Burnout and Internal Family Systems

burnout burnout prevention burnout remedies burnout strategy ifs internal family systems self-leadership Sep 08, 2022

by Megan Winkler, The Good Business Witch

Internal Family Systems is a model for self-leadership I've been studying for about a year now. I use the terminology in my everyday life but have just recently felt comfortable using it in coaching sessions, playdates, and in posts. IFS was created by Dr. Richard Schwartz, and it combines systems thinking and family systems theory to help us lead better lives. I love this model and using it in addition to my neuroscience and meditation training when coaching my clients. It's really the perfect pairing.

As far as IFS goes:

Essentially, we all have an unknown number of parts within us that are functional and good, as well as our Self - the core of who we are. Don't worry; I will not drag you through a whole lesson here.

All you really need to know is that we have protective parts and vulnerable parts within us. In common parlance, this often manifests when we say things like, "A part of me is glad that..."

Our higher Self possesses these beautiful qualities:

  • Calmness
  • Curiosity
  • Compassion
  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Clarity
  • Connectedness
  • Creativity


I like to start with Calm.

When I can tap into calmness, then the other parts of my Higher Self come much more easily. This is why I will often start my coaching sessions with a big deep breath and a short meditation session. On the rare occasions when I don't start the session like that, it's because something else will help my client calm down. For some, it's venting a bit. For others, they come to the call in a state of calm. 

Our nervous systems are craving safety, predictability, and homeostasis. One of the quickest ways to get to this point is through calmness. So take a deep breath. Feel it all the way into your belly. Sit with your breath for a few cycles. And then notice how you feel. 

Tapping Into Calm

When I can tap into calmness, then the other parts of my Higher Self come much more easily. This is why I will often start my coaching sessions with a big deep breath and a short meditation session. On the rare occasions when I don't start the session like that, it's because something else will help my client calm down. For some, it's venting a bit. For others, they come to the call in a state of calm. 


Our nervous systems are craving safety, predictability, and homeostasis. One of the quickest ways to get to this point is through calmness. So take a deep breath. Feel it all the way into your belly. Sit with your breath for a few cycles. And then notice how you feel. 

IFS has helped me break up with burnout for good. It's so easy for us to say things like, "I'm angry," "I'm exhausted," and "I'm frustrated." Many coaches will tell you that you should create distance between the I Am statements and change them to ones that say things like, "I feel angry." 

The beauty of IFS (Internal Family Systems) in this situation is it facilitates an even more meaningful distance because instead of talking through parts to say, "I am angry!" we learn to recognize that a PART is angry. There's this little part of you that was hurt in a similar way in the past, and they're reacting to the current situation.



This is how we build compassion for ourselves. We learn to recognize that when a part is concerned, sad, angry, scared, unconfident...you name it, it's not our True self who's experiencing it. It's just a part, and we can talk to this part like we would a beloved child, nibling, or student. We can listen to what they have to say, and then we can move through the emotion.

Emotional burnout will drag you down so quickly, friend! Without this kind of distance, it can be pretty damn hard to avoid emotional burnout in any part of your life.

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