I wake up every morning wondering how I got to where I am today: bored, dreading my responsibilities, and numb. How did this happen and what do I do about it?
Most of us have woken up occasionally to a feeling of dread or anxiety, wishing we were facing a different day ahead of us. But if this is how you feel most mornings, wishing you had a different life, you are suffering from burnout. Burnout is the result of enduring for too long and is debilitating to your spirit. The good news is that it’s curable.
When you are in burnout, you may feel a whole host of symptoms, including:
• Chronic illness or pain
• Lack of motivation
• Stuck in a rut
• Fantasizing having a different life or even being a different person
Then there are the additional, perhaps surprising, symptoms of burnout that deserve your attention:
• Cynicism – When you feel jaded about your work, your clients, your colleagues, or your contributions to others, you are experiencing one of the most serious symptoms of burnout. When we are excited about our lives, we don’t tend to feel cynical.
• Boredom – Having little interest in your work or your life can lead to running out of motivation entirely. You can delude yourself into thinking that you are bored because of the outside world. But prolonged boredom is a smokescreen to avoid facing the risks we need to take to feel more fulfilled.
• Confusion – Not being able to make up your mind can happen when you don’t give yourself the highest options to choose from. We must aim for what our spirit really aspires to in order to get clarity.
• Jealousy –Jealousy is what you feel when you think you can’t have or don’t deserve what someone else has. It’s a clue that you have a limiting belief that is keeping you in a rut. To overcome jealousy, we need to commit to ourselves to create a life that is remarkable on our own terms.
• Low Self-Esteem – If someone else thinks you’re great but you can’t feel it about yourself or you can’t take in compliments, it may be because you’re not doing what you really need to in order to thrive. Sometimes we have to practice thriving behaviors even before we believe we deserve to.
• Defensiveness – You will react most strongly to criticisms that mirror your own self-judgments. When you judge yourself, you automatically put yourself in a prison of endurance. Take note of the criticisms you pile on yourself every day. They probably sound something like, “I’m too fat/stupid/afraid/old to succeed/be happy/find a partner/make enough money.” There is an ancient Buddhist saying, “No enemy can harm us as much as our own thoughts.” Rather than defend ourselves, we can focus on self-encouragement rather than self-judgment.
• Impatience – When you are short with others, it is a clue that you’re unhappy with your life in some way. Maybe you think people talk too slowly, or you get road rage, or you jump on your partner or kids for slight infractions. It’s time to ask yourself if what you are really feeling impatient about is some aspect of your life. Are you tired of waiting for something better to happen? Impatience can work for us when we heed its message, which is to evaluate our circumstances and make new commitments to ourselves.
• Frustration – Annoyance with things that aren’t within your control is a symptom of deeper dissatisfactions. If so, quick fixes won’t work. Instead, address the root cause of your burnout, which is that your spirit is not being nurtured enough. Sometimes, when we are afraid of making changes, we will try to focus on the small stuff. But isn’t it better to act on our dreams and aspirations?
So once you recognize your symptoms of burnout, how do you “go for it”? Answer these questions honestly and follow the suggestions that you are drawn to:
Question: If you felt passion for your life or your work at one time but don’t feel it now, what has changed? What did you love about your work/life at one time? Suggestion: Perhaps you’ve changed and evolved. Perhaps what was true for you five or ten years ago is no longer current. Stop blaming yourself for any discontent. Instead, be respectful and check in with what your spirit longs for now.
Question: If you’ve never felt passion for your life or your work, why not?
Suggestion: Maybe you chose a profession or lifestyle based on others’ expectations instead of your own. Or maybe the work or life you chose was based on unrealistic fantasies. Prioritize your criteria for a satisfying life. What do you imagine would make you happy? Try out scenarios and see if they work for you. For example, if you like the outdoors, volunteer as a trail guide for a short stint. If you are artistic, become an apprentice to a graphics designer or take an art class.
Question: Do you feel at home in your environment or are you like a fish out of water?
Suggestion: Take a personality style assessment to find out if you are a Director, Promoter, Analyzer, or Supporter. A good life coach can help you interpret the results. Each style has its needs, wants, and most conducive environments for thriving. You deserve to have a life aligned with your style instead of fighting it.
Question: What self-judgments are keeping you from creating a more extraordinary life?
Suggestion: Respond to your self-judgment with an affirmation that you are willing to believe but do not yet hold as true. An affirmation can start with, “Although I have believed I’m too old to find a partner, I am now willing to create a loving relationship.” Affirmations are commitments to yourself that counter negative beliefs.
Question: What limiting beliefs are stopping you from living a richer life?
Suggestion: Limiting beliefs are often taught to us as children. We assume, from our child’s perspective, that they are true, so they often go untested. Examples of common limiting beliefs: “You can’t trust people. You can’t have what you want. No one is really happy. Your happiness doesn’t matter.” Think about what you have believed about the world that is self-defeating. Be willing to question your own authority or the authority of those who taught you these “facts.”
Question: Do you worry about what will happen to your significant relationships if you stop enduring and start manifesting your dreams?
Suggestion: There are consequences to making changes in your life. But if you hold yourself back out of fear, you may get what you are avoiding anyway. For example, if you fear that someone in your life will reject you if you make changes, aren’t you going to isolate more anyway if you become more miserable and fear driven? Our fears are based on the past and the future, not on the present. If you stay focused on what your spirit is telling you in the present, the company you will be keeping will be the company you want to keep. Why? Because you will have become the company you want to keep!
Causes Jane Straus Supports
International Rescue Committee
The Southern Poverty Law Center
The Nature Conservancy