At least once a year I am compelled to sit down and write about what burnout is, and isn’t. I keep thinking I won’t have to do this again (it feels like I’m being redundant) but then I read another article, or two or three, about burnout that makes me seriously consider pulling my hair out. Then I remember how much that is ultimately going to cost me at the beauty salon (poor Pascal, my stylist, moaning “My beautiful, what have you done” as he does when I take scissors to my fringe) and I start writing.
Burnout is not just stress on max. Burnout is not about having too much to do (what woman doesn’t?!) Burnout does not result from a failure to prioritise. Burnout is not about having crappy juggling skills. Beware, my darlings, there are plenty of male ‘experts’ (and sadly quite a few women coaches) out there who will still tell you that burnout is all of these things. They will also tell you that you just need to…
♦learn stress management ♦ improve your coping ability ♦ prioritise appropriately ♦ make better decisions ♦ establish proper work/life balance ♦ just take a little time off and get better at self-care♦
Uh huh, sure, ok…
I must say, this ‘advice’ absolutely puzzles me since all of the women I know and have worked with for over 3 decades have been genius at all of those things. If they hadn’t they wouldn’t have been so amazingly successful at parenting, partnering, their profession, well at everything.
Burnout sneaks up on you when you are busy, very busy, but it is not the busyness that causes burnout.
Burnout happens when you have lost your centre, your dream, the vision of what your life was going to be. Burnout is a result of having lost your stride, which doesn’t mean that you still aren’t doing everything in your life.
Some women have learned to burnout from the time they were little. Burnout finds its roots in beliefs, expectations, perfectionism, not being front & centre in your life, and having a burnout personality or what we fondly call your BOP factor.
The danger of burnout is that once it gets a foothold it develops a life all of its own and you, my lovely, are along for the ride.
Burnout doesn’t cause your life to fall apart, when you are burned out you really don’t care if you hold it all together.
In fact I will go as far to say that you kind of consciously let it go. The meaning has gone out of your life, you feel discouraged, disappointed, disillusioned and ultimately so disheartened that you ask yourself, “what’s the use of holding it all together?” and you let it drift. Then the drifting becomes a raging torrent and you panic.
You feel sick, depressed, and spent. You feel so overwhelmed you don’t know which way to turn. You feel so exhausted and lost that you ‘figuratively’ sit down in the middle of the road and wait, tick tick tick…
You’re not even sure what you are waiting for, you just know that it feels like you are on hold. Then when you realise that nothing is going to change you sadly get up, slowly cause you are so tired, and set off down the road that takes you back to where you left off. It won’t be long till you are once again burning out.
Overcoming burnout isn’t about changing stuff, it’s about reconnecting with your dreams, your ideals, your passions. It’s about connecting with people that truly fill you up, instead of depleting you. It’s about finding work that has meaning and value to you in every little ordinary detail.
You will begin to live a life without burnout once you begin to respect and trust yourself more.
You won’t allow others to pressure you into things you don’t want or believe in.
You will say ‘no’ to work that doesn’t bring joy, meaning, value, and purpose to your life.
You will cherish relationships with those who love you for who you are.
You will release yourself from the torment of perfectionism.
You will stop burning out when you believe in yourself.
Yes, that’s when you will stop living a life that keeps you constantly dancing on the edge of burnout.
Now, one thing left to say before I go get that cup of tea.
Being a Highly Sensitive Woman (HSW) ups your chances of burning out. No not because you are flawed in any way, but because you are tuned in and turned on (if I may use an old 60s phrase). Being Highly Sensitive kind of means that you were born with the makings of a burnout personality and then given who you were you were likely raised and trained to burnout.
Your amazingly sensitive nature means you ‘get’ the inconsistencies in life and you feel the incongruency of how we are told to live and what you value. You are ‘tender’ to the angst of the world: you feel the pain of people, animals, flowers, and the planet.
Sometimes you just don’t get life; you don’t understand why the world has to live with so much hate and not enough love or peace.
You care about doing the ‘right’ thing, caring for others, doing a good job, and never ever letting anyone down. All of that, my love, makes you lovely but also makes you super-prone to burnout.
Now, here’s the glass half full! (You know us we always have one.)
You don’t have to burnout ever ever again. And listen up, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on any of the stuff you love to do, in fact we want you to do more of what you love to do. So please, even if you do it to just please us, no more listening to ‘experts’ telling you you must give up half of what you do, how you do it, look for less stressful work (what if you love your work?) or dial down your dreams. That is simply not our style and it certainly doesn’t have to be yours..
We know (cause we have both been there) that if you begin to live your life your way and embrace your life with a big beautiful bear hug you can leave burnout in the dust. Yes, my dear…
You can be the exception.