a more healthful, balanced lifestyle. I’m looking forward to sharing these with you in the year ahead.
I launched this site and went full-time as a blogger after our marriage in the spring of 2015 and a whirlwind summer of destination weddings and lots of travel. I worked my tail off getting TCG up and running. It’s the kind of manic devotion only fellow entrepreneurs will know. The kind you doggedly pursue until you’ve risked your health, happiness, and any semblance of a social life. By the spring of 2016, a digital marketing analyst had reached out and let me know that (with all its 12k followers at the time) TCG was selling as much product as brands with 60k followers or more. I was beginning to work with brands I’d followed for years, sitting front row at fashion shows, and penciling in events almost every night of the week. I didn’t say ‘no’ to anything, but that wasn’t unusual for me. I was always the girl in school who secretly completed all the parts of a group project just in case anyone forgot theirs; I’m a detail-obsessed perfectionist by nature.
Of course, while I was getting my brand off the ground I was also navigating a new marriage. The truth is, we don’t really know how to be married until we are and even after that, both parties have so much to learn and must discover how to grow together as partners. At the beginning of our marriage, I asked my husband if he wanted someone with a career or a traditional housewife. He replied with, “Well… I’d like both. I think.” (I mean, wouldn’t we all?! I’m imagining someone that goes from the boardroom to the bedroom faster than you can say ‘Christian Grey’ and also looks as rugged and wild as Jason Momoa.) As TCG began to grow, both my husband and I agreed that I needed to devote my full 8-hour days to running TCG in 2016. The real problem? I didn’t know how to run a small business and be the housewife he needed. So I tried to be perfect at both.
“Done is better than perfect.”
Sheryl Sandberg, American Author and Chief Operating Officer of Facebook
My husband works hard and in 2016 was also growing a business from the ground up; he physically did not have the hours in the day to help at home. So… During the day, I was on housewife duty. Doing our dishes, laundry, cleaning, making beds and stocking fresh towels, doing yard work, taking our three pups to grooming and vet appointments, getting groceries, running errands, scheduling and meeting with maintenance/repair, decorating our home, buying and sending gifts for friends and family, making dinners and packing his lunches for the next day, planning upcoming travel and important events for friends. By late afternoon or early evening, I switched into business gear. Working on social media, editing my photos, writing blog posts, updating my site and product links, scheduling content and shoots, emailing companies, signing contracts, and invoicing for completed work into the wee hours of the morning. On nights when I had events to attend I lost the entire evening and on days when I prepped for shoots and days my photographer and I shot looks, I lost the entire day. But because of how completely over-scheduled my days were, if one tiny thing went wrong my entire week was screwed up and I was forced to go without sleep so I could get everything done. I didn’t allow time to work out or even just relax and watch a TV show with my husband. I was burning the candle at both ends.
It’s as the old saying goes; you can’t pour from an empty cup. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was giving a lot of myself to others during this time. I was convinced the more time and energy I gave to others, the better wife/friend/daughter I would be. I answered every distraught phone call and I tried to make it to every celebration or event. I think I was too busy trying to please everyone to notice that this level of giving wasn’t realistic… Or sustainable. Things started to slip. I would forget important dates and I couldn’t keep up with my lists of to-dos. Just looking at my phone or email stressed me out because I was so incredibly behind. At one point my personal email contained over 29,000 unopened emails. My skin was breaking out, I was gaining weight, I caught every cold or flu that came my way, I felt sick almost every single day, and I looked completely and totally drained.
“I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”
Ed Sheeran, English Singer, Songwriter, and Record Producer
The funny thing is, the more you give of yourself, the more people take. It’s human nature; we need boundaries to stay healthy. Suddenly I found myself helping friends or family over two-hour phone calls multiple times a week and even picking my husband’s discarded clothes and towels up off the floor. I didn’t even recognize myself. But let’s be clear: this was my fault. It’s our own responsibility to set boundaries and not allow ourselves to become doormats for everyone else. It’s probably the most important thing I’ve learned this year. We are allowed to say ‘no’ to things. And trust me, once you start, it feels pretty wonderful. But I had to learn it the hard way first.
