healing

How to recover from 20+ years of exhaustion

This summer, I have truly experienced vitality again. Looking back, it has been over 20 years that I've felt this good, energised, and able to do what I loved. I think I was exhausted during my first MedSchool years already, studying and working nightshifts in an elderly home to pay the bills. I loved caring for people with dementia, it was a rewarding job, but I never got time to rest and recover and this became a pattern for me that eventually led to burnout and chronic illness.

I know that when you are not feeling energised and happy, it is a challenge to read about others who do, and it can be something to turn away from. Like it isn't possible for you. 

I should add that I still cope with Fibromyalgia and that winters are usually way more challenging for me. However, to feel aliveness, energy, and being able to hike uphill for hours, swim with my kids, and support my wonderful clients in their businesses, makes me feel so grateful. 

My goal is to tell a story about HOPE. That it truly can be better. That you have a choice. And that it is in your hands to feel better, no matter what the circumstances are. You are the creator of your life, your reality, your story. And you can chance anytime you want. 

What I did to feel better:

  • rest, rest & rest

  • learn how to set aside guilt and shame in order to be able to not only listen to my body but also act on the signals

  • change my relationship with success and productivity (success isn't the high-paying medical job that turned me into a walking zombie, it is being able to enjoy daily life, laugh, and feel good)

  • track my cycle and plan accordingly

  • eat as much organic food as possible, grow my own food in our veggie garden

  • stay away from the news and clean up my social feeds - I unfollow people who post news items, political statements, and the good thing is that the social media algorithms pick up on that and only show me positive news and things I care about like nature, diversity, equality, and eco-living

  • get support from holistic practitioners and coaches

  • work on my scarcity mindset with coaches

  • invested in personal development and healing

  • followed my joy (focusing on feeling good)

What I didn't do to feel better: 

  • rely on the medical system to cure me (I knew that the body-mind connection is unchartered territory there and not considered a 'valid' illness)

  • take supplements and vitamins, because I believe that food is medicine and supplements can never replace healthy food (although I did get myself tested for the biggest vitamin deficiencies and hormonal imbalances, and I had none according to Western medicine)

  • wait to be rescued in some way

  • punish of judge myself for not being 'there' yet

  • pushing myself over the edge

Of course, this was my personal healing path, and I'm sharing to inspire, not to prescribe. I have never been a doctor like that and now I'm not a medical doctor anymore, so I'm done with prescribing completely... (I changed my career to Online Business Manager (find me at www.willemijnmaas.com) and Energy Coach for Women and I love it!). 

My biggest AHA...

What helped me the most to get my energy back was following my menstrual cycle, and planning accordingly. I plan my business activities, projects, and life around my cycle in an empowering way. I know my 4 phases, and I know what I'm capable of in each of them. It is so helpful to be aware that when you are doing something during a phase of the cycle where your hormones aren't aligned, it will take you so much more effort and energy. 

I'm absolutely thrilled that more and more women find out about this and learn to use and look at their cycle in a completely different way.

Are you in tune with your cycle? What did you discover? What do you want to learn? Let me know in the comments!

How to make your resolutions work

The year is almost over!! To me, it isn’t really hard to say goodbye, it was a difficult year in many aspects, but also a year that taught me so much about myself! Who I am, what is really important to me, what I needed to change. And I found out on a very personal level that change isn't easy (wanted or unwanted). And it's even harder when you don't have the energy to experiment new things. 

What I also found is that real change can only come from within, supported by our deepest motivation. It all starts with a wish, a desire, a longing... but for what? I learned that having clarity on what I want, and more importantly, what I truly needed, was pivotal to turn things around.

So, I'll start the new year with much more clarity on the things I would like to accomplish, and what I want to bring into my life. That empowered mindset makes me much more confident that I will reach my goals.

I stated some powerful resolutions that are aligned with my heart, body, and Soul.

What are resolutions? Wishes and dreams, goals and plans. In short, resolutions are about changes we want to make.

