5 Thoughts on burnout & how not to

I’m currently finishing up preparations for a presentation this week to a local company about preventing burnout. I’ve done many presentations...stress reduction, eating well, lifestyle...and although the content I’m putting together overlaps a lot of that, somehow this topic resonates with me the most. Perhaps because I’ve been there. I know this stuff because I’ve lived it...and still do from time to time. But as any lesson in life, I don’t know that the point is never to fall again, but to gather tools along the way so we fall less often, fall less hard and get up quicker.

One of the daily rituals I enjoy (and yet still inconsistent with), is reading something uplifting as I drink my morning tea, as the start of my day. My favourite right now is to read one or two short essays from Timothy Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors. The questions asked of 100 experts in their field are clever and applicable to anyone wanting to uplevel. I have come to believe over the years that there are no coincidences (thank-you Deepak Chopra), and those “that’s so crazy” moments of serendipity are in fact reinforcing that you are on the right path. So today, before I revisit my presentation, I grabbed Tim’s book and opened up to the next story. The bold quote at the top of the page reads “Burnout is not the price you have to pay for success” from none other than Arianna Huffington. I won’t rewrite the contents here because I truly believe this is a book that anyone would find valuable, but there were some key thoughts she shared about life and burnout in particular that I felt to be worth sharing here...and you can bet will be included in this week’s presentation also. Keep in mind I’m paraphrasing here, but this is how her words fell into my ears...

1. Express gratitude. Remember those who supported you when they had nothing to gain. She STILL sends a Christmas card to the banker who gave her a loan years ago when she (seemed to be) out of options. 

2. Put on your own oxygen mask first. This analogy is used a ton with coaching people to put self care as a priority. Arianna (may I use her first name?) describes her oxygen mask to be sleeping, meditating, walking, working out, etc. It took her collapsing in 2007 from exhaustion for her to see how important her wellbeing was to her productivity. She views taking care of herself as an investment (as we all should) that has pay-offs for years to come.

3. Reframe perception of time. This one is huge for me. I honestly always have felt this panic around “running out of time”. Even when I graduated at 25 from Chiropractic College, I felt I was late to the game (of work) and still feel that way at times. I think a lot of this is culturally constructed. In this context, she was discussing the parameters she had placed around work vs non-work time. She began to reframe what “work” time meant, and started to include walks and meditating and unplugging as part of her “work” because those habits were what enabled her to be productive, creative, effective and...happier. And isn’t that the grand poobah goal for all of us?

4. Changing your mind about something is one thing, but sometimes it is easier to start with a small action step to move us in the right direction. She gave two tech tips I love...one won’t be brand new but when I’ve done this, I had the best sleep of my life and got out of bed with ease. It’s as simple as plugging in your technology OUTSIDE your bedroom at night. NO scrolling through social media, or last minute emails. If you must remember midnight ideas, then leave a journal and pen beside your bed. But disconnect. The second, which was a new idea for me, is to periodically scramble the apps on your phone. She describes the benefit of giving you an extra amount of time to decide if you do indeed need to use their phone or if its more a boredom or habit. I’ve also gone so far as leaving my phone in my car if I’m waiting for an appointment. I’ve noticed things around me when my eyes aren’t glued to the screen and the biggest thing is that in a room full of people, no one is even aware of the person next to them. If I want to improve my connections in this world it wont happen by looking at my screen. From a neurology standpoint though, scrambling the apps on your phone or tablet is similar to taking a different route home. It causes the brain to pay attention and gets you out of the hardwired path you take each day. Any action that has novelty is brain food.

5. OK so, sometimes we can’t always be ahead of the game and lets face it. We all hit a wall from time to time. So what then? Typically that’s when we feel we have the least amount of time and often by then are in a headspace where solutions elude us and the downward spiral continues. SO what then? Arianna mirrors my thoughts on taking five minutes to breathe. If taking five minutes away from the task will make the next twenty more productive, you must pause and centre yourself.

There is so much more I could write on this, and I likely will, but these gems stood out. Start where you are, look to where you want to go and ask yourself if your current lifestyle and habits will get you there. If so, breathe and enjoy. If not, its in your hands to take one step (or one thought) in the right direction.