“It’s better to burn out than to rust.” ~ Neil Young
While I’m not sure that’s true, either way, the process can be painful. The great news is that if we burn out, we have the chance to light up once more.
Life can seem difficult for introverts, and by introverts I mean those people who find energy from their alone time. If you’re an introvert and feeling lost, unmotivated or perhaps like a failure, you’re not alone.
Modern life is best suited to the extroverts among us. Introverts feel too accessible for their own comfort. We’re expected to respond to emails or texts immediately. We’re always on our phones because people expect an instant response. At work we’re expected to do more with less; to produce more or see more clients in a shorter amount of time.
Introverts can be quite passionate, and passionate people burn out, especially when doing something that just isn’t “you.” Work stress can sometimes leave us emotionally and sometimes physically exhausted. With burnout there may be a loss of self; we no longer feel authentic in our work, or in alignment with our truth and values.
According to data from Gallup, only 13 percent of employees are “engaged” in their jobs. Sadly, most are killing time or totally disengaged, like Amanda, who came to me completely burned out. She dreaded going to work every morning. Together we created strategies to help her cope, and a series of things she could do both at home and at work so she could take back her life. Soon she was having fun and enjoying life again.
This is the five-step process I used with Amanda and it will take you from where you are now to where you want to be. I call them the Five Rs to beating burnout and rediscovering authenticity.
1. Recognition. With anything, awareness is always the first step. Often we put our heads in the sand to ignore what’s happening. You can’t do anything about burnout if you don’t recognize it before it takes its toll. Deal with it before it turns into depression, illness or addiction, or exacerbates an illness. Stop and listen to your inner voice. It never lies.
2. Responsibility. Take responsibility for your life. It’s easy to blame burnout on your job or on your boss or the economy or significant other or anybody else. The truth is that we are in charge of our own lives and make choices every single day. You don’t have to like them, but acknowledge and own the choices you’ve made that have led you to this point.
3. Root Cause. When you find the root cause of things, you can focus on solutions, not problems. It’s not healthy to use avoidance mechanisms, like ignoring, procrastinating or drinking. You need to get to the root of the problem to discover why this is happening. Is it work? Is it your relationship? Have you neglected your own needs for too long? Pinpoint the underlying cause.
4. Replenishment. This is all about setting boundaries, taking time out and creating meaning in your life. The result is a you that is more balanced and present. It’s a you that is more authentic and true to yourself. Burnout sucks all the energy and life out of you, so set boundaries to protect yourself. When you have boundaries that you stick to, you have time to re-connect with yourself and your family. You rediscover what energizes your soul and makes you feel alive. You have time for joy and time for peace. You have time to replenish everything that has been missing in your life, and replenish your inner spirit, too.
5. Reflection. One advantage introverts have is their strong inner voice which speaks up during times of reflection. Take the time to reflect on where you are now, and how you are feeling. The first four steps will help you make your situation more pleasant while you’re there, but if you still can’t find that spark, the best thing to do is to trust yourself. Trust that inner voice and have the courage to move on if you need to.
Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Burnout, though difficult to go through, may actually be the process which ignites a whole new and vibrant life for you. It may be the process which brings back the authentic you, and allows you to light up a bright new world.
What is your inner voice telling you?
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Editor: Catherine Monkman