First, let's start by acknowledging that 'burnout' is not a moral failure or a single individual's issue. We're talking about a social, cultural, and labour issue. It requires policy change, a renewed understanding of personhood, more widely available knowledge about our nervous systems, a reframing of human value beyond 'productivity', and a much deeper respect for rest.
For the purposes of this article, we'll bring it back to what you can do as an individual reading this today in 5 steps and focus on the first 2:
Don't believe the part of you that says that you're a failure for not being able to "get it together" or "get over it"
Believe your body when it tells you that there needs to be another way
Ask for help
Practice different types of rest and encourage others to practice different types of rest with you
1. Don't believe the part of you that says that you're a failure for not being able to "get it together" or "get over it already"
I invite you to consider replacing "what's wrong with me?" with "what if going through a tough time is a morally neutral experience that says nothing about my value as a human being?"
How might that reframe help you navigate a tough situation with more loving kindness and ease? If you're wondering whether you or someone you know might be experiencing 'burnout', check out the first article of this series on How To Know When You're Burnt Out.
2. Believe your body when it tells you that there needs to be another way
If you're a 'high performing', 'high achieving', 'over-achieving', 'gifted', or 'high functioning' individual who grew up in Western culture, chances are that you're well-practiced in the art of pushing through, pushing past, and over-riding your body's natural cues. And. Part of recovering from 'burnout' requires unlearning that moment to moment. Whatever your background and story, the invitation here is to gently practice meeting yourself and your body where it's at.
The thing about 'burnout' is that, by the time we start to notice that we're 'a bit run down', our bodies have likely been noticing for much longer.
In the book "Burnout: The Secret To Unlocking The Stress Cycle", the authors share that "dealing with the stressor and dealing with the stress are two different processes, and [we] have to do both." The authors propose that we need to complete the stress cycles. The Nagoski sisters explain that "While you're managing the day's stressors, your body is managing the day's stress, and it is absolutely essential to your well-being — the way sleeping and eating are absolutely essential — that you give your body the resources it needs to complete the stress response cycles that have been activated." I 10/10 invite you to invest an hour of your time to listen to their interview with Brené Brown where they describe how to complete the stress cycle in detail.
Long story short: we evolved to complete the stress cycle by running away from the tiger and it's been about 2 mins (from an evolutionary perspective) since we had to do that. We're working with ancient software in modern times. So, instead of running away from the tiger, we're sitting in front of our 300 emails and swimming in our own stress juice. Today, one of the most effective ways of completing the stress cycle is to move our bodies, including exercise, dance, and sometimes literally shaking out the body, for example.
Again, start with what's available to you to incorporate into your life on a consistent, ongoing basis over time. If what's available is a 20 minute walk, go for it. If mobility isn't available for whatever reason, the authors share that intentional breathing, laughing, crying, positive social interaction, affection, and creative expression are other ways of completing the stress cycle.
If you're looking for a way to get started, join us for Yoga for Joy on Saturdays at 11 am EST for an age-friendly, accessible, online Yoga class! We practice meeting our bodies where they're at and using chairs as props in adapting the practice to what our bodies need to recover and replenish.