Women and burnout

I’ve just recovered from the second period of burnout in twelve months. I used to feel a sense of shame at getting sick, criticising myself that I must have been so unaware of myself to let myself get so out of balance. 

I used to think I must have been doing something ‘wrong’, or that I just didn’t have the strength and resilience to keep pushing through to achieve a goal without crumbling and succumbing to physical, emotional and mental stress along the way. 

These days I feel differently about it. This deeply reflective time offers the opportunity to powerfully connect with the Divine Feminine within and un-learn some of our patriarchal conditioning that keeps us pushing and hustling to get ahead at the expense of our wellbeing.

I’ve heard other women share positive reframes on burnout lately in the same vein, so I’m curious to know if our experiences resonate with more people.

 There are a few different factors I can see at play as to why so many women experience burnout. 

It’s partly to do with the unrealistic expectations we have on ourselves, whether self-imposed or set by others. 

I think it’s especially something that women experience because we’re not physiologically equipped to handle the same high levels of stress hormones that get released into our bodies when we’re working hard to reach goals and deadlines compared to men. But for women who wanted to get ahead, it seemed there was no alternative but to follow the same strategy of hustling, pushing and working extremely hard. And that has a cost. 

I believe burnout is also hugely connected to the patriarchal system that has conditioned women to believe we’re not doing enough, being enough or achieving enough despite our personal and career successes.

The inner dialogue in our minds that comes from this systemic conditioning causes us to strive and over-reach, or feel guilty if we’re ‘not doing enough’. And if you do decide to lean in and play big, our fight-or-flight response typically switches on and gets overactive, so our nervous systems are always signalling to us at some level that we’re not safe and we end up living in a hyper-alert state and unable to fully relax and recover.

It’s a hidden reason why many women do hesitate to go all out for their dreams and goals,  because when they do, their health and relationships often take a hit.

It’s been fascinating to see this theme coming up with EVERY one of my female tarot coaching clients in some way. Women who are sensitive and aware to the change in consciousness on the planet (my typical clients) know we are navigating a major paradigm shift, and there is a lot that we are having to un-learn, much of which may be deeply unconscious. And it’s not something that can be changed just by reading a book, doing a course or workshop, or taking a holiday to reflect.

This is BIG work. It requires a deep and sustained approach to change the endemic programming within ourselves that most of the world still operates by and to break free from the matrix and its powerful pull to conform.

Periods of burnout that take time to recover from – and who knows, maybe even the Pandemic lockdowns, long covid, and other long-form ‘illnesses’ that more people are experiencing these days – may well be the opportunities that we are being given by the benevolent Universe that will help us to disconnect from the matrix to collectively evolve and create a more harmonious way of living and being?

Burnout: low energy levels

Some symptoms of burnout (not the same for everybody)

  • Very low reserves of energy.
  • Sleeping really badly, even though you’re exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally.
  • Some people get bad headaches, neck tension and digestive upsets.
  • You might have a sense of being on the edge of getting a cold or flu, or fully succumb to it.
  • Feeling overwhelmed and over-stretched.
  • You could be highly sensitive and get easily triggered, as well as feel empty, unmotivated and detached.
  • Slow recovery of energy levels and frequent crashes that might take weeks rather than days.

All that said, I believe there are some really positive aspects to experiencing burnout, and reframing it in your mind might prove very empowering if you find yourself navigating it yourself.

Read on below if you think you might be susceptible.

How I got myself into a state of burnout

Both times I experienced burnout last year was following periods of intense creativity, flow and focus. Things were good. I was really enjoying my work and life. I felt fuelled up and passionate about what I was doing and excited about where I was heading.

The first time I crashed was after going through a business reinvention. I’d previously taken a step back from my business for a couple of years, letting go of how I’d done things in the past. I’d used the time during the Pandemic to create a lot of inner space, and into that space came new inspiration for how I wanted to work with clients along with lots of creative energy. I also made a really clear decision to move my business forward – no matter what!

It felt amazing so I went for it, and I started to fall back in love with my business.

Perhaps I put my foot on the accelerator a bit hard by starting too many things in a short space of time. I launched my new Transformational Tarot brand and coaching programme, I started Bloom, my local in-person women’s circle, and I created three new workshops to facilitate at festivals in early summer in the space of a couple of months.

