Typically, when we are in pain, we seek to get away from it as quickly as possible. We also learn from experience. This is adaptive. In an evolutionary sense, learning from our mistakes saves lives.
Our rational brain seeks to use the same approach to tackle emotional pain. When we feel distressed, anxious, angry, upset, we instinctively move away from whatever is causing the stress. We shut down the problem, tune it out, ignore it, or attempt to eliminate it from our life. We seek to CONTROL the problem.
This makes a lot of sense for stressors that are within our circle of influence and control. Stephen Covey identifies these factors as issues we care about AND that we can do something about. Planful problem-solving involves analysis of the problem and deliberate efforts to effect change. High functioning people typically are very good at this – it is a core skill which has worked for them so far.
The wheels usually come off when planful problem-solving no longer seems to work.
Stressors we can’t control
People who find themselves in Burnout are there not because they didn’t try to address the issues, but because they have not effectively tapped into inherent rebalancing mechanisms.
Work schedules, colleagues, patients, administration, combined with family demands, resourcing limits, and our own unrelenting high standards, contribute to an accumulation of stress. Problems arise when we continue to behave as if these are within our control.
Burnout is the product of being stuck in stress; not of having stressors.
Radical acceptance involves accepting the limits of our circle of influence and focusing instead on what is within our control.
Burnout recovery is about getting unstuck from stress, not about learning better ways to manage problems.
What can I do differently?
Recovery starts small. In the immediate sense, it means stepping away from focusing on controlling your distress and aiming for rebalance after setbacks. Burnout recovery is about getting out of your own way and focusing on facilitating your natural stress-response cycle to function effectively.
The aim in Burnout Recovery is to learn how to live vitally, rather than symptom-free.
Understanding how to manage your stress-response cycle effectively means you can move fluidly between the natural states of agitation, anger, distress, and frustration to states of joy, contentment, and happiness.
You don’t have to do more, but you do need to do more of what works, to get unstuck.
Learn more in our free downloadable BURNOUT RECOVERY (AND PREVENTION) – TIPS FOR BUSY PROFESSIONALS.
Dr Bek is a Burnout Recovery (and Prevention) Coach who helps busy people create workable plans for managing the immutable stressors in their life. She has a special interest in working with professionals in the veterinary, nursing, and medical fields.
Rebekah Doley BA(Hons) GradDipPsyPrac MSc(Inv Psy) MJur(Law) MPsy(Clin)/ PhD
Clinical & Forensic Psychologist
Registered Psychologist (AHPRA) | Chartered Psychologist (BPS) | Mediator