Approximately 23.5 million Americans, or nearly 8% of the population, are estimated to be affected by autoimmune diseases, making them a significant health concern in the United States. Chronic stress is believed to play a role in the development and exacerbation of autoimmune diseases. And because chronic stress also leads to burnout, in this article, we explore the connection between burnout and autoimmune diseases, featuring the story of one woman who was able to heal herself of both ailments and the lessons she learned along the way. 


A Personal Journey Through Burnout and Autoimmune Diseases


If you are finding that long hours at work and hectic schedules often take precedence in your life, you’re not alone. It’s when we experience these pressures over time that they can start to affect not just our minds, but our bodies. For Desiree, a successful real estate professional and a dedicated mother of two, life was a constant juggling act. She was accustomed to working tirelessly, fueling her ambition with sheer determination. Yet, little did she know that her relentless pursuit of success would soon lead her down a path she could never have anticipated.

Desiree’s journey to health and freedom began like many others—a life filled with dreams, responsibilities, and the pursuit of happiness. Her parents had instilled in her a strong work ethic from an early age. Witnessing their relentless commitment to their careers left an indelible mark on her. However, it also ingrained the belief that hard work was the key to success and that personal well-being often came second.

As Desiree ventured into the competitive world of real estate, she embraced her role with fervor. The demanding industry required her to put in long hours and sacrifice precious moments with her family. The pressures of meeting deadlines and closing deals were unrelenting, and the stress began to take its toll. The more she achieved in her career, the more she pushed herself, ultimately pushing her health and happiness to the brink.

It was during this tumultuous period that Desiree’s life took a sudden and unexpected turn. She received a diagnosis that would forever alter the course of her journey—multiple autoimmune diseases. It was a perplexing revelation, leaving her with a profound sense of vulnerability and frustration. Here she was, someone who had always prided herself on her strength and resilience, now facing seemingly insurmountable challenges: lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. All this plus burnout. 

Desiree, however, was not one to back down from adversity. Instead, these diagnoses ignited a spark within her—a quest for answers and a determination to regain her health and find the path to freedom from her illnesses. She embarked on a journey of self-discovery and healing, armed with an unyielding resolve to overcome the limitations placed upon her by her own body.


Functional Medicine: A Key to Healing


Amidst the bewildering world of medical treatments and therapies, Desiree was determined to find a path that resonated with her core belief in holistic well-being. She sought answers beyond conventional medicine, which often treated symptoms rather than addressing the root causes of her autoimmune conditions. Then one day, she stumbled upon functional medicine, a paradigm that would come to redefine her understanding of health and healing.

Functional medicine, unlike its conventional counterpart, focuses on the interconnectedness of the body’s systems and aims to identify and address the underlying factors contributing to illness. For Desiree, this approach offered a glimmer of hope and a sense of alignment with her own intuitive understanding of health. With renewed enthusiasm, she delved into the world of functional medicine, eager to explore its principles and practices.

In her pursuit of knowledge, Desiree connected with experts in the field of functional medicine, attended workshops, and devoured countless books and articles. She soon discovered that this approach resonated deeply with her, as it emphasized the importance of personalized care, addressing the root causes of health issues, and nurturing the body’s innate ability to heal itself. 

Armed with this information, Desiree was able to turn her health around in just three months! An incredible feat for anyone facing these many adversities. 


Lifestyle Factors: The Hidden Contributors to Burnout


Desiree’s journey not only led her to functional medicine but also unveiled a profound realization about the critical role of lifestyle factors in the development and exacerbation of chronic illnesses and burnout. Her relentless work schedule, coupled with the stress of raising a family, had created a perfect storm for her health to deteriorate. She recognized that her drive to succeed cost her her well-being. 

Anyone with a similarly demanding career and personal responsibilities along with a strong resolve to succeed could have ended up where Desiree did. Long hours, constant accessibility through smartphones and email, and the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life had taken a toll on Desiree’s physical and mental health. It was a culture where the importance of self-care and work-life balance often took a backseat to the urgency of meeting deadlines and closing deals. This way of life was not only unsustainable but also a significant contributor to the burnout that was sweeping through the real estate industry and many others like it.

Desiree’s story sheds light on the critical role lifestyle factors play in our overall well-being and the development of chronic illnesses. As you’ve journeyed through her experience, take a moment to reflect on your own life. Are you walking a similar path, where the demands of work, personal responsibilities, and the pursuit of success have taken precedence over your health and happiness?

