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When life is kicking your arse, everything feels overwhelming. Maybe you feel like you're being attacked on all sides...or like you are running for your life on a hamster wheel. For me, burnout felt like I was on a canoe, paddling as fast as I could to stay afloat. Only I was only paddling on one side, which may have kept me afloat, but I was just going in one, big, exhausting circle and getting nowhere.

Fun fact: I have literally done this. My first time in a canoe, my best friend and I were worried about flipping the boat over. So we were super focused, super careful not to tip or even rock the boat. We were so proud of ourselves for staying above water, until her father asked us why we were just rowing in circles.

Wait, what? Why didn't anyone tell us you need to row on both sides to go, you know, forward? The symbolism and irony are not lost on me.

I started this blog because I completely burned myself out by waiting way too long to address my own needs. As a healthcare provider, my job is to take care of others. As a wife and mother, I take care of my family's needs. As a people pleaser, I wanted to make sure everyone was happy. This meant that whether I was at work, at home, or on vacation, I was always "on duty”…multitasking and constantly pulled in different directions taking care of everyone else. Does any of this sound familiar? I mean, when do we actually get a real break?

When we chronically ignore our own needs and don't listen to our hearts, the body speaks up and tells us something's wrong. That may manifest as:

  • Aches and pains

  • Chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing

  • Exhaustion and/or trouble sleeping

  • Headaches, dizziness

  • High blood pressure

  • Muscle tension or jaw clenching

  • Stomach or digestive problems

  • Weakened immune system and more frequent illness

Emotionally, it feels like irritability, anxiety, frustration, hopelessness, or even depression. And yes, we all have bad days. But NO, it is not normal to feel that way on a regular basis.

Sucks, right?

If you can relate to this, congratulations, you are a burnt cookie too. And you are far from alone. It seems like almost everyone I talk to feels this way these days. Not surprising, since we are currently enduring one of the crappiest times in modern history, and we are all on edge.

Okay, so you feel burned out. Now what?

Everything has to start somewhere, so let's start here. Here is where this whole self-care concept kicks in.

First thing's first, take a breath. And I don't mean this in the metaphorical sense, I mean literally, take a nice, deep, gratifying breath. There's a helluva lot of proven research about the value of breathing exercises. If you aren't familiar with this, is a great place to start.


Look around your environment. What is working well, and what isn’t? (Those if you who just looked at your significant other, I feel you)

Try asking yourself some hard, honest questions. What in my life is not going well? Is it one specific thing, or is there a list? Or maybe it's everything? Try to write down whatever comes into your head, just stream of thought. Every little thing that irks you, upsets you, drains you. Nothing is too big or too small. Let’s first try to zone in on the problems and identify them. Journaling is such a valuable and effective way to get rid of and sort out the clutter in your head. Think of it as a confessional to yourself. Or self-therapy.

Just a few ideas to ask yourself:

How do I feel? Tired, frustrated, cranky, overwhelmed, unappreciated, unmotivated, unfulfilled, antsy, or all of the above? Write it down.

What is most important to me?

What moves or motivates me? What makes me happy?

What really pisses me off?

What do I want (or wish for) more than anything right now? Sleep? Vacation? A raise? A promotion? A new job? To clone myself? World peace? Inner peace? A hot fudge sundae? For my (fill in here) to get abducted by aliens?

Make that list, and then let it be. You just purged a whole heap of crap out of your head and created something real and tangible, and it ain’t going anywhere. You can review it at any time, analyze it, and actually see what is going on inside you. Most importantly, you just did something for yourself for a expressed and acknowledged your own needs, desires, frustrations, etc. Maybe you even identified some issues that need to be addressed, which can be tackled whenever you are ready.

Another Fun Fact: I just did this today. At my fabulous and wonderful sister's request, I took all the things I was worrying about and wrote each one on an index card. I now have a stack of cards as thick as a nice, juicy steak. And you know what? My head feels a whole lot clearer. And that itself feels really frickin' good.

Please empty vacuum to restore suction.

Big change starts small. Small is manageable. You know, that whole "Rome wasn't built in a day," thing is true. Everything has to start somewhere, and the biggest but hardest step is to just take that very first one.

Do it when you are ready. This is all about YOU, and if necessary, write it into your schedule and block off the time. I blocked off an hour, but it surprisingly took me a mere 30 minutes to purge the word vomit out of my head. And once you do, give yourself an atta girl, and bask in your own praise...because you just started something. And that, my friend, is huge.

You got this, Cookie. And I'm gonna be here cheering for you the whole damn way❤️!

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

Hi all. My name is Laura McDowell, and I'm a burnt cookie.

I'm not exactly sure how I got here. I have stress. We all have stress. Maybe I can blame it on my job. Or maybe it's my family. Who knows, the world is a crazy place right now. It doesn't really make a difference anyway, because no matter what the actual cause is, I'm still a cranky, irritable wench.

I'd like to think I'm a good person. I've wanted to take care of people for as long as I can remember. When I was little, my mother sewed me a nurse's uniform, and my father got me a real stethescope. Eventually I became a physician assistant, and I've been working in pediatrics for 23 years.

