A story of one woman’s path from burnout to bliss using holistic healthy lifestyle changes.
How does a woman go from being a successful landscape designer, designing city parks and working in high level design firms, to teaching yoga full time? She burns out.
Shannon Bronson is a friend, a fellow community supporter and one of my most inspiring and brilliant yoga teachers. Her story is like many who have adopted a yogi’s life. It’s one of heartache, awakening and compassion.
Whether you think you may be experiencing the early signs of burnout, or you are completely there, Shannon’s story just may inspire you and possibly even save you.
Shannon’s story starts out the same way a lot of ours does. She discovered her passion, she worked her ass off and she landed the job of her dreams.
And then she became completely miserable.
Although her intentions were good the culture of the environment she had found herself in was toxic. Her and her co-workers worked very long hours, did not take care of themselves and had unhealthy ego-driven relationships with one another.
Shannon found herself becoming extremely competitive. Her self-esteem was fueled by her performance at work. Everything from the way she worked out hard in the gym to going out power drinking with her colleagues reflected her “work hard, play hard” mentality. It was her intense way of achieving success.
Until all of that “success” got torn down.
While Shannon was burning the candle at both ends she was concurrently destroying her home life and her body. The alcohol consumption and her routine of going out partying all night were now taking over. This competitive lifestyle she was living had led to complete self-destruction and burnout.
Her “aha moment” came when she lost her job and almost lost her husband.
A weekend alone, after her husband having walked out on her, led Shannon to self-reflection and the realization that she might never see her him again. Shannon knew she had to start making some very significant lifestyle changes.
These lifestyle changes not only healed Shannon from burnout, but they saved her marriage, improved her overall health and lifted her self-esteem as well.
Shannon’s 3 proven healthy lifestyle changes for healing burnout –
- She dropped the unhealthy addiction.
The first thing Shannon had to come to grips with at this point was that alcohol was destroying her life. Like prying a chew toy out of a puppy’s mouth this was not an easy thing for Shannon to let go. Going out binge drinking was engrained in her lifestyle.
The first step Shannon took was to meet with a healer. Shannon chose a modality called somatic experience therapy, which teaches you how to identify, sit with and accept life trauma instead of using self-destructive behavior to treat it.
During her initial sessions she addressed her alcohol addiction. She looked at her life in two ways. The life that included alcohol was one of suffering, loneliness and an endless cycle of fighting and making up with her friends and husband. In the life that did not include alcohol she envisioned herself having a child, a beautiful garden and a happy family.
She drank two more times after that session. Both times her and her husband had blow out fights. She told her husband she had, had it and was giving up booze for good. She hasn’t touched alcohol since.
With the toxic job and substance abuse now out of the way she had removed the root of her burnout and was now ready to heal.
- She started practicing yoga.
During what Shannon calls her “process of dissolution” she found herself starting over again on her yoga mat. She said she had never believed in angels before meeting her yoga teachers.
She started practicing daily soaking up anything and everything she could learn about yoga. Her thirst for healing her body and emotions were quenched by it. She became clear and her life started to accelerate. This time at a healthier speed.
She loved this tool for treating burnout because it did many things to get her body out of the fight or flight response. It got her to breathe, to slow down and to listen to her body and pay attention to it.
Shannon believes there are two ways people get involved in yoga in a serious way. The first is a point of crisis. Things in their life start falling apart and they use yoga to lift them back up. The second is the realization that the things that used to make you happy no longer make you happy anymore. She says, “until one of those things happens most people aren’t really going to feel like they need yoga.”
Eventually her practice led her to rediscovering her passion for art, paying more attention to nutrition and learning how to shift her personal relationships from hateful to loving and supportive ones.
As dramatic as it may sound, yoga is what probably saved her marriage.
Through all the pain and suffering she now looks back to that “aha moment” when she lost her job and almost lost her husband and thinks, thank god that happened. Because if it hadn’t, she would have never discovered the life she was meant to live.
Shannon is now one of the most unbelievably gifted yoga instructors I know teaching in San Francisco.
- She began studying Ayurveda.
As many yogis have experienced, yoga eventually gives way to studying the magical world of Ayurveda – the science of life healing system invented in India thousands of years ago.
Studying Ayurveda taught Shannon that what she ate strongly influenced her mood and how in or out of balance she was.