Having navigated many changes in all areas of my own life, as well as supporting my patients in their journey after a diagnosis or illness when I was still in the medical field, and working as a project manager on implementing complex operational changes, I have seen up close what worked and what didn't work when it comes to change.

I would like to share some thoughts about resolutions with you, to explain why they usually fail and how to approach things differently.

When you ask people about their resolutions, you usually get 3 types of response. 

  1. Well, I should quit [X] so that's what I'm gonna try. Between the brackets are things like [smoking, drinking, shopping, spending, eating chocolate, overeating, ...].

  2. Well, I should start [Y] so I'm going to do that. Between the brackets are things like [moving, running, eating healthy, being there for my family, a project, ...].

  3. Resolutions? I don't have any because they don't work anyway.

The core feelings behind those responses are:

  1. guilt

  2. guilt

  3. cynicism, defeat

Not very positive. 

This is exactly why resolutions like this usually don't work. They are stated while we are in a restrictive or judgemental emotional state. We believe we are doing something wrong and we try to fix ourselves. 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with ambition, setting goals and trying to be the better version of ourselves. But, it's important to know what that version is and whether it suits us.

Usually, the wish for change comes from a sense of urgency. Things go wrong, we don't like the results we are getting. And that leads to stress. Our systems are built to eliminate stress immediately. And the way we are wired, it leads to behavior that temporarily decreases stress -> eating, drinking, smoking, shopping, checking our phones, ... 

Oops. 

The things causing us stress, are the same things we go to as a temporary stress release. And we know it. That's where the guilt creeps in, the 'shoulds', the inner critical voice. We punish ourselves with restrictive measures (causing stress) and we call it a resolution - "I am going to be a better version of myself without this behavior. I should ... "

We humans have stress on a daily basis and we have needs on a daily basis. We want to feel safe, supported and loved. However, during our lifetimes we taught ourselves to get positive feelings through external things. Self-soothing is a lie... We don't self-soothe, we externally-look-for-soothing. We fall into the trap of feeling good for a short while though unwanted and destructive behavior, causing stress and in the long run, not giving us what we are longing for.

It's a vicious cycle. Or a downward spiral. See how this will never work?

How would it be when we were able to shift our perspective and look within to find what we need? To give the love, care, and support to ourselves? To break the cycle in a different, lasting way? To spiral up an up towards the things you truly want?

When you create change by adding restorative practices, you will decrease stress and enhance relaxation. This creates so much more space to invite new things into your life! 

To create lasting changes, you need space and clarity on your deepest motivation and your true needs.

To help you state powerful intentions that are aligned with your heart, body, and Soul, and the energies of the January New Moon, I created a 9-day online program, the WinterLight Wellness Week.

You can find more information about WinterLight HERE.

Discover your blocks and limiting beliefs to heal from burnout

During my career in psychiatry, I worked with many depressed and anxious patients who were stuck in patterns that kept them locked in. It was frustrating for them because they could feel how blocked they were but weren’t able to see what the blockage was. Usually, it took a while until they recovered and were able to reflect on their thoughts and emotions without getting extremely upset. 

When I found myself in severe burnout in 2016 after a series of extremely stressful life events, health issues, and surviving almost 3 years in a toxic work environment which caused me PTSD, at first, I didn’t know what was happening to me. I felt awful, extremely tired and exhausted, and I had severe cognitive problems, causing me to get lost in the supermarket, and how to get dressed.

I recognized that something was very wrong but I didn’t know what it was. When I was told it was burnout syndrome, with severe physical and emotional depletion, I didn’t know what to think of it.

I have always been a firm believer in our capacity to shape our reality and manifesting our intentions. In my private life, I lived with the Moon cycle, and every New Moon I journaled about my intentions for the month. Usually, my intentions were focused on the things I wanted to accomplish. And usually, I did. 

While in this burned out state, I felt like a total failure. How could I have created this mess myself? I must have done something wrong because I clearly never wanted to manifest the health problems, traumatic work environment, divorce, and the stressful life I was living. How could I unconsciously have wanted all these things?

I remember telling my husband that I was convinced that “this was all happening for a reason although I couldn’t see why yet”. 