Ask yourself:

  • Am I Prioritizing Self-Care? Do you regularly make time for self-care, or do you often neglect it due to work commitments or other responsibilities?
  • Are Boundaries Clear in My Life? Are you able to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life, or do they frequently overlap, causing stress and burnout?
  • What Defines Success for Me? Take a moment to reconsider your definition of success. Is it solely based on external achievements, or does it encompass a balance between personal and professional fulfillment?
  • How Do I Manage Stress? Reflect on your stress management practices. Do you have healthy coping mechanisms in place, or do you find yourself overwhelmed by chronic stress?
  • Am I Listening to My Body? Are you attuned to the signals your body sends? Do you prioritize rest, nutrition, and exercise as key components of your well-being?

Hope and Healing: Overcoming Autoimmune Diseases


Autoimmune diseases can be debilitating, but they are not a life sentence. 

Desiree’s voyage into functional medicine not only brought her hope but also became the catalyst for a profound transformation in her life. Her journey from a dire diagnosis to a thriving, balanced existence was nothing short of inspirational. Through diligent efforts, she not only conquered her autoimmune diseases but also discovered a newfound sense of purpose. The healing she experienced wasn’t merely a personal triumph; it marked the beginning of a mission to empower others on their paths to recovery.

Desiree’s transformation extended far beyond her health. It sparked a shift in her career as she transitioned into the realm of functional medicine and holistic health coaching. Armed with a deep understanding of the intricate connections between lifestyle, stress, and chronic illness, she felt a calling to guide others toward their own paths to wellness. Her own journey had illuminated the profound impact that imbalances in work, life, and self-care could have on health, and she was determined to share this knowledge with the world.

With an unwavering commitment to helping others reclaim their health and happiness, Desiree now offers her expertise and support as a functional medicine practitioner. Her journey has come full circle, as she provides individuals with the guidance, tools, and inspiration needed to overcome autoimmune diseases and prevent burnout. Desiree’s story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the profound healing that is possible when one embraces a balanced and holistic approach to well-being.


Autoimmune Diseases: Unmasking the Stress Connection


In the midst of our busy lives, it’s easy to overlook the profound impact that stress can have on our health. If you or someone you know is grappling with autoimmune diseases, it’s crucial to consider the role that stress may be playing in these conditions. Autoimmune diseases and chronic stress often go hand in hand, with one exacerbating the other in a vicious cycle. 

Before you continue down a path of treatments and medications, take a moment to reflect on your stress levels and lifestyle. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. 1. How stressed do I feel on a daily basis? Rate your stress levels from 1 (minimal) to 10 (overwhelming).
  1. Am I getting enough restorative sleep? Sleep is a powerful tool for stress management and overall well-being.
  1. What does my diet look like? Consider whether your eating habits are nourishing your body or contributing to inflammation.
  1. Do I prioritize self-care? Evaluate whether you make time for relaxation, hobbies, and activities that bring you joy.
  1. Am I part of a supportive community? Connection with friends and family can be a buffer against stress.
  1. Have I explored holistic approaches to health? Functional medicine and lifestyle changes can address the root causes of autoimmune diseases.

Be honest in your assessment of these aspects of your life. This can help you gain insight into potential stressors that may be fueling your autoimmune conditions. Remember, recognizing the stress-disease connection is the first step toward healing and embracing a more balanced, vibrant life.


Conclusion: Decoding Burnout and Finding Healing


Desiree’s remarkable journey from a diagnosis without treatment to vibrant health and a fulfilling career in functional medicine is a testament to the power of hope, determination, and holistic healing. Her story highlights the critical importance of addressing lifestyle factors and managing stress as integral components of recovery from autoimmune diseases.

Similarly, burnout is often a blessing in disguise. It forces you to slow down, zoom out, reconsider your past decisions that affect your current life, and decide anew how you want to move forward. This time of reflection is often the spark that ignites lifestyle and career changes that put you on a better path, a path you may not even know exists until it shows up in your search for an answer.


Desiree Lawn was previously interviewed on the Decode Your Burnout podcast. To listen to that episode, click here. To learn more about her work, go to:


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Dr. Sharon Grossman, AKA the Burnout Doc, is a clinically trained psychologist and subject matter expert in burnout and mental health. Associations and Fortune 500 companies hire her to be their closing keynote speaker, to help their members and executives crack the code on burnout, and create custom-tailored solutions for recovery.
Over the past 20 years, Dr. Sharon has been helping high achievers who are struggling with anxiety, overwhelm, and burnout go from exhausted to extraordinary by better understanding how their brain works and how they can design and run their programming on purpose to live the kind of life they want to live. She is the author of several books on burnout and mindset and host of the Decode Your Burnout podcast. Through her speaking, training, and coaching, she helps organizations keep their top talent.