If you have ever seen the movie “Meet the Parents”, you are probably aware of the nail-biting, anxiety-evoking scenes which play out a man’s first introduction with his potential parents in law.
For those of you who have not seen the movie, the premise is centered around the main character (played by Ben Stiller) who visits his girlfriend’s parents for the first time. From the moment he walks through the door, everything seems to go wrong. It’s as if the entire situation is (hilariously) headed towards an out of control, crash and burn from the very beginning.
Sometimes in life, we get to a point where things seem so out of control – so busy, so complicated, so exhausting – that our own ‘crash and burn moment’ feels like it’s just around the next corner.
When we feel like this, it usually means we are on our way towards burnout. Burnout is a state of physical or emotional exhaustion – often both – which comes as a result of prolonged stress or frustration (Miriam-Webster Medical Dictionary).
Last month we talked about how our body lets us know when it’s time to simplify. Thankfully, we are given similar clues when we are approaching burnout. We experience irritation and anger with people we love, or a job we used to enjoy. We begin to numb our uncomfortable emotions, and we feel as though we are moving at a speed of 100mph but accomplishing nothing.
What do we do when we wake up and realize we have reached a state of burnout? How do we move forward when we’ve exhausted all of our inner resources and feel like we have nothing left to give?
Here are three suggestions which may be helpful if burnout is something you resonate with:
STOP. When we have been running so far, for so long, one of the kindest – and most challenging – things we can do for ourselves is to stop. Stop moving, stop committing, and stop endlessly striving long enough to breath.
Give yourself a week, a day, an hour – even a moment – to stop and to rest. When you do this, you will create the space you need in order to refocus and find clarity moving forward.
DROP. Lawyer, author, and exuberant speaker Bob Goff is known for regularly saying something along the lines of, “I always try to quit something on a Thursday!” His point is that we should never be so tied to our commitments that they weigh us down and keep us from doing what we love.
Is there something you’ve committed to because you felt obligated or didn’t want to let someone down? Are you throwing your energy in an area or cause that does not fit into your core values or priorities? If so, I would encourage you to drop it. It’s never easy and it may feel uncomfortable at first, but it is an important part of the process as you navigate burnout.
PLAY. You thought I was going to say, “Roll,” didn’t you… Play is defined as: engaging in an activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.
In a world where we often feel compelled to prove ourselves, to serve a productive purpose, and to work nonstop, the idea of play is truly revolutionary. Imagine you had a full twenty-four hours without deadlines or obligations. What would you do? Maybe you would pick up your guitar which is gathering dust. Or, you might grab your baseball glove and go outside to play catch with your kids. Whatever it may be, pull out your calendar today to block off time in the next week for uninterrupted recreation.
You are a successful professional because you have been focused and driven for an extended period of time. This is something to be proud of! But if you read this and find that you are, in fact, experiencing burnout, I hope you begin the process of slowly unwinding as you stop the whirlwind, drop excess commitments and play, enjoying what’s happening right around you.