Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Burnout Recovery Programme

If you've ever looked around at your life and asked yourself 'is this it?' -  or you feel like you've spent years climbing a challenging mountain only to get to the top and discover it's the wrong mountain, then it's pretty likely you've hit Burnout.

Burnout starts out innocently enough as a coping strategy to handle stress and challenges by pulling back, shutting down, numbing out: a little drink at the end of the day, a few hours on facebook to chill out, escaping worries with a visit to the shops...until one day you wake up to realise that despite the people and achievements in your life, you are not happy.  You feel weary, weighed down and exhausted.  Burnt out.

It can creep up on you so quietly you don't even realise it.  It isn't exclusive to age or gender, income or background.  You can live with it for years believing it's normal to feel so flat -  and at the same time judging yourself for being a miserable, ungrateful wretch.

It takes huge reserves of energy to keep going when you're in Burnout.   First it takes effort to keep all those negative feelings and thoughts at bay, then you have to work even harder to find a way to enjoy life.

You're not living you're dying of exhuastion!

Burnout saps your energy, eats away at your confidence, damages your well-being and makes you question your relationships.  If left unattended it can plunge you into crisis - where you make rash decisions about your life, your relationships, your job and end up throwing away everything you've worked hard for in the mistaken belief that a new life/job/relationship will make things better.

How to recognise Burnout:

1. Emotional exhaustion and physical depletion: 
  • Writing endless to-do lists and only ever crossing off the jobs you've already done.
  • Spend hours browsing the internet, chatting on facebook etc and then go to bed feeling empty and dull.
  • You know what you need to do but lack the motivation, energy, enthusiasm or willingness to change.
  • Comfort yourself with shopping/eating/wine to take the edge of the dull pain of deep boredom that is your life.
  • Find yourself thinking (almost hoping) that perhaps your lack of enthusiasm for life is due to a serious hidden illness.
  • Starting new projects with great verve only to lose interest - all the time beating yourself up for not seeing things through.
  • You're run ragged, feeling stressed like you're trying to keep all the plates spinning. 
  • 'Living dangerously' makes you feel you're alive - regardless of who you hurt.
2.  Loss of Empathy
  • Whilst you might call it trying to maintain standards others accuse you of being a perfectionist.
  • Find it hard to be around people, easily irritated and intolerant of other's behaviour.
  • Feel driven and competitive - at the expense of relationships.
  • Keep yourself distant from others and withdraw from social activity.
  • Even though you may want to help, you feel empty, like you've nothing more to give.
3.  Loss of Confidence and Competence.
  • You keep having accidents - dropping things, forgetting appointments, losing important objects.
  • You find yourself withdrawing from the people who matter the most to you.
  • You've lost the confidence to speak up and communicate how you feel.
  • There is an inner voice constantly criticising yourself and/or others.
  • No matter how hard you work/how much you help others - you don't believe you're any good.
The lack of self-worth and self-compassion that accompanies Burnout can mess with your head, convincing you that since you've made a mess of things, you deserve to suffer.  

Read on for the 
Burnout Recovery Programme!

1. Rest
The first stage of recovery from Burnout is recognising the symptoms and giving yourself permission to rest.  Research has shown that if we don't allow ourselves to rest from the pressures of everyday life, our bodies can't process stress effectively and we put ourselves at risk from heart disease or other illnesses.

2. Play.
'The opposite of play is not work, the opposite of play is depression'.  Burnout addicts think play is
childish, but play really means giving yourself permission to do things for the sheer enjoyment of it.  Walking, gardening, cooking, tinkering in the shed, painting, knitting, dancing the tango: it doesn't matter what it is so long as it feeds the tender, vulnerable creative part of you.

3. Nurture
Old habits die hard so its important to learn to create a new way of relating to the world that makes space for your well-being, happiness and creativity.  Give yourself permission to slow down, kick back and re-boot your joie-de-vivre.

As the saying goes: Seek what gives makes your heart sing like a man with his head on fire seeks water!

PS. Reading this back I've realised I've been experiencing the symptoms myself!   I've decided its time to take my own advice and so I'm off on sabbatical to rest and play and nurture - just like I suggested. 

It already feels great to have given myself permission to change direction. 

I'll keep you posted! 

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