Burnout: Retreat is Not Surrender

Burnout is real and avoiding it can be difficult. But do you know the symptoms of burnout or how to recover from it?

Retreat is Not Surrender

Some of you may have noticed that I did not publish a newsletter last week.

The reason was simple: I nearly burned out.

But wait a moment, aren’t I supposed to be the guy that teaches you how to avoid burnout?

Well, that was a contradiction that started a series of events and insights that I’ll share with you now so you can identify burnout yourself, manage it, and become more resilient in the face of life’s challenges.

The first step in any problem is acknowledgment that there is one.

The next step is trying to assess your perception of the problem or the way you “frame” or “interpret” the things that are happening to you.

Increasing self-awareness is key because you become an observer of your body and not just a victim of its everyday survival instincts.

For example, I find that one of the emotions I most readily feel in any unexpected situation is anxiety. My background with a chronically anxious mother is the root cause of that. 

However, I have since worked very hard to develop tools and practices to help me mitigate that.

Once I can quite literally see and feel how anxious I am, the first logical thought that comes to mind is “I am anxious because this should have happened but (this other thing) happened instead” or in other words, my expectations were not met by reality.

The moment I can increase my awareness within the emotion (if even slightly), I am activating the center of my brain that allows me to think, decide, and act more clearly. 

However, the key variable here is that each one of us has a unique past that informs the levels of emotional awareness and control. So there is no cookie-cutter solution, no “magic pill” to suddenly make you more aware or help you self-regulate. No, the only way to get better at this is to go through it.

Fortunately, this can be taught and learned. Moreover, you don't have to go through it alone.

So when you find yourself constantly feeling overly anxious, on the brink of exhaustion, onsets of massive headaches or any of the other common symptoms of burnout, try to take a step back and ask yourself “What did I expect to happen that didn’t?” Or “What was I not expecting that suddenly threw off my whole day?” Also “What assumptions am I making about this problem?” 

Write down a short list of all the catastrophizing that normally trigger the overwhelm and exhaustion. Are any of these concerns grounded in reality? What is the evidence for them? 

I promise you’ll be amazed at how many things on that list are unfounded concerns and you’ll feel even relieved at how many things you actually do have control over.

“If coulds, shoulds, and buts were berries and nuts; oh what a christmas we’d have!” - my fun personal aphormism.

It’s still takes a village

You can take yourself out of the village, but it will always take a village to raise you. In this case, I believe this applies across the lifespan.

We are social creatures and deny it at our great peril.

While I am a huge advocate for making time apart alone for personal work and development, we cannot deny the roles friends, family, and partners play in our lives.

While I was able to bring myself back from the threshold this time and avoid the burnout on my own, it was extraordinarily supported by my partner who understands me and can tune into when I’m functioning at my best and when I’m clearly unwell.

In this case, she served as an achor and sign post for when I thought I could keep ‘pushing’ when I clearly couldn’t and that this was completely ok.

To be alone is not the same as being lonely.

Solitude is not isolation.

You can create enormous value on your own but you will not be fulfilled if you are lonely.

You can have amazing insights in solitude but they will lack meaning in isolation.

You are a social creature.

Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you.

This may not always be comfortable.

Growth is usually uncomfortable.

Run into it. If you don't have a community. Build one.

Take the time

The right people, be they friends, family, or partners will serve as your best mirrors and ensure that you don’t take on more than you deserve or is necessary.

I made a commitment to you all to produce a weekly newsletter with my best insights from the week to help increase you quality of life and work. But I’d be quite the hypocrite if I didn’t apply those principles to myself. So I took a breath last week, and I’ll continue to do so when necessary. Retreat is not surrender. Live by example.

The topic of stress management and best practices for avoiding burnout is so vast I can’t cover it all in one newsletter, but my analytics tell me it is a topic some of you want to learn more about so I intend to create more about it.

For now, you can also listen to last week’s podcast episode precisely about the importance of taking time off for mental health and healing which happened to be perfectly timed. 

Best wishes and have an amazing start to the week.

P.s. as promised, here is the link to a page, visible only to subscribers, that I have called the Guest Treasure Trove. In it, I will summarize the most valuable information shared by certain guests who leave behind their insights made quickly accessible to you at any moment and without having to dig back into the podcast or take notes.

Never miss an insight

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