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I haven’t felt burned out in a long time, probably in over a year.
I’d see other people talking about burnout, and I just couldn’t connect to the energy of it.
It had been so long since I’d felt anything like it.
I’d thought I’d mastered it—balance, acceptance, how not to be burned out.
Or, at least mastered myself in terms of knowing my energy and my needs.
Maybe I have.
Maybe I haven’t.
(I’m sure I haven’t.)
But I have come to a place after years of practice where I’m better at noticing what’s happening within me; I have greater awareness. And after years of practice—and feeling how good it feels—I’m mostly good with resting, with taking it easy, with doing nothing.
But a couple of days ago, I sat in my room and noticed two (what should have been glaring) signs that an old familiar “push harder” energy was taking over me. Not burnout, but something that left unchecked could absolutely lead to burnout (for me at least, because I know myself and how I function).
1. I felt disappointed that I “had to” rest aka do nothing aka lie in bed with my eyes closed for 21 minutes because I felt tired. (This, sign #1, I didn’t notice in the moment.)
2. After resting, I noticed a forceful energy inside of me trying to get me to go from one thing to the next, planning how I’d do the next thing after I finished what it was that I was doing. I felt tense inside. This, sign #2, I noticed.
I saw it. I knew what was happening. I’d been here so many times before. And I chose to do something differently.
Instead of doing any of those things, the “productive” things my mind thought I should fit into my day, I didn’t do any of it. At least not in that moment. Instead, I opened my meditation mat, sat, and meditated. I breathed. I was still.
And it felt so good to be still.
It felt so good to connect to myself.
I even giggled because I hadn’t realized what was happening. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen the resistance to resting while it was happening, and seen it for what it was. But alas, life is a journey and mind can be cunning.
After sitting quietly with myself, after taking off that pressure to “do” anything, I felt so calm and soft inside, connected, grounded, centered. Ah, yes.
Here are five extremely effective ways to get out of burnout:
1. Judge yourself and be hard on yourself for feeling tired or depleted.
2. Don’t self-inquire as to what’s really going on.
3. Absolutely do not rest or take it easy or slow down.
4. Keep doing what you’re doing (or push yourself harder).
5. Compare yourself to all of the times in your life when it seemed like you could do more.
I kid, I kid. (Obviously.)
The best thing we can do for ourselves is to become aware—of our tendencies, our patterns, our feelings, our inner state.
And then pay attention.
Notice the signs.
Take time to rest—often. Every day, if you can.
Rest, really rest. Let yourself do nothing—especially when you notice a part of you resisting it or fighting it or judging yourself for it.
Step back; take a break.
Notice any tense energy that is imploring you to do more and choose not to listen to it. Stop, sit, breathe.
Let yourself be still. Feel how it feels to be in that space.
Connect to yourself in this moment.
Allow yourself to reassess and maybe find some better-feeling, more easeful expectations.
Maybe—to the best of your ability—do nothing. Literally do nothing or meditate or watch movies or good shows or do some sort of activity just because it’s fun or relaxing to you.
And honestly, take this time as often as you can, daily if you can. Even just a few minutes to be still, a few moments to relax and breathe.
The more we connect to ourselves and this balanced inner space, the better and easier it will feel to do it consistently, and then, even if we go through busier periods than usual, we’ll be able notice the signs. We’ll be able to see ourselves slipping into old energetic patterns of feeling that relentless, incessant energy “to do.”
And then we can choose to soften and move forward intentionally, in a way that honors our current circumstances and how we feel—and how we want to feel.
So yea, the other night, I had to remind myself that maybe I couldn’t do all of those things that my mind put on its goal list that day, and that’s okay.
And that I’d just have to find better, more realistic expectations going forward.
It made me feel lighter.
And I ended up feeling proud of myself and for how far I’ve come because I realized the signs early, only two days into a fuller schedule than I’ve had in a long time.
And that is progress.