“Burn out is nature's way of telling you, you've been going through the motions your soul has departed; you're a zombie, a member of the walking dead, a sleepwalker. False optimism is like administrating stimulants to an exhausted nervous system.”
Sam Keen (Fire in the Belly)
I have experienced burn-out on several occasions, and I'm sure you have, too. It happens when you are out of balance with your priorities and activities. We all have to do some things in our lives that our hearts are not in, and usually, we do them and then move on. We may say, “I'm glad that's over,” and feel spent, but we recover quickly. It's when we don't recover quickly, or don't recover at all, that we should be concerned about burn out.
Some signs of burn out are low productivity, frustration, fatigue and emotional disengagement. It can and will affect your mental and physical health. It lowers immune response, and leads to low energy, illness and depression. Burn out doesn't always come with our jobs—sometimes we simply over-commit to the point of exhaustion. We accept volunteer positions, that in the beginning, we feel passionate about, but after a long stretch of dedicated work, we can't summon the energy to do. We accept too many social commitments, to the point that we hear ourselves saying, “Man! I don't want to do this tonight! I wish I'd said no.” That should be a red flag for the on-set of burn out.
When you have a job in which you don't feel appreciated, don't feel you're going anywhere, or have reached the point where you no longer feel invested in it, there are a few things you can do if you want, or need, to keep that job. One, instead of focusing on all the things you hate about that job, focus on the parts you like and that you do well. Revisit your reason for being there in the first place. Secondly, take into account your position in the workplace, and how it positively affects the overall functioning of the business. Give yourself a pat on the back, even if no one else does. Instead of withdrawing, reengage with your co-workers. Three, pace yourself. Focus intensely on work for short periods of time, say two weeks, and then shift your focus to other things—relationships, having fun, doing something that enlivens your spirit. Don't just keep grinding away when you're tired and overwhelmed—that is a sure path to burn out. Breaks from work actually increase productivity and creativity when we return. And, finally, take time for solitude and reflection. Revisit your interests and passions, and make a long-term plan for yourself.
Burn-out is not just momentary fatigue—it is soul sickness. When it goes unchecked, you feel dispirited, dead inside. It is something to take as seriously as cancer, or heart disease. Listen to your body/mind. It will not lead you astray.
In the Spirit,