What I didn’t know yet was that this way of looking at the situation was my lifeline. It was a form of surrender, enabling the transformation to start.

During my recovery process, I found out that the old way of living wasn’t sustainable anymore. The old way of striving, pushing, achieving, always making deadlines, following orders, and forgetting myself, my health, my body, my spiritual needs. I needed to do things very differently.

This was when the hard work started. Doing things differently, but how?

I wanted to live a different life, and I started to try new things. Some worked fine, but some threw me back into exhaustion, grief, and despair. 

While reflecting on every change I tried, I found out there were certain patterns surfacing. Patterns related to my thoughts and feelings, that were vital for my ability to change and grow. I began to notice some major blocks I must have had all my life, but I had always navigated them without really seeing what I was doing, causing major energy leaks (this became clear to me because I was so depleted and needed every shred of energy.)

With my clients, I can see similar blocks. These are usually beliefs, deeply ingrained in your system, that are difficult to look past or challenge by yourself. The blocks are always ready to defend their existence because they made you survive difficult situations in your life. The pay-off was disconnecting from a part of your Soul. Sometimes, after years of living this way, leaving you with nothing, the connection between you and your Higher Self severed. 

In my opinion, this is what burnout really is. Separation from your Higher Self, from the Universe, and from the Life Force itself.

As long as you are in a stressful situation, this will go on. Stress is a sign. It is telling you that the situation you are in isn’t serving you. That it is taking something away from you. 

Of course, stress is a part of life, but it is first and foremost a NORMAL response to an ABNORMAL situation. Changes need to be made.

For me, that meant: walking away from relationships, setting clear boundaries, quitting a toxic job in a broken health care system, and caring for my body.

Stress is survival. However, when the challenges are over, you don’t need to shut down the vital parts of you anymore. The problem is, after years of stress (childhood trauma, difficult family situations, work-related stress), the survival strategy can become a habit. And it created beliefs that this is the only way to survive. The beliefs are so strong that they become blocks in your life, preventing you from changing and living your best life. 

It is very important to discover the blocks in yourself if you want to shut them down and live the life you want, in alignment with your true empowered Self, led by your Inner Voice.

What I discovered was that I was constantly trying to fix a broken system, a toxic environment, destructive relationships. There was no space for my Self to flourish while I was busy trying to fix everything. Unfortunately, what I manifested in years of trying to fix everything, was separation from my Soul, separation from the Universe, separation from others, broken relationships, and a body-mind disconnection. Also known as burnout syndrome.

What I found out through deep soul searching was that I was blocking myself with major limiting thought patterns. And I now see them in my clients too. I made a list of four big blocks that are often present, some of them I had to overcome myself. They usually start with “I am…”, followed by something negative or conditional.

Four major limiting beliefs that can lead to burnout:

  1. I am alone. This one comes in many shapes. For some people it is perfectionism, thinking that things will only be done perfectly if they do it themselves. They don’t let others help them or take over. Others have experienced interpersonal trauma, an unavailable parent, or loss, and believe they have nobody to support them, or if they ask for support, they will lose it. And consequently, they do it all themselves.
  2. I am unsupported. This is related to the first one but goes deeper. When we felt unsupported or not taken care of as a child (food, shelter, unconditional love, attention) this created a deep spiritual wound. It may even go as far as not believing there is an Omnipotent or Divine presence (God, Mother Earth, Source, the Universe…) to help and guide you, causing you to work very hard and trying to create your life all by yourself. This belief prevents us from collaborating, helping others, and asking for help, and it creates feelings of loneliness and disconnection. What if the truth is that there is always Divine guidance and support available, and you just have to ask for it?
  3. I am successful only when I work hard/all the time. This is a very destructive belief, that many of us have been brought up with. Stories of working hard in school, being ambitious, and only receiving praise when coming home with good grades install this belief. What if the truth is that if you are doing something from the heart, with passion instead of pushing, you will be way more successful? Another way how this shows up is reluctance when it comes to rest and recovery. To be productive and successful it is vital to rest and restore our energy as well. However, if the belief is that only hard work is leading to success, it’s very hard to surrender to rest and downtime.
  4. I am not worthy. This is a very common block that prevents us from receiving. If we feel unworthy, we are constantly trying to show our worth by over-giving. Over-giving is the main cause of depletion. This belief is very common in women, caused by our patriarchal culture and the heritage of centuries of gender oppression. If you hold this belief you might have issues receiving compliments, help, suggestions, advice, love, health, abundance, energy, Divine guidance. What if you are inherently worthy, and using your skills and talents and being you is enough to be of value? You can’t give from an empty cup. You can only give from the saucer when the cup is overflowing with abundance.