It was just a few tiny, little instances in the beginning of 2017 that caused me to wake up and realize exactly what I had been doing to myself. One Monday I needed to print, sign, and scan an ASAP kind of contract for a work project I really wanted. I tried to print and my computer popped up with a message that said my office printer was now paired with my husband’s phone and I wouldn’t be able to print. I went to my printer and a million red lights were flashing; it was out of both my paper and ink. In their place? A printed, 67-page color photo book on cars my husband had printed out that weekend. He hadn’t thought to refill the printer supplies or at least tell me he had run them out… He hadn’t even considered that I might need to use my printer because all this time I was essentially telling everyone around me I don’t prioritize my own needs. That same week, I stopped at his office on our way to the ranch and saw something hanging out of a large filing cabinet drawer. When I opened the drawer, I realized it was stuffed full of the lunches I had been carefully packing him for months and months. I get it… it was just a printer and some lunches. And my husband is a wonderful, brilliant, hard-working man and I adore him with all my heart. But it took getting to that place, that moment, for everything to finally become crystal clear to me. This is hard to say, but I had been behaving like a doormat and people were beginning to treat me like one… Including the person I love the most. And I was the only one who would be able to put boundaries in place for myself.
After that week, I understood I had been wasting my time doing little things I thought others probably cared about… Because I cared about them. It goes back to that lovely book “The Five Love Languages”. My language is acts of service. So I assumed the more I did and gave up for others, the more they would realize how much I care about them and love them. Not true. It doesn’t work that way. If you’re not speaking their language, the other person won’t understand what you’re trying to do and you’ll essentially be wasting your time. I think my husband could have cared less about his bathroom being kept tidy or having a packed lunch with a note. I was putting that pressure on myself. So I stopped. I allowed myself to be a bad wife and a shitty friend for a while.
“I don’t think women can have it all. I just don’t think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all. My husband and I have been married for thirty-four years. And we have two daughters. And every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother, in fact many times during the day you have to make those decisions. And you have to co-opt a lot of people to help you. We co-opted our families to help us. We plan our lives meticulously so we can be decent parents. But if you ask our daughters, I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom. I’m not sure. And I try all kinds of coping mechanisms.”
Indra Nooyi, Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo
While I was being a bad wife and shitty friend, I began to take care of myself again. I ignored a phone call or two and I ignored the dirty dishes in the sink. Instead of stressing about them, I went to see the allergist I had been putting off all year long. He told me my allergies were some of the worst he had seen; they were causing my migraines and making me feel sick and exhausted. He also told me if I wasn’t careful I could have seizures from such a constantly high level of histamines and my immune system on edge 24/7. Talk about a wake up call to start some self-care. Amongst other things, I am allergic to my husband’s dog. So it forced me to look into wellness and to begin making some serious lifestyle changes in order to take care of myself and save my health.
To top it all off, 2017 also happened to be the year my loved ones went through some challenging experiences. One of my best friends went through a painful divorce. We had three major surgeries amongst our loved ones. I helped someone with a scary legal issue. Someone else was in a serious ATV accident. All through November and December, I was literally counting down the days to get home to my family. I created my holiday content for TCG. I bought and wrapped gifts for the twenty-seven people we exchange gifts with. (Talk about the unnecessary pressure we women place on ourselves!) But all I could think about and all I really cared about was spending time with our family over the holidays. I wanted to be home. Amidst all of this, my sweet photographer gave birth to her first baby so I hadn’t planned or accepted my usual amount of projects during this time and it ended up being a hidden blessing. I was able to enjoy a long holiday break with family and I was able to help my mother recover from knee surgery after the new year. While I was in Arizona, I realized something very important. Something you could probably sense from this blog post I wrote.
I realized I was simply fed up. Burned out. I didn’t feel fulfilled. I had watched those around me get strong doses of reality this year and I had seen and felt their pain. I realized that when everything is a mess all that matters (and all you want!) are your loved ones. I wanted to spend more time with mine and I no longer wanted to devote so much of my life to slaving over my website. Obsessing over my Instagram theme. Spending hours engaging on social media. And while I was thinking about it, I worried that maybe my site wasn’t focused on things that mattered. What if my readers were feeling burned out too?! Were my posts helping them? Or was I just selling things?
When I returned from Arizona, I wanted to cleanse everything in my life while I thought about these questions. With each box of things that went out the door, I felt a weight off my shoulders. What had started as a way to help my allergies (less things = less gathering dust and pet dander) turned into a form of therapy for me. Like a little tornado, I went through our piles of accumulating magazines and papers. I cleaned. I donated. And I thought. What did I want TCG to look like? What did I want my own life to look like? During this time, I did a little detox and stayed away from my computer and neglected my work. I only did things with my hands where I could see actual progress being made, such as cleaning out cabinets and organizing closets. It changed my mindset by allowing me to immediately connect with what I was doing (versus a work project three months in the future) and the immediate gratification of visual results felt more satisfying. If you can do this cleanse-and-detox ritual – even for a weekend – I highly recommend it for clearing your mind and your personal space.
