When I completed the last round of Bring About Balance, I was asked for advice about illness. She asked how to get back on track after an unanticipated disruption that shut her down for a bit.

Now, we’ve all had periods of low-productivity. I’ve have a cough-cold thing for 2 weeks, and have been sleeping on the sofa instead of writing articles. So today, I want to share 4 key ways to ensure you get back on that Right Path feeling recharged and recovered.

Before we reach that list, I want to introduce you to a concept that leads to burnout and can even cause illness.

burnout rest boom bust man sitting alone on tree stump facing green trees and mountain under clear blue cloudy sky

The Boom-Bust Cycle

The gist of this pattern is that we often run at 100% and keep going until we’re empty. We run and run and run until we collapse. We push ourselves into work with a cold until we’re bed-bound by the flu. We do ‘one more day’ of weight training until we injure ourselves and have to spend weeks resting. We work ourselves until the illness physically holds us down.

We boom until we go bust.

This is a familiar concept to those with a chronic health condition. Once we ‘recover’ we often expect to go back to 100% again, and sometimes that isn’t healthy.

I’ll come back to this cycle a bit later, but for now, think about how you approach challenges.

#1 – Schedule Downtime and Rest

Staying Too Busy. This failure to recognise where you are at leads to not making enough space and time to recharge. With all the things we try to accomplish each day, the idea of carving out specific time to be unproductive feels like a waste.

Want to change that? Set time each day or week where you do not need to be giving 100%.

#2 – Choose Activities which Recharge You

Ineffective Breaks. The second issue is in what we choose to do with that downtime. If you’re emotionally exhausted watching a TV show with violence or grief may not be the best use of that time. Similarly, when struggling with your mental wellbeing, scrolling through news headlines can be unhelpful.

To make breaks more effective, choose activities which re-fill your energy. For example:

  • Pause for 3 breaths.
  • Listen to music.
  • Doodle on post-it note.
  • Dance.
  • Meditate.
  • Count the leaves on a tree.
  • Find the Five Things.
  • Write a to-do list.

#3 – Listen to Yourself

Motivation Scripts. We live in a society that values productivity as a measure of accomplishment. There are so many blogs, vlogs, books, and courses about being so productive, getting everything done and being focused. Yet, this perpetuates the boom-bust cycle, and can leave us feeling guilty when we rest.

One solution is to remember that we are all different, and that your body and mind will tell you when things are or are not working for you. Very few things are designed to work for every person, so you can dissolve the guilt of following those ‘life hacks’ when you know that rest is the right step for you. Think of rest as ‘offsetting’ and recharging so you can be your best self again later is sometimes helpful in this.

#4 – Notice your Baseline Levels

Lack of Awareness. One of the best ways to burn out and go ‘bust’ is to not know your baselines: how you feel each day, whether this activity adds or removes energy from you and if you have enough ‘spoons’ for what you want to do accomplish. Equally, we may start noticing things slowing down thanks to an illness or being depressed, but it’s more useful to know this when you are well.

Instead, take note of your energy and motivation levels, both in general life, on busy and relaxed days, and while doing each activity. The term ‘spoons’ is a common model to explain how those with chronic health condition often find ‘simple’ tasks more difficult than people who are 100% well.

Not Sure Where To Start?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you build up a plan for replenishing your energy and minimising the impact after being ill or experiencing burnout.

  • How many spoons do you have for a general ‘okay’ day?
  • What ‘creates’ or replenishes spoons for you?
  • How many spoons does that daily teeth-brushing etc take?

List out some re-charging activities to slot into your routine as needed, and review the list regularly. You never know when something will move from replenishing to exhausting.

Whether you are planning to avoid illness and burnout in future, or trying to bounce back from depression, consider your own energy levels and the cycle of burnout.


Want more balance in your life? Check out the details of Bring About Balance.

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