At the point of writing there is a tweet trending, ‘Burnout is Real’. And my thought is, yes and no. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, Burnout is Optional.
It’s something I have experienced. The most extreme example was one summer about 10 years ago. Juggling patchy summer childcare and a caseload of very difficult hearings at work, I pushed through a demanding afternoon, got back into my office and burst into tears. Somehow I knew things were very wrong and it was more than a passing moment. The next day I visited my GP, who told me that just from observing me, I had burnout syndrome. Turned out the GP had had it too. So I learned with great clarity and compassion that the source of the short temper, tearfulness, difficulty sleeping and fluttering sensation in my heart was the fact that the coping hormone, cortisol, had suddenly been exhausted and I was running on adrenaline.
Both the GP and I at that time saw the cause of this burnout as being external circumstances: single parent to 2 children, stressful job in law. And the solution was obviously to make some changes: 2 weeks off, reduce my working hours a bit and do more stress management and exercise.
Today with some understanding of how people create their experience of life I am able to look upstream of the hormonal imbalances and resulting feelings of overwhelm. Through seeing how the 3 Principles operate, I get that overload and overwhelm are 2 different things. In the burnout days my circumstances were undoubtedly demanding. The job was difficult and my responsibilities for my children were real. Yet there was another factor I was ignorant of: the role of my own Thought. Innocently and unconsciously at times I was making everything worse. Catastrophising and fearing the worst. Comparing myself to other people who appeared to have easier situations. Unknowingly my mind got busier and busier, faster and faster and it was my own mind which was creating the chemical maelstrom in my brain. Only later did I come to understand that it is possible to be at peace in the face of any circumstance, if you are not using your mind against yourself. And the answer wasn’t adding more things to the to-do list, such as meditation, exercise and breathing techniques.
Since learning about the 3 Principles I have come to see the power of a quieter mind. Instead of running around like a headless chicken, often making a bad situation worse – who makes good decisions when stressed to the max? – when my mind slows, clarity emerges. Solutions which were invisible in the storm show up effortlessly. Where once I might have believed it was irresponsible not to worry about all eventualities, today it is this worrying itself which seems foolish. I am at my most productive, creative and effective when my mind is clear.
If burnout is something that has affected you and you would like to look more deeply into how you can move beyond it please do get in touch for a discovery session.