“If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.”
Dolly Parton, American Singer, Songwriter, Record Producer, and Philanthropist
With a little more space to think and breathe and a little more time away from the computer, I was able to dive into why I had burned out and why I had been feeling sick all the time. The answer began with me. A counselor and a life coach both told me stress and lack of self-care can actually cause internal diseases and more specifically, cause the immune system to shut down. In fact, stress chemicals are so effective at shutting down the immune system doctors actually administer them prior to giving a patient an organ transplant; the stress chemicals completely shut off the immune system, ensuring that the organ is not rejected by the patient. The life coach recommended the documentary “Heal” to me. I take any documentary with a grain of salt, but I do think the stress and pressure we feel in everyday life can build up within us and affect our physical and emotional health. If you prefer a more scientific approach, take a look at these articles from Mayo Clinic and Simply Psychology. The question is, are we doing enough to balance out our stressors?
So I opened myself up to new techniques to relieve stress and tried different wellness tools I could put into practice immediately. Most importantly, I became viciously protective of my time. Now I limit my amount of travel, the events I attend, the meetings I agree to, and even all the little lunch/coffee dates with friends that can take hours out of my week. I allow myself time to connect with my husband, my family, and my close friends and I set aside a little time for myself each day – to exercise, to read a book, to do my skincare routine, or to take a bubble bath. I prioritize the things I really want or need to do – not things I feel I should do. Of course, there will always be crises that arise and times when family and friends truly need us. But an acquaintance reaching out to buy me coffee in exchange for me teaching them how to run their social media? Not happening. I don’t owe anything to them and I don’t want a coffee or lunch that badly. I know it sounds a bit harsh, but because our society is 24/7/365 now we have to be just that protective of our time and our choices. Life is too short.
We’re often told as women that we should always put others first and then we wonder why we’re sick, exhausted, and overwhelmed. It makes me think of my friend who had this way of responding apologetically with a drawn-out “Noooo, sorryyyy… I can’tttt.” when she was asked to do something she didn’t want to do. But you know what? She always went to bed at the same time and got sufficient sleep, she always worked out five times a week, she always had time for exactly what she wanted to do, and she always practiced self-care. I used to wonder how she did it when another friend and I were up until all hours of the night, studying for tests and sewing sorority sashes for the new members. But now I realize that our friend was one step ahead of the rest of us. She already understood that nobody else will prioritize your needs but you. She lived her life by this and her health/happiness were better off for it. Even though she tried to sound apologetic, she actually wasn’t… Because she knew exactly what she needed and what was too much on her plate, and she stood up for herself every step of the way. You know who else has always been great at this? My husband. Despite how stressed or busy he may be, he will always make sure he gets the sleep he needs. I don’t care if the world is falling apart; that man will go to bed with his big glass of water no later than 10 pm and you better believe he’ll be there for eight hours.
Along with these lifestyle changes, I began implementing the wellness tools I’m sharing with you today to help me reinforce and remember the lifestyle changes I am making. I started taking yoga and pilates classes; classes that focus on breathing, soothing the mind, and stretching the body. I forced myself to let go of perfection and stop stressing out over every little detail. You know what happened? Within days of implementing these simple changes, I felt more positive and more energized. Within weeks, I had lost almost 10 pounds and I started to feel my daily allergy symptoms lift a little (headaches, itchy eyes, sore throat, tiredness, aching muscles and joints). Within a month, I had a blood test done for a physical and I had moved into the top 10% in terms of health. I went to my dentist appointment and the hygienist commented that my teeth and gums had improved, any inflammation was gone, and they were “in perfect condition”. In such a short time, my physical health was actually improving. I am making a real difference on the outside because I finally started taking care of the inside.
The bottom line? People respect others who respect themselves. Now my husband and I both hold ourselves as our first priority and having that respect for ourselves has made all the difference. Remember: you can’t pour from an empty cup. We can’t really be there for one another if we’re empty and exhausted, so we make sure to take care of ourselves first and when we do, we’ve found we can give so much more to the other person. My husband makes an effort to help me when he can and he even comes home earlier than he did in previous years. (I think only part of this is the growth of his business and most is the fact I’m a more pleasant person now that I’m functioning on more than four hours of sleep.) Yesterday I asked him the question I asked at the beginning of our marriage and his answer was different: “I want my wife to do what makes her happy.” We have both learned so much in our three years of marriage and we’re continuing to grow as partners each and every day.
