We all have days where we feel, well, exhausted. Gearing up enough momentum to start the day is challenging in these moments. Usually when we ‘self-admit’ that we’ve hit burnout it’s at the absolute crash stage. There are so many things that consume day-to-day life and our pattern of behaviours sometimes don’t even register as harmful – but as soon as we hit that burnout finish line, the accumulation of things feels stacked. By being aware of what causes burnout for us is one essential step in our self-discovery journey and unlocking new ways of working that benefit our growth.
In principle, burnout happens in 5 stages:
I want to do this!!
😀 This burst of energy feels amazing and it’s going to propel me into the ‘project’.
I can do this!
🙂 If I keep going, I will reach my goal and feel better because I succeeded.
I can (I WILL) do this.:-)
🙁 I committed, so I have to. To prove I can to myself, my peers, my family, my network, my community, my [something else outside of me].
I have to do this.
😣 I just have to now and there is no way I can stop, because stopping, asking for support, stepping back, feels not ok right now. But I’m not enjoying it. Plus, I’m exhausted and making some mistakes, which only adds to my frustration.
Sometimes we are so enthusiastically motivated by a cause or an experience, we just need a time out to replenish and top our energy back up. But hitting burnout is the feeling of ultimate resistance, doing something or working in a way that takes away instead of topping up.
A way to unpick this and move forward in a healthy way is to identify these 3 things:
- What is burnt? Does this burnout feel mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, or a combination?
- Where’s my energy been? Where have I been spending my time and attention recently?
- What needs honouring? What are the go-to self-care practices that I can do right now?
There is usually one core element that cascades into the others which causes the feeling of overall exhaustion and overwhelm that leads to the burnout feeling.
I often see in business owners and leaders as well as individuals that their core burnout reason is emotional. Yes they are often working 60 hour weeks too, but this is not the cause of the core burnout factor. Doing the physical/academic/intellectual work does pull on your mental resource, but feeling depleted also comes from a lack of joy in the work. High mental activity often results in that inside-out drained feeling and can leave you more fatigued than physical activity.
Physical burnout can also have many contributors; possibly lack of quality sleep, nutritional deficiency, pushing your body too far physically – perhaps in the gym, playing sports, pushing through an injury. We also hold tensions throughout our entire body when we are experiencing mental, emotional or spiritual dis-ease, and this is a (and often underrated) cause of physician burnout and exhaustion. Looking at all physical factors that impact your body and body functions can help identity what’s happening in the physical.
Our emotions are impacted by everything around us – what you read online, in a paper or book, see and hear on video news, something happening in your family or with loved ones, pets, strangers in the supermarket. And with our subconscious brain absorbing most of this information – around 95% – we are often unaware of the actual impact being created in our own lives. We are sponges. Sensitive, wonderful sponges. And that doesn’t mean incapable, weak or any of the like – it means we are human, we are alive, we are experiencing emotion at that moment.
When something occurs around us personally and the emotional impact is stronger, this impacts how we are doing, our wellbeing and health. Also, behind some of our emotional states are belief systems and behavioural patterns that we may not identify easily or quickly, but are our habits in how we navigate situations. Roller-Coaster-emotional times are inevitable and having a steady, personalised self-care routine and increasing your awareness of what brings around emotional burnout for you specifically can go a long way to increase your energy and wellbeing.
Spiritual burnout is the last here, because often, it’s the first. It’s usually at the core root of why we are burnt out and exhausted, because this is our inner knowing, our inner drive, our feeling of purpose, fulfilment and joy. It’s our full being. And when we do anything that does not align with our souls, our spirits, the values we live by at our very heart, slowly the path we are on deviates from where we find fulfilment and joy, where we feel our ‘selves’. This doesn’t have to mean the desire to do the [insert your project here…] is wrong, or anything is wrong at all, it’s a nudge to re-look, re-focus, re-align, wherever that may take you. The important aspect here is to see where the drive and motivation to pursue something is coming from – does it lie in your soul, your spirit, your heart, or does it lie somewhere else?
Inviting in Practice
Bringing balance and harmony within these four areas of life is in itself a practice. The aim is to become aware of when something is moving us towards that burnout stage, before we get there, or it gets more apparent for us.
A Practice in 3 Steps:
Find support – and ask for it
Support from a colleague, a friend, a family member or a professional is not only a way to bring focus into a situation, it also gives you an outlet to release and regroup little and often, deterring a build-up that could lead to burnout. Asking for support is an act of self-care and essential for each of us. We are not in this alone, nor are we meant to be.
(Sidenote: This is so important but can feel like the highest mountain! I used to have a notion of “if I don’t do this or work it out myself, I have failed’. This outdated, harmful thought and mindset habit was hidden for a while, and when I realised this I found myself organically in deeper connections, improving quicker and coming into contact with people and experiences that contributed to my personal growth. This happened in ways that it would never have if I didn’t step into the courage to be supported, feel the vulnerability and surrender, and use that as a superpower).
Cleanse your ‘little’ habits
The little things we do daily tell us a lot about where our attention is going and if it’s an Energy Giver or an Energy Taker. For example, following and looking at an Instagram ‘I wish I was them’ account = Energy Taker: I am not enough, I am not good, I am unworthy, vs. an Instagram ‘I am inspired by them’ account = Energy Giver: Motivation, insight, learning and (distant) mentoring. The same tool but very different mental and emotional impacts and outcomes. This may not be conscious or obvious in the first instance, but this consistent habit has a build-up effect. Be aware of what you give your attention to – it is the most valuable part of yourself that you give. This goes for anything in your life, email, subscriptions, apps on your phone, classes you take. Do things only that feed you well.
(Sidenote: I personally cleansed all of my social media accounts, stopped watching daily news and reading mainstream information sources generally, and the positive impact it has and still has on my life is felt every moment of the day).
Be unapologetically you
All of what we have explored here is deeply personal. Only you know which tools will help you best and be healing for you. Only you know how you are feeling. Only you resonate with what lights you up, inspires you and supports you. And this is your journey. Your experiences to witness, to decide to continue or change. And make no apology for being unique, setting your boundaries, moving along your path, standing up for your values. Be uniquely you; no one else could ever play your part.
An invitation to bring this into practice is to honour everything that comes up and appears in your life, be it mental, emotional, physical or spiritual. Giving ourselves space, time to heal, recover and energise are ways we find our own truth and tap into our greatest experiences.
Work more on yourself than you do on anything else every day. Then, anything can happen.
At Re-Tribe, we support businesses, communities and individuals through our programmes of wellbeing and transformation. If you’d like to find out more about ways we can help you, your organisation or community, you can contact us here.