‘How play turned my life around’
Nine years ago, Lisa Murray’s life was consumed by work. As head of a university’s research facility, she’d spend 50-plus hours a week working, while also doing her MBA and renovating her home. Unsurprisingly, she ended up burning out
“I couldn’t put a coherent sentence together,” she recalls. “I couldn’t get out of bed, I had no short-term memory,
I was really a shell of myself. My doctor tried to give me anti-depressants, and I said, ‘No, I’m not unhappy, I’m just exhausted.’”
After leaving her job to focus on recovering, a psychic reading suggested that bringing more creativity into her life would help restore her wellbeing.
“At that time I had no idea what play even was, because when you’ve been in corporate life for a very long time, that kind of gets pulled out of you,” she says. “It was an organic process. Cooking was one of the early [fun projects I tried], because it was something I knew how to do. And I started writing around the same time – I’d only ever written for work, never just for the pleasure of it, so I started doing that just to unwind my brain.”
Watching her dog and young niece and nephew reminded her of the pure joy of being immersed in an activity with no set outcome.
“I’d look at what was fun for other people and if I felt like it might be fun for me, I’d try it out,” she says. “The things I did like were very small, such as going to the art gallery or just hanging out with a friend. Even if I was tired, I’d say yes to anything that looked fun, and do it to the level my body could do it. That made a big difference, because it was actually regenerating rather than taking energy.”
Not only is Lisa now healthy and free of the symptoms of burnout, she’s happier than she’s ever been. The process has been so powerful that she’s started a business that sees her coaching individuals to bring their ideas to fruition and creativity to their personal and professional lives. She’s careful to limit her work hours so she has time for play.
“The best ideas come when I play,” she says. “Any time that I’m tired or stuck, I’ll find a way to play, and that creates more energy for whatever it is I need to do.”
‘I’d say yes to anything that looked fun, and do it to the level
my body could do it’