It was a really busy time, but it was also exhilerating. Because things were flowing so fast, the control freak inside me had to let go. I remembered to ask for a lot more support from the universe to work out the things that I couldn’t do. And because of that, magical synchronicities kept happening. It was like being carried in the centre of a fast flowing river after letting go of the safety of the riverside. I grew a lot over those months.

But, as I was packing up my tent right at the end of that busy period after my last festival ended in early August, my throat started feeling scratchy and I felt suddenly exhausted. I knew I’d reached my limit and needed time out to recover.

The following week I was run down with a sore throat and no energy, but apart from that I was okay. It just so happened to be in the most gorgeous week of summer weather, so I was able to lie in the garden guilt-free, reading books, connecting to Mama Nature, restoring my energy and allowing healing to take place. 

Getting into receptive mode

I allowed myself a slow and gentle August and took time off for a holiday with my BFF up on the beautiful Isle of Mull on the west coast of Scotland. So by September, I felt deeply nourished, fully charged and ready to start back with a bang!

Recovering from burnout

Things started going really well. My women’s circle was feeling really good. New women were finding it and then began asking to work 121 with me. My calendar started filling up with fantastic tarot coaching clients, and the magic and transformation that was happening in coaching sessions in my new tarot programme was exhilarating, fun and inspiring!

Was it because all the effort I’d put in earlier was starting to pay off…? 

Was it because I’d made space to receive…? 

I suspect it was both. 

In a resting/healing/receptive phase you’re not expending energy by giving, doing, planning or thinking. Space is naturally created, and because Nature abhors a vacuum, that’s when She can flow her abundance your way.

However it happened, I was full of energy again, good things were happening in all areas of life, I was passionate about my business like never before, and I felt aligned and on track.

So for the next four months I worked and played really intensively again because that’s how the energy was flowing, and it felt wonderful.

I ended the year with my ‘Advent Tarot’ video series because making videos about tarot was something I’d been meaning to do for ages. 

Creating and sharing 25 videos was A LOT of work, and being in front of a camera isn’t a natural, energising place for someone like me, who can be quite an introvert, so it required a lot of energy to do that. But it was really enjoyable!

I ended the year so proud of myself at what I’d managed to accomplish, and at the same time, I was really looking forward to that week between Christmas and New Year to do absolutely NOTHING…

Advent Tarot

Well, my Fairy Godmother heard me.

On Boxing Day I woke up with a scratchy throat again and feeling like I wanted to crawl into a cocoon to be left alone.

So that’s what I did, and it was marvellous!

But recovering my energy has been different this time. As before, I didn’t really get sick with flu or anything, but I felt a deep need to rest, go within, connect with my heart, meditate and feel.

A few times, when I’d felt myself getting stronger and I’d thought my energy was coming back, I’d try and do something productive, but only a short while later I’d crash. A friend once described this as being at the bottom of the curve.

When you’re getting enough rest and leisure time to recharge, and you’re not over-reaching for too long, then your energy reserves will usually fill up quickly and easily (the sides of the curve), even if you do make effort. You don’t hit the bottom and you tend to feel more resilient, strong, able to support others with your energy, and you can do more. You might get physically and mentally tired at times, but you’ll usually recover by the next day after a good night’s sleep.

Bottom of the curve

But keeping going full-out for a longer period will deplete your energy reserves, you’ll find yourself at the bottom of the curve and you won’t be able to bounce back. Instead, even if you only make short bursts of effort, you’ll use those minimal reserves of energy up very quickly and you might need to stop and rest multiple times a day in order to recharge so you can function.

For me, because I was so wired into ‘doing mode’ at first, if I got even just a small increase of energy, the compulsion to DO something… to get busy,… to be productive was really strong. But I didn’t have enough energy in my batteries to sustain it. So eventually I surrendered and fully let go, letting the process take as long as it needed to in order to fully recharge.

And that’s the interesting space to be! 

When you’re surrendered at the bottom of the curve your awareness and sensitivity heightens, and you can FEEL EVERYTHING. You can immediately sense what or who drains you and when you have to put your own needs first and stop giving energy away. You get to see where your boundaries are weak and where you’re leaking energy. If you choose to, with this awareness you can set some clear, healthy boundaries, and the energy you save once your batteries are full again can be used to create your life rather than be unconsciously wasted.