And you know what? I haven’t lost any relationships from prioritizing myself and focusing on my own wellness. My close friends understand when I can’t make an event or can’t squeeze in another lunch during the week. When I can meet up with them, I’m happy and invested in spending time together; I set aside my phone and let the emails and social media wait. I’ve realized that nothing can replace the experiences and memories we make with our loved ones. I’m actually looking forward to traveling this year because I’m not consumed with working to secure partnerships beforehand and packing 17 looks to shoot while there. I love working and I still strive for perfection… I’m just not willing to sacrifice my health and happiness.
If you’re feeling run-down like I was, be sure to see a doctor and allergist first to see what’s going on with you medically. You’ll notice the biggest changes from making the lifestyle changes I discussed in the above paragraphs; get to work respecting yourself, practicing self-care, being protective of your time, getting sufficient sleep, and doing mindful exercise. Those are the best ways I’ve found to turn everything around when you’re truly burned out and the ones that will give you long-lasting results. But above I mentioned implementing some “wellness tools”and noticing a difference from them as well. Some of them have offered me nearly immediate results and others simply remind me of the changes I’m trying to make in my life. I’m not a doctor or a therapist, I just opened myself up to trying every option I could and along the way I discovered some things that work for me and that I enjoy.
As soon as I got my warning from the allergist, I set to work putting his suggestions into place and dehydration was at the top of his list. Did you know that as little as 1% dehydration can negatively affect our mood, attention, memory, and motor coordination? (Article here.) Our bodies are 70% water. When we’re dehydrated our bodies can’t eliminate toxins, our immune systems are weakened, our energy levels drop, our blood pressure and cholesterol skyrocket, our metabolism slows to a crawl, and our skin begins to lose collagen. Putting healthful, fresh foods into our body is only half the battle; much of the rest is all about water. If you live in a dry climate like I do here in Denver, simply keeping yourself hydrated can be a challenge.
Humidifier. I keep a large humidifier on my nightstand and it sends a cool mist over my face and neck while I sleep. Aside from remedying my usual sore throat and stuffed nose, it also soothes my dry eyes and skin.
Nonstop Water. I try to drink 64 oz. of water each day. This crystal-infused glass bottle may seem silly, but it keeps my water cool and tasting fresh and clean. I always drink more water when I carry it around. Goop just started selling one on their website if you’re a Gwyneth fan. One of my friends prefers mason jars. Find what works and tote it with you wherever you go.
Lanolin and Lotion. I keep a tube of lanolin (another favorite) and lanolin hand lotion by my bedside as well; each night, I apply the lanolin to my lips (and around my nose if Denver happens to be particularly dry) and the hand lotion on my hands, elbows, and feet. It locks in moisture while I sleep.
Honey with Propolis. Each morning and night, I drink a giant cup of hot, herbal tea and eat a spoonful of raw Colorado honey containing propolis, an antibacterial substance bees make from trees. Since honey is made from pollen and propolis is made from trees, this combination gives allergy sufferers the most benefit. After my tea and spoonful of honey, I down a glass of water to further boost hydration.
If you’re not from California, Sedona, or Colorado, bear with me here. Living in Denver, I have a lot of access to the combination of Eastern and Western medicines and it’s been interesting to learn about both. I’m into the crystal phenomenon lately; the idea is that all of us are made up of energy and there are many people who believe our bodies can respond positively to the energy from various crystals and stones. Some people even believe different crystals can help with specific goals or needs. I don’t consider myself a hippie, but I’ve just always liked stones and crystals. I remember the time my father broke open a geode for me and I stood staring at the sparkling crystals hidden inside the ugly rock; I was instantly hooked. And I would beg my mother to let me get a little bag of stones when we were out shopping. I remember carefully looking at my little collection of tiger’s eye, quartz, and turquoise. Maybe we are the ones who give the stones positive energy. Either way, I like the way they look in my home.
