Melissa Heisler

It’s An Inside Job

“You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself.  That is something you have charge of.” – Jim Rohn. 

I love irony.  Last month I was interviewed on the On Purpose radio show.  My segment was called, “Take Back Your Life: From Burnout to True Balance.”  We talked about my personal transition five years ago from burnout to a true balanced life.  The joke was, during the interview, I was feeling burnt out.

No matter how vigilant we are, burnout can hit us throughout our life.  We do well until a family member becomes ill and we are the primary caretaker.  We love our job, but due to layoffs we become the only one left in our department.  A relationship we thought was stable becomes demanding and draining.  The source of the burnout looks differently but it all comes back to the same issue.  The issue is focusing outside of ourselves instead of in.

Perception – Pain – Outside

Burnout is caused by giving priority to things or people outside of ourselves instead of putting the priority on us.  We perceive that another’s need or some task is more important than we are.  In doing so we give our power over to this thing outside of ourselves whether it be a person, cause, bill, task, or project.  In saying that it is more important than us, we become slaves and victims to it instead of being our empowered selves.  The result is that we not only feel drained because we have given away our essence, but in putting our needs below the need of something outside of ourselves we then also often lose self-care.  We may give up exercise, eating well, and our daily practices because we perceive we don’t have time.  Burnout is then exasperated by looking for solutions to the burnout outside of ourselves in the form of new jobs, houses, spouses, the latest pill, or our favorite comfort food. 

Here is the usual burnout cycle: 

  • We perceive something or someone is urgent or critical making it now our priority.  In doing so we give up our power and our “right to be” because we have giving something else more importance than ourselves.
  • Because we are no longer a priority we give up those things that feed us (exercise, quiet time, meditation, lunch with friends, etc.) because we “don’t have time.”  We give all our time and effort to the thing or person we deem a priority.
  • Then because we are not caring for ourselves our minds and bodies become run down.  We no longer think clearly.  We no longer have energy.  We can no longer experience joy.  We are exhausted.
  • To try to get our energy back we look for cures outside of ourselves (caffeine, a change in job/house/spouse, etc.).  However these “cures” either mask or exasperate the burnout we feel.  They bring us deeper and deeper into burnout.

To break the burnout cycle we need to look inside instead of out. 

Truth – Peace – Inside

Melissa HeislerTo break the burnout cycle we need to look inside for our priorities, inside for our needs, and inside for our answers.

There are times that other people or things have urgent needs.  The key is to not sacrifice ourselves to them.  The truth is that the only thing we can truly affect and that we are truly responsible for is our own health and wellbeing.  No job, task, person, bill, or anything else is ever a priority above our own mental, emotion, and physical health.  Let me say that again, our only responsibility is for our own health and wellbeing.  No one else is going to do it for us.  It is no one else’s responsibility and if we don’t do it, no one else will.  Anyone or anything which appears to be a priority must be relegated to the energy and effort we have left over after caring for ourselves.  Working from the inside out, we first ensure we are taking care of ourselves so we are in the best place to assist the other. 

If you find yourself in a place of burnout, here are a few tools you can use to return to a good balanced life.

Stop:  When we are in the midst of the pain, confusion, and overwhelm, we can not address it.  Step aside.  Walk away.  Turn off.  Tune in.  Give yourself some physical, emotional, and psychological distance from the source of burnout.  This does not need to be a lot of time, but it does need to be completely removed from the situation causing the burnout.  It is necessary to step far enough away that you no longer are exposed or responsive to the source of burnout.  It is necessary to have distance in order to gain perspective.

Awareness:  Become aware of your current actions.  Are you caring for yourself?  What are you putting into your body and how is it affecting you?  Is your mind preoccupied?  Are you focusing on the negative?  Are you thinking about what could go wrong?  Are you upset that things are not moving quickly enough?  Are you overwhelmed by the number of things on your to do list?  Check how you are feeding your body, your mind, and your spirit.  Is what you are doing helping or hurting you?    

