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Neuroscience Saved My life

burnout wellbeing Aug 12, 2022
Understanding how my brain worked quite literally saved my life.
In 2015 I found myself burnt out for the second time and mentally it hit me much harder than the first time. The first was more physical and I was in and out of hospital for 7 months and undergoing 2 operations in 48 hours. If the physical aspect hadn’t been so tough, I don’t think I would have admitted or been aware of reaching burnout again for the second time.
During the recovery of those operations I was numb after lying on the sofa for far too long and watching too much day time TV. My sons came home from school one day and my immediate reaction was to say to them “don’t worry, I’m ok and I will be back at work soon”, but then one of my sons said “but mum your job is killing you”
That was the wake up call I needed and led to me doing a lot of inner work to understand what had gotten me to that point and what I needed to do to change things.
My measure of my health was whether or not I would be able to work. That day I was measuring how quickly I would be able to return to work physically.
But I needed to get back to who I was at the core.
Being out of alignment or out of balance and stepping away from our core, leads us to the point of physical illness, burnout and mental illness.
In addition to my coaching qualifications, my psychology degree, HR & training qualifications, my organisational design qualifications, I wanted to also understand us as people, our energy, how the brain works, our emotions. So I started to study hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, neuroscience and got much more into yoga and meditation.
I immersed myself in this learning with the focus on how I can ensure nobody else has to go through what I went through.
I love learning, I’m like a sponge and love taking in new things, but at one point I was doing over 30 things a day, in addition to leaving my corporate career and starting my own company.
Then 2015 came and I burned out again. I couldn’t think straight, I was having black outs and on my 35th birthday I visited a consultant who said I was experiencing petit mal epilepsy which I had experienced as a child. They put me on anti epilepsy medication (which also acts as antidepressants). After a couple of weeks of taking this medication, I was not in a good way! I was continuously crying, then I would start laughing for no reason, then I was suffering from lethargy and aching. I knew in my gut this wasn’t what I was supposed to be one.
I had stopped trusting myself and handed over the trust to a third party, who thought they knew what was right. But every single part of my being was saying this medication isn’t right.
On Christmas Eve that year all I could think about was whether I was going to jump in the river or on the train track. These thoughts were circulating in my head all day. I knew I didn’t want to end my life, but I needed whatever was going on in my head to STOP! So I rang my partner and told him I needed him to come home. He sat and listened.
At that point I knew it was time to come off that medication and I started to feel much better very quickly.
What I know is that I had been in the primitive part of my brain and I needed to get back into the intellectual part of my brain. That part was going to help me find the answers.
For so many of us, we acknowledge what’s going on in our head and to our bodies, and yet we continue to ignore it.
I am so grateful for all my learnings because in my darkest moment, I knew what it was that I needed to change.
We know what is right for us.
Yet there is something that holds us back.
My message to you is; take more time to reflect, take more time for yourself and pay attention to what your body is telling you. Our brains look for patterns - ‘this is what you did last time, so we will keep repeating the pattern’.
The chemicals are often produced based on what is happening to us physically. So that gut feel, that core-led part of you that says do it this way, listen to what it’s saying. Don’t over complicate or over analyse.
An exercise I do with some of my coaching clients is to get them to sit, take some deep breaths, then start to think or say out loud the word NO. And see where you feel that no in your body. For some people it’s that real gut feel, for some it’s in their chest and others it’s the shoulders. As you say no and believe it, your body will start giving you a sensation. Then you do it all again and start saying YES.
Thirdly, start to ask questions like ‘is my name Kelly?’ and you’ll feel the yes somewhere in your body. Ask yourself some simple questions you know the answer to and then start with the bigger questions that you’ve been waiting for the answers to.
Sit and feel!
When you get used to doing that, when needed you will be able to tap into it in the moment.
Our brains and bodies like to work in yes or no and if we don’t get a feeling, we might be asking the wrong question or maybe we need to wait a little longer until we have some certainty.
We train our brains and change those patterns and neural pathways and think and feel differently because we’ve allowed ourselves to.
We have a primitive brain for a reason. Our brains haven’t evolved at a fast enough pace to everything that is going on around us. For example our brains haven’t evolved fast enough to be sat in front screens all day long, or to not be outside as much as we need to be.
In those moments when we have high stress or go into fight or flight mode, our brain continues to go through all those previous records and patterns to find the response that feels most accurate. And we can start to trust those responses to allow us to move forward in the right way.
What does a yes feel like for you and what does a no feel like?
In 2013 Kelly had a successful leadership career, yet she was burned out, exhausted, and missing out on life with family. Determined to enjoy the success that she had earned, she's learned to create a life of balance and boundaries that is also highly successful. Today at, Kelly helps women leaders all over the world to prevent and recover from burnout without giving up their career or jeopardising their wellbeing.

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