Crystals. I like to place crystal points from The Sacred Crystal on our coffee table; I currently have moonstone (femininity), aventurine (luck), and amethyst (tranquility). I have a natural rose quartz piece (love) from our ranch. And I have two palm stones – one selenite (cleansing) from Gem Realm and one labradorite (self-awareness) from a shop in Sedona – that can be held during prayer or meditation. I now start my day with a little prayer and meditation; it’s a calm, quiet moment I look forward to every morning. Take it for what you will, but long-term meditation has been associated with increased grey matter density in the brain stem (article) and can help those with ADHD, anxiety, and depression by actually altering the structure of the brain network (article). I’m currently using the Breathe app on my Apple watch, but I’ve heard so many great things about the Headspace app and the Calm app as well. Let me know if you have a preference between these two or if you have other suggestions.
One of my favorite websites for purchasing and learning about crystals: EnergyMuse.com
Mala Necklaces. I recently went to a mala workshop with Surrender in the City and learned all about how these beautiful pieces of jewelry have been used for over 3,000 years in India as tools for remembering mantras and focusing on breathing during meditation. (Take a peek at this video.) Even if they don’t pray or meditate, many people use malas as talismans to help them remember a goal or an intention throughout the day. Some malas can be simple; the one I made at the mala workshop was mostly bodhi seeds and some clear quartz and smoky quartz crystal beads. I also have one made of zebra jasper (de-stressing) in the most serene, muted, neutral colors. But some malas can actually be quite exquisite with carved stones, gold beads, and silk tassels. No matter what, it’s important that you feel drawn to the mala or that you think about what you’re trying to achieve when making the mala. All the malas I’ve hand-picked (zebra jasper, blue chalcedony, moonstone/aquamarine) are calming, soothing, grounding malas intended for helping their owner through stressful or anxious times and getting back to a calmer place; they say our intuition knows what we need. I keep one in my car and I keep one in my bag. If I’m feeling anxious or stressed it’s a great reminder for me to take a moment and breathe.
One of my favorite websites for beautiful malas and helpful tutorials: MalaCollective.com
I mentioned feeling the urge to cleanse everything around me after I came back from the holidays and Arizona. I’ve heard people say that a person’s environment is a reflection of their mind and I’ve found it to be quite true. I need a clean, serene place to work, to live, and to relax or I simply don’t function well. I’ll light a few candles and play a relaxation playlist on our Alexa or Spotify before I begin working or doing things around the house. It instantly creates a more calming environment.
Air Purifier. After reading about a million reviews, I finally decided on this air purifier for our bedroom. It contains a HEPA filter to soothe allergies by removing allergens and pollutants like pet dander, pollen, mold spores, and bacteria. It actively monitors our air quality and alerts me when something is wrong. It also heats or cools, depending on our preference. I haven’t turned it off since I purchased it. If I could, I would have one of these in every single room.
Himalayan Salt. My aunt and uncle gifted me a salt lamp at Christmas and I fell in love with that little lamp. Pink Himalayan salt releases negative ions into the air, helping to balance the pollution caused by all our electronic devices. Think of how clean the air feels near the ocean, a waterfall, or while sitting outside during a rainstorm; when water crashes, the molecular bonds break and negative ions are released. (Article here.) Most importantly, Himalayan salt helps to rid the air of allergens, soothing allergies and assisting in boosting immunity. On the Himalayan salt train, I recently repotted my little succulent into this Himalayan salt bowl; the bowl can be used for serving items that need to be lightly salted as well. I asked my friend who is a counselor if she thinks her salt lamp really works and she said, “You know… I think it does. Mostly because I just like being around it; I just feel better when it’s in the same room as me.” I have to agree with her. My allergy symptoms have improved, but more than anything, I just like the soothing, soft glow the salt lamp gives off. It feels calming and I am all about that right now.
Oil Diffuser. I always thought people who used oils were borderline crazy. And then after a solid week of migraines and medication, as a last resort, I tried diffusing a Peppermint oil someone gave me. Within twenty minutes, the oil did what medications couldn’t; my migraine slowly lifted and I no longer felt sick to my stomach. Now I apply the oil to my temples and neck, place a cool cloth on my forehead and rest a heating pad at the back of my neck to soothe a migraine. And each night, I start diffusing a little Peppermint oil before I go to bed. It makes the room feel cool, serene, and calm and helps me fall asleep. I’ve purchased Peppermint oil from various sources now, but one I find that works best and smells beautiful is the Young Living brand. I diffuse mine with this oil diffuser but I keep eyeing this one that is just gorgeous and has a larger water capacity.