Put Yourself First:  Take back your power from that person or thing you gave it to.  Make a declaration – verbal or written – that you come first.  This declaration is to yourself.  You do not need to make it to the thing or person you gave you power to, because they did not take your power, you gave your power away.  Now you need to reclaim that power.  Realize that you are responsible first and foremost for yourself.  Realize that there is only so much you can and should do for those things outside of you.  Recognize, accept, and celebrate your own inherent worth.

Return to Your Routine:  When I am my best, every morning I meditate, write affirmations, go for a walk, and eat a good healthy breakfast sans caffeine.  This is the way I take care of myself and in return my body and mind are in their best shape for me.  When I break away from this routine, I become sad, exhausted, unclear, and out of control.  First and foremost, one must take care of themselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually before they are able to best handle the issues of the day.  Find your own daily routine that brings you joy as well as physical, emotional, and mental health.  Make a commitment to the daily routine above all else. 

Next time you find yourself burning out, the tools above can help you regain your power and your energy.  


Listen to the full interview on the On Purpose Show with Susyn Reeve and Rikk Hansen.

Wellness versus Illness – Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine Day

Back in the day, Oriental doctors were only paid when their patients were well.  Individuals would come to the doctor on a regular schedule to receive acupuncture and herbs to help them maintain their health.  If they fell ill, the doctor would then work for free until the patient was well again. What a different concept from our Western allopathic medicine that focuses only on illness.  Many of us believe that we only see a doctor when we are ill.  Our current paradigm has trained us to seek help only when we are not feeling good then we accept the medication or surgery the doctor prescribes. Imagine instead if we made wellness our priority.  We could spend every month, week, day, and hour ensuring that we were eating well, exercising, resting, and de-stressing.  Think we would have better, more consistent health?  Imagine not being down for the count and having to recover from being ill.  Imagine instead having stable consistent good health every day of your life.  It is possible.

Lindy Camardella
Lindy Camardella

Watch as Melissa Heisler receives acupuncture from Lindy Camardella. Then listen to the full interview with licensed acupuncturist and nationally certified herbalist Lindy Camardella to learn a new way to think about health, wellness, and what you can do to maintain consistent good health.  You will also learn about Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day focused on increasing the progress, promise, and benefits of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.  For more information check out the AOM Day site.

It's My Life Inc.

What is Life Coaching Like?

That's me, Melissa HeislerThe other day I was chatting with two friends.  They both mentioned being asked what life coaching was like.  Neither had an easy time explaining the coaching process.  It got me to wondering how many others are not really sure about the process.  There are many different coaches out there specializing in different goals and using different tools and styles.  It is important to find the right fit for what one wants to accomplish and the right coach that matches one’s style.  To give you a glimpse into life coaching in general, I thought I would share with you what it is like to go through life coaching with me.

Why:  Most individuals come to me for one or both of these reasons.  Reason one is they are looking to make a change in their career or find their life purpose.  They may be a college student not sure of a major, an unsatisfied worker looking for more fulfillment or possible business ownership, an individual who has been laid off and figures this may be an opportunity to try something new, or a retiree looking to give back and still be productive without the need to receive a paycheck.  The other reason I am approached for coaching is stress relief.  It could be the stress of a job, balancing children and work, caring for ailing parents, or a host of other stressors.

How:  The coaching process I use is unique for each individual because every individual is unique; however there are some steps in common.  Before we meet for the first time, the client fills out a prework booklet.  This booklet is a brief history of that client’s life.  As a recovering Type-A, I like to move quickly so instead of spending the first few sessions getting to know the client, this booklet speeds things up so we can dig right into uncovering the client’s life purpose or relieving the client’s stress.  During sessions we usually just talk.  Sometimes I talk more, sometimes the client does.  After the session, I send homework which I like to call Life Work because it is for the client, not for me or for a grade.  The Life Work may be written work to help the client see things in a new light, it may be growing awareness of reactions and behaviors, or it may be creating new habits.

