Burnout is expensive.
I know from personal experience. I experienced one over fifteen years ago. It cost me my health, my relationships, the vibrancy of my faith and happiness of work.
Today, I try to stay clear from burnout by watching for the signs that I had during that difficult season of my life. See if you have any of them…
· I was always tired. Even after waking up in the morning after supposedly a good night’s rest, I wake up already exhausted and drained.
· I dreaded to go to the office.
· I felt depressed. Many times, I felt helpless at the difficulties and conflicts that I was facing at work.
· I doubted myself so much. I lost confidence and wondered what in the world was I doing in my job. I wanted out.
· I was more susceptible to psychosomatic illnesses, like frequent colds, stomach problems, etc.
Researchers state that there are certain professions that are prone to burnout, such as high-pressured business positions as well as the helping professions: doctors, nurses, clergy, missionaries, counselors, social workers, and teachers.
When you see these symptoms and if you’re in these professions, you know that you’re a prime candidate for burnout.
Watch Out For Causes Of Burnout
Let me share with you the causes for my burnout and find out if any of them look familiar to you. Remember that this is simply myexperience and therefore other factors may trigger another person’s burnout. But sharing these circumstances to you will give you an idea and spur you on to explore your own life for possible causes.
As I reflected on my ordeal, there were internal and externalcauses—and this is important to know because healing our burnout by changing our environment won’t solve our problems if your burnout has internal causes. You could change jobs and even go to another country and still experience burnout in your next job and company if you don’t deal with the inner attitudes that need changing.
· I had low self-worth. I used my achievements to cover up my need for affirmation and love from others, but no matter how much success I had at work, my broken self-image kept asking for more.
· I had ambition, driven by my low self-worth. I had so much drive, I could work for sixteen hours straight.
· I had an overwhelming fear of conflicts and rejection, and so avoided problems and conflicts. I needed love so much, I didn’t want anyone to get angry with me—so I tried my very best and exhausted every means to please everyone. Naturally, that goal was impossible and will always be impossible.
· According to psychologists, working for either extreme—an authoritarian, demanding boss, or a vacillating, wishy-washy boss—will produce burnout.
· I had chronic conflicts with co-workers. Conflicts are normal in our world but when they become prolonged and unresolved, they can cause burnout.
· Low moral in the office was pervasive.
· There was poor communication between the different parts of my organization.
If you are familiar with these causes, you have more chances of avoiding burnout.
Deal With The Two Sides Of Burnout
How did I get over my burnout?
First, I had to deal with the internal causes.
I had to change my attitudes toward my work and myself. I was depending on my work to prop up a poor self-image. So I needed to heal that poor self-image. Now note that healing low self-worth and taming fears is a life-long process, but recognizing them within you is already a first step in the right direction. Remember that any addiction is a way of escaping feeling the most painful emotions of life. In this case, a burnout victim is using his work as the escape hatch so he won’t feel the fears, the loneliness, the sadness, and the traumas in his past. By entering into these feelings of pain, acknowledging them, embracing them, accepting them, and allowing yourself to feel their fiercest storms within will shrink these monsters to their true size.
A burnout victim doesn’t genuinely love himself, and he needs to learn this virtue before he experiences healing. By allowing himself to feel his emotions as is, no matter how painful they are, he is giving a message to himself that “you’re worthy” and “you’re normal” and “I respect what you’re going through.”
Loving himself will also mean developing healthy boundaries between himself and his work and the people around him. Because the burnout victim has blurred his identity with the success or failure of his work and what other people say about him, he needs to distinguish his own worth from these two separate realities. He needs to learn that his life is more than his professional reputation and the bottom-line of his financial statements. This “more” are his values or moral code and his spirituality. From this deeper self, he should then craft a higher purpose for living that is beyond career goals or financial objectives.
Finally, loving himself means adapting practical self-care habits—developing exercise, meditation, healthy diets, engaging hobbies, and other wonderful stuff that burnout victims and workaholics neglect.
Second, I also had to deal with the external causes.
My working environment was so awash with indecisiveness (mine) and the resultant disorganization, low morale, disorganization, and chaos; it was definitely causing my burnout. So for the first time in a long, long time, I faced my fears by meeting people I had conflicts with. I made hard decisions at work, no matter how unpopular they were. I “created” a few enemies by doing what I believed was right. I removed staffers who were hindering the mission of the organization. Believe me, healing my burnout wasn’t popping a few pills into my mouth; it was major surgery!
I did this by asking help from people I could trust. Having a group of friends around you, assisting you and praying for you, was a real gift from God to me.
Don’t Burnout, Burn-up!
After a bout with burnout, some people think that the way to go is to coast along and be boring. In other words, be monotonous so that you won’t burnout again.
But that’s not true. The antidote to burnout is to burn-up! Ferdinand Foch said, The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.
Let me give you an illustration. Think of an oil lamp.
A burnout victim is simply a lighted oil lamp that didn’t have oil. The result? The flame burned and consumed the entire wick rather quickly.
The solution is not to keep the oil lamp unlighted. It will not serve its purpose.
The solution is to put oilin the oil lamp and to light it again.
You and I were created for a purpose. For a sacred mission larger than us. We need to live and be consumed by this higher vision!
But to be aflame by a vision for the long term, we need oil.
And that oil is the core values written in the fabric of our soul. We need to live by those values: love for self, for our neighbor, and for our God.
And love for self will include the virtue of balance.
Because I don’t need to borrow worth from my achievements as a crutch for my own self-value, I work in my job without the pressure. I work for love and the happiness that I feel in my work. There’s balance! My oil is constantly replenished.
And when my day of departure comes, when my body reaches its end, I shall gladly allow the fire of my sacred mission consume the last dregs of me.
Don’t burnout, Burn-up!
May your dreams come true,