Physical fatigue, irritability, heaviness of spirit, mental fogginess, and emotional unavailability are all on the menu when the burn is simmering.
The burn is real. It’s something I’ve intentionally worked on learning to keep at bay or eliminate altogether for years.
Prior to my commitment to be more self aware, I just didn’t get how debilitating burnout can be. It was only in its absence that I became fully aware of its presence.
During my years in the corporate arena, I was so deeply entrenched in the productivity trance that I was working in burnout mode most of the time.
I was going through the motions, consistently and hurriedly peddling to keep up with everyone else so I wouldn't get left in the dust. Working in an environment where the pressure to compete and consistently prove my worth was just business as usual.
Because I’d adopted, what for me was, an unnatural “Type A” approach to my work, it was what I did, how I functioned. It was taking its toll in every area of my life. I just dealt with the consequences and kept going.
In 2000, I bid my final goodbye to the corporate world after a layoff. I had stayed in that space way past my expiration date, which is why nothing flowed. Everything was contentious and difficult, but I just kept hanging in there.
The universe eventually said, “enough,” and kicked me out because it was clear I was too afraid to leave on my own.
I remember the day I was laid off like it was yesterday. The anxiety in our office was so thick you could cut it with a knife, as everyone waited to see who would get the boot and who would get to stay.
That morning when I arrived for work, I happily got busy packing up my box. I was ready to go. I had no doubt which list I was on. I was just waiting for the official word and that warm and friendly escort out of the building.
After I got the word, I took my box of belongings, my severance package, the biggest smile I could muster and shoulders that were finally free from the weight of that world and I took my walk of shame (walk of freedom and victory) to my car.
I was so happy to be free I couldn't stand it. I got to the parking lot, let out a big yell, did a happy dance and darted off to the mall for a new wardrobe.
I didn’t know what was next. All I knew was that this was the opportunity I’d been longing for to hit reboot, get myself together and figure out how to engage in fulfilling and meaningful work without living in a perpetual state of burnout.
I had allowed things to go way to far. It was now key for me to learn how to discern how burnout shows up for me, what it does, how long it lasts, how to repair the damage it leaves in its wake and how to avoid it in the first place.
It took some time to understand the importance of self-awareness and self-knowledge, and their role in restoring me to a state of liveliness, vigor, health, joy, personal power and the strong energetic presence that I now know is my natural way of being.
My newfound freedom after the above experience put me on a path of self-discovery. I tore off the rear view mirror and never looked back.
Although some responsibility rests on the work culture, supervisors, managers, and others to create a healthy work space, I've come to believe that the bulk of this is on me, personal responsibility is and always will be my best strategy.
I learned the importance of being crystal clear about what I desire and what I value.
It’s only in this knowing that I now make decisions that foster working and living from a place where I thrive. I’m no longer interested in merely surviving.
I learned that my work needs to be challenging, interesting, fulfilling and meaningful, and I need space to create, explore and fail without unnecessary criticism, judgment and micromanaging.
I’ve had the most amazing experiences of personal and professional growth over the last two decades. Most of which I've engaged as a business builder; a conscious choice that beautifully aligns with my natural rhythm.
My work/life philosophy to avoid burnout is: Focus on what brings me the most joy. If it propels me, my work or my business forward, then fully, intentionally and gratefully engage. If it does not, lovingly, gracefully and gratefully release it.
Here’s what I’ve learned that’s helped me keep burnout at bay:
- Self-knowledge is key; get to know your natural rhythm – what you need to blossom physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually (ex. sleep till you’re rested; stay hydrated; see life as one big experiment; always be learning and stay curious; express your emotions in a healthy way and use your voice to communicate honestly; slow down and nurture your spirit through stillness, quiet and connecting to nature; etc.)
- Get crystal clear about your values, then, stop dishonoring them. You pay a hefty price when you don’t.
- Stop allowing people in your space who don’t respect or value you and what you bring to the table. We all have strengths, gifts and talents to contribute. Create and play in a workspace with people who truly appreciate you and what you have to offer.
- Dedicate time to figuring out what kind of work you really want to contribute. It can be paid or not, just make sure you’re engaging in work that means something to you. If you can’t get paid to do what lights you up, find “good enough” or “great enough” work to take care of your necessities, then get busy doing that cool work on the side – you have to make time for it!
- Commit to living from a place of harmony and balance; but know you’ll always be making adjustments. Be as committed to your recovery and reboot time as you are to your performance and productivity time (ex. take a nap or just lie down for a bit when you feel fatigued to boost your creativity; take a walk during your break; take a mini vacation once a quarter; dance or sing to your favorite song; paint or craft; go to the park; etc., commit to doing whatever energizes you, vary it and do it often).
Whether you’re feeling the burn in one small area, or it’s taking over your work or life, make a conscious decision to blaze a new path; one that takes into consideration what YOU need to do to blossom every day. Then, courageously go do that. Take responsibility for your experience.
There’s an antidote to burnout; the question is: Are you ready to commit to making the required shifts and taking the right actions?