I loved my career. I loved the kids, and I loved supporting the families raising them. I guided them through the overwhelming infant stage, the sleepless nights, the calls with fever or illness after hours and in the middle of the night. I was able to be there for them through childhood and adolescence, discussing illness, behavior, development, vaccine worries, the full gamut. But what I seemed to do most was reassure. Yes, we will find a way to treat that. Or yes, that is normal. Yes, that's okay. Yes, I'm overwhelmed and frustrated with the whole work/life/parenting balance too. To be honest, it was reassuring to me that most moms seemed to feel exactly the same sense of overload I did.

The concept of burnout started sneaking up on me at multiple times in my career. We all have a lot of growing pains at each stage in our lives, and I just accepted it as the norm. I did the best I could at juggling a full time job, raising a family, keeping food on the table, laundry clean, and dealing with the typical life "stuff" as it was thrown at me, lather/rinse/repeat. Feeling like I was being pulled in a billion directions at once was just the status quo, and I could usually handle it. I had my many coping mechanisms, of course. For some, it was exercise, a hobby, or wine. For me, the main one was definitely sugar.

I have alway reached for sweets for a little boost when I needed it. Bad day? Buy a candy bar at lunch. Really bad day? Screw it, I'm having ice cream for dinner.

During quarantine, I felt fully justified eating an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's.


But when I found myself running to Baskin Robbins for ice cream at work one day...for breakfast, mind you...I knew something was seriously wrong. Of course everyone else in my life saw it way before I did. I had become a nasty, cynical, short-tempered bitch to my family (well, at least my husband) and coworkers, and I rarely talked to friends at that point because it was too exhausting to socialize. I couldn't sleep. I hated my job. I hated the world. I hated people.

That's when I started googling "what is burnout." Lo and behold, I found my answer. I'm not a nasty bitch. I'm just a Burnt cookie. Apparently its a common phenomenon these days, especially with those of us who are caregivers (hello, fellow moms!) or work in certain high-stress fields like healthcare (check, check!). Sadly many, many more of us are feeling the "burn" these days because the entire world has gone bat-shit crazy.

Now, among other things, I am an obsessive researcher (I'm actually a master-Googler, it's one of my super powers). Once I'd effectively "diagnosed" myself, I needed to find out how to fix it. Unfortunately, I've learned that my current state didn't happen overnight, and it isn't going to resolve overnight either. However, I also discovered that nearly every woman I spoke to seemed to relate to exactly how I was feeling.

That got the gears spinning in my head. It felt good to know that I wasn't the only one crisis mode. It felt even better to talk to others who could really identify with what I was going through. So I had an idea.

What if there was a place to connect with others who were working through the same issues, to support each other, share tips, or just vent and talk smack? I'm sure they are out there, but I decided I want my own sandbox.

So here it is, fellow Cookies. Welcome to my playground. Bring your toys and snacks. I want to hear from you. Let's discuss this whole self-care and healing thing. I want to share things I've found that make me a little happier, but a community can come up with even more solutions. Talk to me! Comment below, start a topic in the forum, and get the conversation started. I want to know what pisses you off, what you are struggling with and what seems to work for you. Your words may just help someone else. Grab some tea/coffee/wine, whatever your pleasure, have a look around here, and let's figure our crap out together!

Oh, and just an FYI...I have a wee bit of potty mouth. I really don't want to offend anyone, and I'm not gratuitous about it, but sometimes other words just don't fit or feel right So, since I am trying to be as real and authentic as possible here, please forgive me if I occasionally sound like a truck driver. I promise you, I'm a really nice one.😊

Updated: Nov 6, 2021

Let's talk about one of the most neglected things you have.

No, I am not talking about what you think (although the first thing that popped into my head was pretty hilarious).

I’m talking about your soul. Your spirit. Your personal battery. What was the last thing you did to recharge it? More importantly, when?

If you’re like most of us these days, you are a multi-tasking machine. You may have it all down to a well-oiled science, or like me, you may be just getting by with glue and popsicle sticks (and, in my case, a whole lotta sugar and coffee). We are experts at burning the candle on both ends. We are hard workers: mothers, daughters, friends, partners, caretakers. We pride ourselves on our reliability and productivity, and our ability to somehow get it all done even if we are running on fumes. We can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. Sleep? Ha! We laugh in the face of fatigue. We are warriors! We really are pretty dang incredible.

But what happens when you’ve stretched yourself in so many directions, for so long, that suddenly, you can’t quite rebound back anymore? What do we do when we completely run out of gas, and our battery is dead as a doornail?

The very first thing they show you before flight takeoff (well, after buckling your seatbelt) is how to use the oxygen masks. And to always secure your own mask before assisting others with theirs.

So why don’t we do that in our own lives? Why do we take care of everyone else's needs without addressing or even considering our own? Why do we wait until our battery is dead as a doornail before we realize we need to charge it?

Let’s make a promise to ourselves and start putting our own needs on our to-do list. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so let’s find out what it takes to refill it. We are superwomen, and we can figure this out, right? Let’s finally put on our own oxygen masks…Together.


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