How to deal with burnout
Updated: Sep 26, 2019
Burnout is real. It is something that can happen to all of us, even when you are doing what you love (especially when you are doing what you love). While the experience of it can often feel uncomfortable or scary, burnout can actually be a gift that shows us a new way of showing up and engaging with our world.
On the other side of a particularly ambitious period of growth and creation this year, I experienced my own bout of burnout, leaving me confused and curious about how it arrived and what it taught me. Below I have compiled the lessons I learned that may help you anticipate and come to terms with your own experience of burnout:
Lesson 1: What got you here will not get you there. Burnout is your body's way of hitting the reset button. When we have mastered or maxed out certain patterns for showing up in our world - be it overworking, taking on too much responsibility or primarily serving our ego - burnout delivers an enforced pause to re-calibrate and investigate a new way of moving forward. For me, what got me to a full, thriving coaching business was largely my dogged determination to leave no stone un-turned, to hustle through fatigue, and to keep pushing no matter the consequences. However, as I learned from my burnout, after three years of non-stop business building and learning, the time has arrived a more sustainable tempo and cultivating new way of moving forward with ease and grace. It is time for a different way to get me to the next level.
Lesson 2: When initial passion flames out, find and feed the coals. When you start your own business - or any consuming project, invention, family arrangement, life chapter - the initial investment of energy is so huge that it can set your heart a blaze. This initial period is like a hot young fire that crackles and dazzles and can fade just as quickly. Passion 2.0 is actually about creating the steady, slow burn from the embers of a fire. When you get curious about keeping the coals alive you can find ways to continue to nourish your passion alongside boundaries and sustainable methods for turning it into a strong, lifelong heat.
Lesson 3: When the body says stop, you listen. If you tune into the body, you will likely find many subtle or not-so-subtle clues leading up to burnout: Feelings of resistance. Fatigue. Heaviness. Hopelessness. If you push past these signals, you are willing your body to use stronger and stronger methods for getting your attention. For me, my body had to grind to a dramatic halt to get me to listen and when I finally hit burnout, I was forced to cut daily functionality back to a bare minimum, daily taking cues from what it needed now: sleep, rest, water and mindless entertainment.
Lesson 4: It always lasts longer than you want it to. During this period, my own coach put me on a program of re-caliabrating that helped me to see that the only thing I could do was give myself vast quantities of rest, patience and self-compassion. I learned to take my recovery seriously and not push too hard, too early, developing a new relationship with honoring to my inner wisdom and energy no matter my brain or ego insisted. When - eventually - weeks after I would have liked - my energy returned, I could feel distinctly that I was ready to get back to goal setting and action steps.
All in all, I took six weeks to get fully out of my hibernation mode. I now recognize that this period was a much needed shedding of an old skin, retreating from most of my world to rexamine the fundamentals of how I show up in the world. This time was as critical and indispensable for me as it was inevitable.
I wish I could say I accepted it all as it was happening, without resistance.
But while I may have been slow on the uptake, I eventually was as gentle with myself, and clear with others, as I have ever been. I was able to hold myself with patience and love, waiting through the days with full permission, eventually emerging on the others side with a more sustainable and balanced rhythm for my life and business. I know this is not my last brush with burnout, but I hope that next time, I'll be able to identify the gift of this time earlier (and maybe even welcome it coming).