Prevent Burnout: Refuel Often

Published April 23, 2023 by Sheila Anne Murray

Imagine you are a car, driving across the country. You are hauling everything on your mind, every stressor that’s weighing you down, every person you are caring for and thinking about, each responsibility on your plate, your daily habits, as well as the vision you have for your life and career.

I’m curious:

  • Is there anything you would leave behind instead of taking it with you, to lighten the load?
  • What would you decide was most important to carry with you?
  • How often would you need to stop for fuel? Remember that the heavier the load, the more fuel/battery power you’ll likely need.
  • Would you run until empty or be mindful to refuel earlier? Running until empty can age a car more quickly.

During the countless hours driving across the country (and especially traveling through the plains of Kansas) I had time to reflect on this metaphor. As I drove, I found it curious that I was willing to exercise more care and caution with our car (stopping for gas at half full, resecuring items at each stop, going easy on the roads) than I had in the past with my own well-being.

In October of 2022 I found myself creeping along at the edge of burnout. Many of my clients come to me in the height of their burnout stage, when the light has left their eyes and they can’t bear to open their computer. I wasn’t quite there… I was calling it “crispy” or “toasted,” but no matter what I called it, it didn’t feel good and something needed to shift. I could feel the exhaustion of my physical body, my mind wrapped in a dense fog, and my emotions were unpredictable.

What had happened? Despite my attention to the cars around me (the clients I served, the friends and family members whose life events I showed up for, etc) I didn’t have an eye on my own haul and my gas tank/battery. I was ignoring the low fuel warnings and attempting to drive onward. Like many of the clients I work with, I was terrified I would be left behind and that others would see me as inadequate for needing to stop and recharge.

I’m grateful I had the self awareness and proper training to recognize where I was headed and what needed to happen in order to take care of my own mental & emotional load. This is what led me to take 3 yoga classes off my schedule, say no to basically every social opportunity offered to me for one month, fully dedicate myself to daily meditation, monitor my working hours and be stricter with start and end times, and more.

Thanks to my efforts, 2023 so far has been a tremendous success. I created and facilitated the Anti-Hustle experience, I co-hosted my first international retreat, I led multiple corporate wellness workshops, and I earned more money in my business in the first quarter than all of 2020. Most importantly I valued my time, energy, and well-being more than I ever had before and I had a lot of fun!

In April, my husband and I picked up our life and moved to the East coast to pursue our dreams of buying land and building our own home. As we drove I-70 and I gazed at the road ahead, our speed, and our gas tank, it was easy to see the connection between the cross-country drive and taking care of my well-being over the course of my ongoing lifepath.

Here’s how:

  • It’s vital that we only carry with us that which we absolutely need - travel light! Consider what tasks you are not delegating, what clutters your physical and energetic environment, what you are worrying about that is making it difficult to feel lighter and happier.
  • There are times in our life that we need to carry more than usual (stressors, responsibilities, unpleasant emotions, unforeseen circumstances, etc) and during those times we need more fuel. Just like a car, the extra weight causes us to go through our reserves more quickly.
  • What we carry may look different than what others are carrying, but neither of us is less important because of it
  • Similarly, we are traveling at different speeds. Do not race a stranger to a red light and don’t force yourself to speed past someone who might be headed in a different direction anyway.
  • Don’t wait until you’re empty to refuel. It’s malpractice to let your car’s gas tank/battery go empty before you refuel. Similarly, the longer you run yourself towards burnout, the more energy it will take to recover and the more likely you’ll face longer term symptoms. Keep an eye on your fuel gauge!

So imagine, right now, that you are a car on the road. How fast are you going? How much fuel is left in the tank? Do you need to lighten your load or re-secure what you’re carrying? I invite you to play with this metaphor to bring more awareness to the energy reserves you’re expending and how frequently you’re refueling. You have a brilliant light to shine into the world and you won’t be able to shine it if you’re running on empty.


Sheila Anne