The book Absolute Beauty, by Pratima Raichur was Shannon’s primer to Ayurveda. Shannon had very bad skin. Cystic acne and blackheads had spread all over her face. The book taught Shannon that what her skin was expressing was what was happening on the inside. She stopped putting chemicals on her face and switched to natural skin products and began to change her diet. She learned about her doshas, or body constitution, and how to balance them by reading Dr. Vasant Lad’s book, Ayurvedic Cooking For Self-Healing.
She learned that when a person’s doshas are out of balance they crave the things that make them more out of balance. Her strong cravings for alcohol, caffeine and pizza were starting to make sense to her. Shannon is a kapha-pitta dosha type and all of the fiery and wet beverages and foods she had been consuming could be seen all over her face. After cutting those things out of her diet for 3 months her skin had completely cleared up and she felt amazing.
She was able to re-introduce certain foods back into her diet in moderation, no longer having those intense cravings, but continues to abstain from alcohol.
Ayurveda created an intrinsic awareness in Shannon. She is now capable of using foods to strategically bring her back to a state of balance when needed.
As a yoga instructor Ayurveda has also taught her how to understand and read her students. She can just look at them and know where they are out of balance and what kind of practice they need.
Genetics has a lot to do with a person’s dosha type but lifestyle plays just as big of a role. Shannon says, “you can see it on people’s skin, in their disposition, how they move and how they talk.” Being able to ‘read’ her students has brought her closer to them, which adds to the fulfillment she now gets from her new job.
The telltale signs you are burning out
Shannon and I thought about our own experiences with burnout and how we saw it show up in others. Being in a state of mindless action, experiencing physical symptoms, exhaustion, anxiety, depression, negativity and numbness were all things that came to mind. We reflected that during a state of burnout nothing ever seems good enough and nothing ever seems to bring you real joy.
The sad part is that many of us will never admit, let alone treat burnout. In our society people are praised for setting their own personal health aside for their jobs and their families.
It’s common to think that spending money on things like coaching, therapy, massage, acupuncture and yoga are all luxuries and can’t be “afforded”. Maybe we think we don’t deserve the things we really need so we don’t spend the time or money on it.
Expressing her concern Shannon said, “I can’t think of anything a person could spend their money on that could be any better. It’s your brain, your heart, your mind. They’re precious goods.”
The idea of giving up a job or a career we worked our asses off for is a scary one. Many (including myself at one point) fear that all the time they put in to going to school and working their way up the ladder would end up being for nothing. But as Shannon says, “your job is not the most important thing in the world. It is there to serve you and help you live the life you want to live. Renegotiate your relationship to your job so that you aren’t a slave to it and admit that if something isn’t working you don’t have to keep doing it forever.”
Her advice to those suffering from burnout is to talk honestly and sincerely with someone who knows you well. Know that you are not alone. Admitting you need help is the first step. Set your ego aside, humble yourself and re-examine your life. Realize that what you are going through is not the end of the world. Be compassionate with yourself. You may have had the best intentions but think about where you are in your life right now.
Did it really work out the way you wanted it to?
Reflecting back on burnout
I asked Shannon, if she were to live her life all over again, what would she of told herself or did differently to ensure less suffering. With a tear in her eye she said she remembered being in a pattern of self-hatred for most of her life. Despite her talent and passion she never believed in herself enough to really direct it towards what she really thought she could do. She said, “ If I were to do it all over again I wish I could look back and tell myself you are good enough.”
Shannon is yogini and artist. She’s dedicated her life to interweaving these modalities to live her truth, with the intention of inventing compassionately creative expressions to change the world in positive ways.
Shannon’s life radically blossomed when she fully embraced yoga. She hit the mat hard and allowed yoga to be the safe space in which heal her own traumas. Yoga evolved into the foundation on which she has built a new life in the pursuit of happiness and freedom. Daily asana and meditation as well as a commitment to the 8 limbs of yoga gave her the courage to leave the Urban Design world. She believes it is her path to instead teach yoga, create her art and practice Reiki healing.
Shannon understands that to be a great teacher is to also be continual student. She has an RYT200 from Triveni Yoga and continues to advance her studies with her teachers and Triveni Yoga creators Jessica and Stéphane Dreyfus. Triveni is a vinyasa-based style of yoga that combines asana, meditation with a focus on the subtle body to profoundly transform the practitioner inside and out. She travels internationally with the Triveni team to teach teacher trainings and conduct art, yoga and meditation workshops. She also bows in gratitude to her teachers Elise Lorimer and Betty Roi for sending their light into her life.
For upcoming workshops, guided meditations and schedule and location of where Shannon teaches yoga visit her at:
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and experience host whose writing focuses on cooking, holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made foods.