Writing a letter to yourself is a hugely cathartic experience and a brilliant form of self-help. Below I share with you my own experience of doing this, but before we get into that, here’s some helpful hints on doing your own version.
Top tips for writing a letter to yourself
There’s no right or wrong way to do this, although following some of these guidelines can help it be a really powerful experience.
A moment in time
Choosing a point in time which you are targeting your thoughts and words at can help you be really focused and specific. It might be a letter to your teenage self, a time when something specific happened for you, a desired point in the future, or even right now.
Why are you writing it?
Understanding your reasons for writing the letter can also help you be more focused and specific. Are you hoping to draw out lessons, are you looking for inspiration or answers, is it a form of journaling and processing, or maybe it’s simply a general exercise? Knowing why you are doing it in the first place can help you gain more from it.
It can be helpful to take some reflection time first in order to transport yourself to the point in time you are referring to. What was/is going for you? What you can see and hear. How do you feel? Where were/are you? What’s in your surroundings. The more you can immerse yourself, the powerful the words you can offer.
Let the pen flow
Perfection is not the aim here, so when you decide to put pen to paper just let if flow. There’s no need to censure or edit yourself. It’s a letter from you, to you, and only you need to see it. Letting the words pour on to the page in an uninterrupted manner is liberating in itself, and often brings out the powerful messages.
Write with compassion and understanding
Consider you’re writing to your very best friend, someone you care for, that matters to you deeply – it’s an easy way to ensure you’re offering yourself compassion, understanding, and support.
Offer your wisdom
Particularly if you’re writing to yourself in the past, it’s helpful to consider everything you’ve learned and understood since then and offer your wisdom generously. You’ll be surprised just how much you have to offer.
What can you take forward?
Once you’ve written your letter give yourself time to read and absorb. At that point, you might decide to leave it there. But often the real benefit can come from some reflection on what that letter means for your life now and moving forward. Have there been some helpful reminders? Is there something you want to do as a result? Does it allow you to leave something behind? And so on.
I hope that’s of some help and that it’s as cathartic an experience for you as it was for me.
And now, let me share my letter to myself …
The context of my letter
In 2012 the full force of burnout consumed me like an avalanche, buried me deep and left me feeling utterly helpless. The physical, mental and emotional strain was so extreme I could no longer function. My body said “no more” and I instantly knew I had to change if I was to recover and ever thrive again.
I spent a long time angry at myself for allowing this to happen, for not being strong enough, for letting people down, for constantly wearing the “mask” that others preferred to see, and for not living my own life.
With the wonderful benefit of health, happiness, and hindsight I often wonder what I really needed to hear at the time of my burnout, and so I penned this letter …
My Letter To Myself With Burnout
I understand how you’re feeling and it’s awful. A level of exhaustion that never eases, your body aching all over, struggling to think clearly or remember the most basic things, and that extreme sense of loneliness.
I know you feel isolated, angry, lost, powerless and confused. I know you want to be thriving again, but don’t know how. I know you can’t see a way through this and fear this is it, forever.
I want you to trust me. I want you to let me guide you. Because whilst you feel that there is no hope right now, I know with absolute certainty that you will come through this.
It won’t be a return to who you were, but a journey to a you that thrives, excels, smiles and laughs in all areas of your life. You will be content and fulfilled. Please believe me.
You are a strong, driven and independent woman who has achieved so much. You give so much to others, always helping in whatever way you can, keen never to let anyone down. You are admired and cherished by more people than you realise.
And now it’s time for you to look after yourself like you do everybody else, and to receive the love and support from all those who are waiting in the wings to offer it.
I know this won’t come easy to you. To share your vulnerabilities and ask for help, but doing so is simply you demonstrating the strength and courage that you are already so well known for.
Much of the journey ahead you’ll need to explore for yourself, but you don’t have to do any of it alone. You have a whole choice of people who will be by your side the whole way, supporting you, and responding with compassion to your needs. And know that I am waiting for you, smiling and ready for the fun and laughter you crave so much.
Here’s what I need you to do. Five things that will make an enormous difference right now.
- Tell the people you love how you are feeling. Tell them you don’t know what you need and they don’t need to solve it for you, but you need them to be firmly by your side. They may not understand what’s going on for you, but they won’t judge you and they’ll do whatever you ask of them.
- Consciously and deliberately make the choice to rest, recuperate and nourish. Right now that means allowing yourself to sleep whenever you need to, getting some fresh air frequently, and asking a friend to make you some nourishing food.
- Allow yourself to experience whatever emotion comes up. It’s OK to be happy, joyful, sad, angry, frustrated, tearful – all emotions are valid and part of the journey. You don’t need to lock them away for anyone.
- Actively experience the joy in every day. Ask a friend to pop in, read books that transport you to another dimension, look at the sky, and laugh with friends.
- You come first. Plough all of that love and care for others into yourself and allow others to help you whenever they can. You deserve it.
That’s all you need to need to think about right now. The rest will follow and you will find your own way. Trust your intuition – I promise you it will take you in the right direction.
You’re already on your way to something better. You may not be able to see it right now, but you will, very soon.
It’s time to rest.
Thank you for allowing me to be the person I’ve become.
With all my love and gratitude,
Sharing My Guidance With You
As you can imagine, that was emotional and therapeutic to write, but wonderfully comforting to receive. My journey since burnout has been a winding path but has ultimately led me to a place where I’ve been able to purposefully share my experience, professional training, insights, and guidance through coaching, workshops, and my book ‘Have It All Without Burning Out’.
If you’re interested in exploring this subject further then my book is a great place to start, or if you prefer some online learning, then it’s worth looking at my online course The Resilience Formula. Or if you’d prefer some 1-2-1 support you can always look at my coaching programmes.
And lastly, feel free to join my highly supportive Facebook group.