Coming Home: A two-part letter to high-achieving healthcare professionals in the midst of burnout

By Amber Pena Posey

“Peace is not the absence of chaos or conflict, but rather finding yourself in the midst of that chaos and remaining calm in your heart.” ― John Mroz

When I first entered the field, I naively thought by choosing the role of an expert I was guaranteed protection from my own chaotic feelings. I was in love with the work. My profession felt like a calling. It felt like home.

Yet 15 years in, and even after creating my own practice, burnout and compassion fatigue came whispering my name and eventually became too loud to ignore.

And while the healthcare machine does not always allow us to practice as the healers we wish to be, I am a prime example that it’s not just the system that needs to change.

So to get back home to my center, I began to ask myself:

How does someone go through burnout who has their own practice, makes an excellent living, and creates a thriving lifestyle as the priority?
And what are you to do about it while swimming through a shame spiral when you have identified as the expert, believing you “should” be able to “get over” it?
My own deep introspection and desire to get to the bottom of my burnout is what makes me passionate about sharing that more of us are at risk for burnout than one would think. For those of us with unconscious wounds, burnout is accelerated.

Not only are there systemic limitations that contribute to burnout, but more importantly, our very identities that often drive us toward the role of healer, are reinforced in these systems. They allow us to bury our true self into a sense of usefulness. A noble act, of course, but deadly results may occur if not unearthed.

Burnout feels so insidious because we don’t necessarily see it as related to our wounds, defenses, and strengths, but rather look for external solutions. Yet the same behaviors that allow us to initially be high-performing professionals fuel burnout and become the opposite balm for recovery.

And because it is so ingrained in us to push through, it is often destabilizing to our identities to do the inner work. For it encompasses allowing and being—anathema to most high-performers.

The short answer to these questions is to come back home. Not in your professional identity, nor the career that may have once felt like home. But to the actual center of you—your depth and embodied knowing. This is not something particularly encouraged within the healthcare system. Certainly not convenient. But your vitality demands this.

And while it can be disorienting to become the eye of the storm rather than react to it, it is also priceless and worthwhile to become still, calm, and have complete trust in our own inner compass.

The imprint of the burnout storm, if seen for its gift, will forever allow us to access our truest strength—our home base.

Stay tuned for how self-compassion and creativity are essential in burnout recovery.

Amber Pena Posey is an Integrative Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. For over 15 years she has worked with gifted high-achievers and creatives plagued by high-functioning anxiety, ADHD, perfectionism, and eating disorders. After her own recovery from compassion fatigue and burnout, she founded a be-spoke coaching and consulting service for helping professionals and entrepreneurs to tap into actual, embodied self-care and inner vitality so they nourish themselves as the trailblazers they are vs following the crowd into burnout. Connect with her on LinkedIn and her website.

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