Of course, there are many more blocks that can be very individual. But usually, they can be grouped into one of those big four. 

Try to find out which one(s) resonate(s), and journal about them. Also, write about your fears and doubts and you will discover what is beneath them. 

What really helped me in releasing the blocks was working with several coaches and theta healers. Coaches can help you see what you are missing, unearthing the limiting beliefs you might have. Theta healing is a powerful way of releasing limiting beliefs, using the energy in the body to untangle them. Some say it even affects you on the DNA level, which makes it a very powerful healing tool that can even affect your health, and the health of generations that come after you. 

The coaches/theta healers I worked with are:

Darling Allegri (USA) - XOXDarling who starts a great new group program August 27th, 2018, around releasing your biggest limiting beliefs to help you past the blocks that prevent you from stepping into your best life. Early bird enrollment until August 8th.

Yvonne Dam (UK, NL) - Amaze Yourself who is a great life and career coach.

Jocelyn Mercado (USA) - We Are Sacred Planet who is a business coach for inspired people who want to serve the world in a purposeful way. She will start a new group business coaching program in September, I will keep you updated on that one too. I followed it and started Elemental Life because of this program and never looked back!

If you feel called to share your blocks and limiting beliefs in the comments, please do so. You can always email me (email address at the bottom of the page) as well, or book a call to see how I can support you in your healing journey. 

The productivity myth - why taking a break is vital for your health

The productivity myth - why taking a break is vital for your health

Rest and recovery is vital for our health. Why is taking a break so hard for us? This article gives you insight on the productivity myth, the way we are conditioned to always work and achieve to be successful, how rest is associated with doing nothing, and why that is a lie. We need down-time to prevent burnout, exhaustion, chronic stress, adrenal fatigue, and other depletion syndromes.

Consolation for a Broken Family

"I had to kiss them goodbye. I had never been away from them more than two nights. And now I would have to leave them for five days. Not once, but over and over again.

‘Mommy, I want to stay with you!” 

My 3-year old daughter was wrapping her arms around my neck. My 6-year old daughter already took her father’s hand, ready to walk away, like she was heading towards a new adventure. She didn’t know what was waiting for her. A broken family. Swapping homes for the rest of her childhood. Missing mom, or missing dad.  

There’s a time for letting go. You can’t hold on to your children forever. Having to let them go at 3 and 6 years old is just cruel. 

As I was dying inside, I looked up towards the stars, as if they could give me the power to survive this agonizing moment. My eyes rested on the Full Moon. 

I took a deep breath, and as I went down on my knees and whispered to my sweet little loves with as much courage as I could gather: 

“Do you see Her, the Moon? Did you know She’s always there, always have been, and always will be? Remember that when you miss me, you can always search for the Moon. Wherever you are, and wherever I am, I promise you that when you look for the Moon, I will be looking for Her too. When you see Her, you will know that we will always be together.”

My sweet baby girl smiled, I snuggled her one last time before handing her over to her loving daddy. My oldest daughter threw me a hand kiss and swirled away into her new future.

I watched them as they drove off. I don’t remember how long they were gone before I could breathe again. Then, I looked up at the Moon, and I could feel Her cool white light on my wet cheeks. That moment, it was me who needed to remember Her presence most."


This is my contribution to the May Magick project, hosted by Alauna Whelan, published May 29th 2018, titled 'The Moon'. It was written straight from my heart and a true story.