Burnout is a blessing in disguise
I suppose it’s somewhat apropos that as I attempt to write an article about burnout, I find myself propping my head up with my hands, barely able to stifle a yawn. My energy is spent. I am still recovering from being exposed to a diabolical strain of the flu. It was the first time I’ve been sick in almost four years so it seemed to ravage my immune system with extra oomph.
Of course, as the gods of bad timing would have it, I had made a prior commitment to show up online for an interview at the peak of my illness. I did manage to make an appearance, however, my fever was high and my mental acuity was low. I’m fairly certain my ramblings were unfocused, even a little delirious. The subject of the conversation was about burnout in the workplace. Truth be told, I can barely remember what we did talk about as I was struggling with brain fog, one of the many symptoms of this particular bug. To feel some sense of resolve, I wanted to create an opportunity to more clearly express my ideas around burnout (hopefully) and to help people who are experiencing it make some sense of it.
An indicator of disconnection
Many associate burnout with too much work and not enough rest, but burnout is not a function of action, it’s a function of energy. There are a number of contributing factors that lead to burnout in the workplace, but they all originate from the same cause:
Burnout happens when we disconnect from our internal source of energy.
Under some circumstances, there are beneficial reasons to disconnect temporarily, but more often burnout occurs after a prolonged period of unconscious separation from self. Ultimately, it is the result of disconnecting from who we really are.
There is nothing more painful in the human experience than to separate from our true being. As we move through life, the choices we make either enhance or hinder that relationship. There are many ways we relate to our work that also further to sever our connection with self:
Denying or repressing part of yourself
If you have to compromise who you are to do your work, such as betray your own values or silence your voice, you are cutting yourself off from your truth.
Pretending to be who you are not
If you are doing work that is misaligned with who you are, it requires extra levels of effort just to achieve a minimal level of success. Plus, you are disallowing the joy of actually being who you are.
Meeting other people’s needs and not your own
If your needs are not being met in your work, then your energy will continually be depleted. Your trying to serve others from a place of depletion will just further drain your resources.
Engaging in drama
If you get embroiled in workplace conflicts, you are subjecting yourself to energetic feeding and giving your energy away to circumstances that are not serving your best interests.
Working to “get”
If you are working to “get”, such as to get money, get validation, get acknowledged, or get ahead, you will never receive an equivalent amount of energy for the effort you put forth. The result is a deficit.
Operating from a state of fear
If you are making decisions from a place of lack and limitation, the resulting experiences will be based in lack and limitation.
Staying in a system that squelches growth
If you are operating within an outdated system that was designed from the old paradigm of conformity, you mostly likely feel trapped because your growth is what’s natural.
In each of the above experiences, we separate from our true self, which causes suffering. Instead of facing the pain of living contrary to our own truth, we tend to disassociate from our feelings through distraction or numbing behaviours. However, the more we try to resist the pain, the more we just end up disconnected and depleted.
While feeling burned out can be disconcerting, it is a blessing in that it is in service to your own expansion. It’s pointing to an opportunity to evolve your relationship with your energy. To release yourself from the repetitive cycle of depletion, you must discontinue your old patterns of seeking energy outside of yourself and reconnect with your energy within.
Connect with yourself to receive energy
One of the fundamental principles to remember about energy is that it is yours. You don’t have to “get” it, you don’t need to earn it, and you most certainly do not require proving your worthiness in having it. You simply allow yourself to receive it.
Yes, there are some physical actions you can take to improve your ability to receive, such as taking rest when you need (especially mental rest), soothing your nervous system, and abolishing harmful thoughts. However, learning to receive energy is less about doing and more about allowing. In other words, it is more about ceasing those actions that cause disconnection.
This can be challenging because instead of embracing the pain that arises from our own internal split, we tend to stay in action to avoid feeling our suffering. In doing so, we deny ourselves our own energy. Ultimately, this is what suffering is – a denial of the natural blessings of our own energy. So, instead of shutting down to fend off the discomfort of our life at work, the key is to stay open to our experience to discover what is true for us.
The key to receiving is to stay open.
Though we have to take care that we aren’t attempting to control and manipulate circumstances to get energy, there are alternative ways of working that are much more sustaining in your ability to stay open and connected with your internal source of energy.
Express your whole self
When you use work as a platform to be all of who you are and share yourself with the world, you become vibrant with life.
Work from a place of alignment
When you know what you have to offer, and you offer it in service to others, you experience the joy of the alignment of your inner and outer worlds.
Fulfill your desires
When you allow yourself to fulfill your heart’s desires through your work, you become enlivened with the juice of life.
Establish clear boundaries
When you remove yourself from situations that are draining your energy and claim your sovereignty, your energy remains as yours (and rightly so).
Work to “give”
When you connect with what inspires you, you become a limitless vessel through which to flow your own energy, and you actually have something to give.
Move through the world from a place of trust
When you make decisions from a place of your own inner knowingness, the outcomes are satisfying and rewarding.
Create work that allows for your growth and expansion
When you create work that allows you to grow and expand, there is no limit to the energy you can receive.
The above perspectives help to nourish your relationship with yourself. By honouring who you really are and living your own truth, you connect with an endless well of energy within that infuses your being. As you allow your energy to flow through you, you imbue your work with the essence of you.
There are times when burnout is helpful
I did mention above that there are some circumstances in which your temporary disconnecting is beneficial. When we make the journey from getting energy outside to receiving energy from within, we have to go through periods of disconnection so that we can release our old patterning and embrace the new. You may feel burned out when going through certain phases in your life that involve:
- Releasing old patterns of thoughts and behaviours
- Letting go of your old identity
- Dismantling relationship dynamics that no longer serve
- Healing trauma
- Enhancing your body’s immune system
- Realizing your sovereignty
If you are moving through any of these, it is a very good thing. And if you are experiencing burnout, be kind to yourself. Burnout, like any other experience in life, is not something to be “fixed”. It is an indicator that it is time to pay closer attention to what you’ve been living and to allow yourself to receive the gift of your own energy.
The best part of burnout is that it is a sure sign that change is afoot and that you are in the process of your own growth and evolution. Instead of making yourself wrong for being in it, honour it for the blessing it truly is.