When:  Usually I meet with clients every other week to allow enough time to complete the Life Work.  If the client wants to move faster, we can do every week.  I try not to go further than three weeks as we seem to lose momentum the longer time between sessions.  I usually recommend committing to six sessions as this gives enough time to learn, explore, and implement what we uncover.

Where:  Sessions are conducted via phone, Skype, or at my home office in Arlington Heights.

Who:  Maybe you?  Schedule a free twenty minute consultation to see if coaching is right for you.

Ready to get started?

It's My Life Inc.

Really, I am human

Melissa Heisler, Life CoachThrough the last few weeks, I have received amazed compliments from friends and family.  “I can’t believe you made it through the eulogy.”  “It is amazing you were able to compartmentalize enough to coach a client the morning of your father’s wake.”  “You are such a positive person. You have an outstanding outlook on life. You jump right back out there and make lemonade!”

Well not really.

I was a babbling, sobbing fool when I gave the eulogy.  Yes, I was able to be present for the clients I coached just before the funeral (or I would not have coached them), but I was pretty useless the week afterward.  Actually I have been beating myself up over the last few weeks.  I have been tired and distracted.  I have not been able to concentrate as clearly as usual.  I can’t believe my lack of motivation and ability.  I just can’t believe that after three years to prepare for his leaving, that the loss of my father is hitting me this hard.

But it is.  And that’s ok.

When someone close to us moves on to what’s next, there is a lot to process.  There can be the shock when it happens suddenly, and even when it is expected.  There are the emotions of not being able to see, chat or be with that person again. There is an adjustment to the new norm including holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries without them.  There can be exhaustion from all the time spent caring for the loved one physically and emotionally.  These are not just emotional or psychological issues, but they affect us physically too.

Although I felt clear and clean mentally, my body was telling me a different story.  A loss is a loss no matter the circumstances, the level of understanding, or one’s positive outlook.  The loss of someone dear to us, is the loss of a part of us.  Yes, psychologically we know that the person will be with us forever in our hearts, minds, and memories.  But the truth is that they are no longer with us physically.  They are no longer here to interact with us.  And this loss can affect our mind, body, and spirit.  However it is not solely a “loss” but is also rebirth into our new life and new environment without them.  For that person was a part of us and it takes time to grow into who we will become without that tangible connection to them.

When you experience loss in your life, give yourself time.  Time to process, time to sleep, time to adapt, time to grieve, time to grow into your own next phase of being.  Wishing you peace, understanding, acceptance, and the power to move forward.

It's My Life Inc.

In Honor of My Father

In honor of my father’s passing, this posting is the transcript from his 2009 Advent homily.

There is a new program on television this year called GLEE.  It is written by a couple of Prospect High school graduates and follows the life of a swing chorus.  A lot of the storylines and characters come from actual events at Prospect. A couple of weeks ago, the cast was talking about a homeless man who slept in the Mt. Prospect bus stand or in front of the library.  They called him “Patches”.  If you have lived in Mt. Prospect for any length of time, you would know that he really existed.  It amazed me that the writers would remember him after about 20 years.  He was an insignificant person but a human being created by God for whatever task God had for him.

In today’s Gospel, we have Mary, a relatively insignificant person.  She was a young girl from a small village.  The way she responded to the angel, Gabriel, and even to her cousin, Elizabeth shows us that even Mary considered herself insignificant.  By no means did she suffer from low self-esteem.  She was just simply humble, knowing that she was from a poor family in a poor town.  Mary teaches us a lesson: being from insignificant families in insignificant places does not make us insignificant.  We are reminded that the idea of significance does not come from where you live or who your family is but our significance comes from God.  All human life is significant, the poor, the elderly, widows and orphans, they are all significant in God’s eyes.  Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin made clear that she recognized that Mary, her young cousin was significant even though she came from humble means.  Regardless how insignificant Mary felt she was, the angel Gabriel came to her.  Mary accepted Gabriel’s word even though this was an inconvenience for her, being young and single.  She took a chance on God and agreed to go wherever he led her.  We also know that her yes was not a once and for all event, but would have to be renewed many times for centuries, for all eternity.