As you can see from the diagram, it can take quite a while to start building your energy back up again. What I’ve learned through this experience is that sometimes we need to deeply rest for extended periods, which isn’t easy. 

We have to deal with the frustration of not being able to DO, which is where we derive so much of our self-seteem and value. We have to be patient, not beat ourselves up for not being able to do more, lean in and trust that we are exactly where we need to be, to surrender and let go of the resistance to the situation.

By going through this ‘un-learning’ of the pushing, striving programming I can feel a much deeper connection to the Feminine creative power within me. 

Burnout spread

While I’ve not had the physical capacity recently to roll like I had been doing in 2022, I’ve still felt really held and confident that things are lining up and working out well for me. I’ve focused much more on visioning and getting clearer, about what feels right and aligned moving forwards, and how my work will fit into the bigger picture of my life so that it feels nourishing and abundant.

It’s given me the time to set my inner satnav so the Universe / my Higher Self can guide me.

I did a tarot spread to ask “What do I most need to know about this situation?”

The cards above couldn’t have been more confirmational regarding the insights I’d already received, so I felt like I was exactly where I was meant to be: 

TURNING IN – connecting inwards and observing the antics of the mind without reacting to them emotionally.

INNOCENCE – Dropping what you think you know, letting go of shoulds and have-tos and instead be in the moment in a state of presence, wisdom and acceptance at the ever-changing wonder of life.

CONSCIOUSNESS – Clarity that comes through connecting to Source Energy and the deep stillness at the core of your being.

NO-THING – Although it might be disorienting to feel directionless and not see the way ahead just now, relax into the void and let go, because something sacred is about to be born.

COURAGE – You can choose to resent being in a difficult situation, or you can find the courage in your heart, face the challenge and grow towards the light.

RECEPTIVITY – Open to receive and replenish which brings about a state of harmony with the universe. Sensitivity, intuition and compassion will dissolve all obstacles.

Managing my energy moving forwards

It’s taken me a long time to write this article because I stopped and started many times depending on how I felt. Often I just didn’t have the capacity to think, plan or write. I just had to follow the energy available. But I didn’t need to stop working altogether. I just needed to change my habits and put some things in place to manage my energy levels better, so going through this process has been really valuable.

I decided it would be helpful to follow my energy flows through the year, so I’ve created a planning framework based around the energies of the moon (if you’d like a copy of my Moon Phase Planning Calendar to get more organised and align with your intentions and actions, pop your details in the box below). I’ve planned holidays during phases of letting go and restoration, mapped out the best times for planning and planting seeds in my business, and times to take action on work or other creative projects when the moon supports that.

It’s the first time that I’ve done this, so it’s an experiment, and I’ll let you know this time next year how it’s worked or if I managed to stick to it!

So having this burnout experience has created a new possibility for living and working. I’m curious to see what happens, and if this new approach helps me to side-step burn-out in the future.

Either way, I have no regrets, and if anything, taking time to recharge, rest, reflect and dive into my inner being for a prolongued period after going full-out for something that’s important to me was so worth it, plus, I suspect if I wouldn’t have let myself go so deep if I’d not been physically floored for so long!

The universe is ALWAYS working for us! 😁🙏


If you find yourself doing a dance with burnout and you found this article helpful, do let me know in the comments below. And if you’ve experienced it, and you also reconnected more deeply with your Divine Feminine within as a result of it, I’d love to know!

Cathy x

P.S. And don’t forget, if you’d like to get more organised, align with your goals and intentions, boost your productivity, avoid overwhelm and connect with your inner wisdom, why not download my Moon Phase Planning Calendar below?

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Cathy portrait

Hello! I’m Cathy, I’m an intuitive transformational coach, spiritual guide and healer. I use energy psychology, mindset tools, and Transformational Tarot to support adventurous women who want to live more authentically, more magically, more abundantly and from a higher energetic state of being that helps them create a life they love on their own terms – aligned with their highest purpose.

If you lack clarity, self-belief or confidence, I can help you to connect to Source Energy – your Higher Self – to tune into the bigger vision of your life, dissolve limiting beliefs, sabotaging patterns and emotional blocks, and give you the tools so that you feel empowered to take action towards becoming who you were born to be.

I works with groups and individuals and have facilitated spirituality and mindset workshops, programmes and women’s circles in NZ, Australia and the UK since 1998.

Email: connect@cathyballard.com

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