If it all feels like too much

burnout caregiving exhaustion mindfulness philip booth poetry rest self-care self-compassion Aug 10, 2023
lie back and the sea will hold you

I've been reflecting a lot on rest in the past few weeks. Many students and clients have told me that they are tired, and they feel like they should have more energy. Like being tired is their fault! It’s easy to forget about all the valid reasons why a person might feel tired right now. Sometimes I forget, too.

But then I remember that these last several years have asked so much of everyone, in many different ways. And each of us also has unique life circumstances and challenges.

Feeling depleted doesn't mean you're not strong, it means you're human and that you have limits. It makes sense.

This is especially true if you're a professional caregiver, or if you're in caregiving roles in your life. It can be so hard to make space for what we need ~ body, mind and spirit. And when we don't, we get exhausted and burned out.

I re-read a poem recently that felt comforting around this. It reminded me of how essential rest is when we feel overwhelmed. And it reminded me of how important it is to connect with something greater than our fears and judgments...


First Lesson
by Philip Booth

Lie back daughter, let your head

be tipped back in the cup of my hand.

Gently, and I will hold you. Spread

your arms wide, lie out on the stream

and look high at the gulls. A dead-

man's float is face down. You will dive

and swim soon enough where this tidewater

ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe

me, when you tire on the long thrash

to your island, lie up, and survive.

As you float now, where I held you

and let go, remember when fear

cramps your heart what I told you:

lie gently and wide to the light-year

stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.


lie back


This poem is a reminder that "when fear cramps the heart" we can connect with the natural world ~ the sea ~ and let it hold us. We can find something greater than our fear ~ a grace we can rest in.

If you feel depleted, I invite you to experiment with this. Sometime today or over the next few days, go to the sea, if you live nearby. Sit with the ocean for a few minutes and breathe.

If you don't live near the ocean, close your eyes and imagine it. Picture it as clearly as you can, and breathe for a few minutes. Remember that the stars are up there above us, too, measuring their lives in light-years ~ so much longer than ours.

To deepen this practice, you can draw and/or paint an image that reflects your experience of the sea and the way it can hold you. Let Philip Booth's poem be your inspiration, if that feels right.


lie gently


You might also put a hand on your heart, and take three breaths...

With each inhale, say silently to yourself: Lie back
With each exhale, say silently to yourself: And the sea will hold you

When you finish, notice how you feel.


I hope this poem and practice help you turn toward yourself with more kindness and love today. To let go of more blame and shame. And to rest more fully.


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