The readings this Sunday, especially the Gospel story of Elizabeth and Mary, teach us something of God’s way of working.  It seems that God has a habit, really a constant practice of choosing the weak and making them strong for carrying out His purpose.  Moses tried to hide from his mission because he didn’t feel capable of carrying it out.  Jeremiah cursed and swore at God, demanding to know why someone as inadequate as himself had to deliver such unpopular messages to a hostile people.  When we turn to Mary, we find someone who didn’t have any reluctance in responding to God’s call, but then again, she was just a young peasant girl from a drab town, Nazareth.

My fatherGod always prefers to make himself known and work through people who lack importance or status according to present day standards.  If you look around, God always chooses people who have qualities of simplicity, and a positive lack of worldly sophistication or grandeur to revel himself to us.  The attitude of all the main people in the story of God coming to earth shows the fact that if we don’t learn that kind of simplicity, we’ll miss the vital message that God is always trying to communicate to us.  In fact, we have to divest ourselves of the desire to be superior or to look down on other people if we want to be sensitive to God’s presence and open to his purpose.  We are also challenged to take a look at our own mission in life.  God created us and put us in this world for a purpose.  We may not be famous and as well known as world leaders or entertainers however God has a design for us.  Each blade of grass, each flower, each grain of sand on the beach has a purpose.  How much more are each one of us who are created in the likeness and image of God?

The difference between Mary and us is not that she was chosen and we are not.  No, it is that we often decide not to take the risk and give ourselves entirely to God.  We choose not to surrender our freedom or our will to him.  But perhaps today we can hear once again that we are highly favored, just like Mary.  God sees us as precious in His sight.  He longs to have a relationship with us that is loving and complete.  He wants us to experience joy, if we will but take a chance and say as Mary did, “let it be done to me as you say.”

Realizing Blessings

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that my father has been experiencing cancer for many years.  Some months are better than others.  Some are not.  Each time my father is stable I wonder when the next downturn will be.  Every time he trends downward, I wonder if he will pull out of it.  It has been an emotional and exhausting roller coaster ride.

But something happened recently to make me truly see the roller coaster as a blessing.

My parent’s neighbors have been so helpful.  They brought over food, shoveled snow when we couldn’t, and just stopped by to say hi.  Every time I saw them they asked about my father.   They are caring, giving, wonderful people.  Then one of them suddenly passed away.

He was a healthy man in his upper 60’s.  He acted young and was very vibrant.  Then one morning he just didn’t wake up.  Shock rippled through everyone who knew him.  His wife and those close to him were devastated.

After my shock wore off, I realized what a blessing my family and I have been given.  I realized in being caught up in the roller coaster, we weren’t realizing the gifts we were receiving.  We have had three years with my father to say the unsaid and clear up old misunderstandings.  We realize the significance of each holiday and make each one special.  We have been gifted with time to spend with him – time that I would not have taken off from my normal routine if I didn’t understand how precious it was.

When we are in the midst of painful and difficult situations, it may be hard to see how they are truly a blessing for us.  How they may be helping us put those things aside which appear to be important, for those things that truly are.  They may be challenging us to help us accept and utilize a part of ourselves that we may not otherwise use without a gentle, or a not so gentle, nudge.  They may just be reminders to be grateful for all that we truly have.

photo by leonardobd

What is aggravating you right now?  What is a hassle?  What is truly a burden?  What is stressing you out?  What is putting you through that emotional roller coaster?

Look at your answers to the questions above.  Now look at those situations and identify how they are truly a blessing for you.

What have they given you that you would not have otherwise taken time for?  What lessons are you learning?   What have you discovered by having your normal routine disrupted?  What have you been able to give up or take on that you never dreamed you could?  How is this situation perfect for you?  How is it helping you grow?

Sometimes breaking out of the pain to see the blessing, can help us cherish even the most difficult times.