Hey fire starters!
In the past few weeks I’ve found myself having a lot of conversations about burnout — with close friends, people I admire in my community and even a stranger (now friend) I met on the street (true story). Two common threads in these conversations are the phenomenon that people don’t notice how bad they are feeling until they are super crispy — and — when people are aware of their burnt-out status, they have a really hard time taking actions to re-fuel themselves.
Let’s talk about this.
First of all, what is burnout?
Burnout is “a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to meet constant demands.”
(From a nervous system perspective this results from existing in a chronic state of fight-or-flight.)
Here are some signs you might be running out of fuel:
* You view your work as increasingly stressful and frustrating
* You feel cynical about conditions and people
* You engage in numbing behaviors
* You have headaches, stomachaches or intestinal issues
* You feel drained, unable to cope and/or deeply tired
* You lack the energy you need to accomplish your work
* You have difficulty concentrating and lack creativity
* You are in denial about the state of your health and life (***this is the tricky part***)
I remember the exact moment I recognized I was burnt to a crisp in my first job as a nurse.
It was the first time I saw the symptoms of burnout in a list.
At the time I had NO IDEA that the physical, mental and emotional challenges I was dealing with were directly related to a well researched phenomenon. I just thought I was sick and broken and not doing a good enough job.
If you find yourself resonating with the list above, here are some things I want you to know:
There is nothing wrong with you — You are not a bad, negative or ineffective person. You’re just running on fumes. You need to pull over for gas. That’s all.
This is not just how life is or as good as it gets — Chronic stress is so common in our culture that existing in a burned out state of survival is reeeeeeeaaallly common. But let’s get one thing crystal clear; COMMON DOES NOT EQUAL NORMAL. While your body and subconscious mind are programmed to survive (as a back-up mechanism), you are designed to thrive.
Healers, givers and change-makers are at the highest risk of burning out — Being a kind, compassionate, purpose-driven, awesome person looking to make a positive impact in the world puts you at high risk for experiencing burnout. Knowing how to notice the signs and respond with effective self-care strategies needs to be a top priority in your superhero strategy.
You will be approximately one million times more effective, productive and impactful in a physiologically resourced state — I’m making up the numbers here but I think this is probably more of an understatement than an exaggeration. Living in a state of chronic stress is like running on back up generators that only power your most basic functions. Restoring your body to a resourced state will increase your energy, creativity and critical thinking abilities exponentially.
Burnout is not just exhausting and unpleasant, it’s dangerous — Constant activation of fight-or-flight physiology erodes physical health and clouds your thinking. Having stress hormones coursing through your body 24/7 negatively impacts every single system in your body and activates diseased gene expression. In addition to making you physically sick, the mental and emotional consequences of prolonged stress can be devastating. The production of happy chemicals (serotonin and dopamine) are both down regulated during stress response which can lead to severe depression and feelings of despair. I personally lost a co-worker and family member (both in high burnout risk professions) to suicide in the last year. This is not okay. We need to do a better job of taking care of people who take care of people — and this starts first within ourselves.
Learning how to heal burnout won’t just improve your experience of work or care-giving, it will change your whole life — Developing conscious awareness of your thoughts + body sensations and learning tools to care for your nervous system will make you feel like you have superpowers. When you understand how your body works you can leverage your physiology to activate profound healing, higher energy levels, brighter moods, increased levels of creativity and more. All of this will result in improvements in your physical health, relationships and contributions to the world.
So… given all of this information, let’s check in.
How are you???
Perhaps this post reflects to you how strong and resourced you feel and motivates you to keep up the self-care activities that work for you…
… or maybe this is the reminder you need to take a break, reconnect with your body, take some deep breaths and reset.
If this message hits like more of a wake up call — I feel you. I’ve been there.
Burnout nearly killed me — and — it also launched me on a journey that lead to profound and enduring healing in my body and life. So… there’s also that 😉
If you’re feeling low on fuel and like you need some guidance in navigating the path from burning out to burning bright, here are some options:
1. Sign up for my email updates at the bottom of this page (and send any topic requests my way!)
3. Up your self-care game by taking my 11 day online course, Fuel For Living Life on Fire (it’s basically a nervous system makeover)
4. Book an Energy Restoration Session for some facilitated deep relaxation (this is sort of like self-care done for you — yes please)
5. Check out my holistic burnout prevention and recovery corporate offerings if you work at a place that could use some uplifting support.
And, as always, let me know if you have any questions I can answer.
Rooting for you.