Living in Burnout can feel like living with a maelstrom of dread, shame, and anguish. Your inner voice constantly relaying the internal messages of personal deficiencies only adds to your distress.
Burnout Recovery is learning better ways to move past the pain.
Our history often gets in our way
When we are in Burnout, we typically batten down the hatches and raise the drawbridge. We have low energy to engage with family, friends, activities that used to bring us pleasure. Our entire being becomes about lessening pain, not increasing joy.
Kirk Strosahl and colleagues highlight the importance of exploring your history in terms of life functioning, rather than symptoms. Focusing on what has worked for you in the past and re-engaging with those strategies at a simple level can be the shift needed to get the river of coping flowing again.
If you have been trying to control your stress without having much impact, it is demoralising. It can feel like for every step you take forwards, you get knocked sideways or down.
But stepping out of the river of coping does not change the flow. There are ebbs and flows, rough and tricky patches, and places where it is calm and serene. Burnout recovery starts with recognising what has worked for you in the past, and taking one step towards doing more of that, consistently.
It also means developing acceptance that stressors are part of normal life processes.
Expectations shape our reality
We are designed to respond in certain ways to perceived threats in our environment. Our neurological wiring reacts to factors such as angry colleagues, financial pressures, demanding cultural or personal expectations, in the same way as it would to threats to our survival.
If your plan has been focused on eliminating stress or working hard to avoid painful thoughts or negative emotions, then you become trapped in your stress. It is bound to lead to frustration and despair.
When what we do doesn’t work, we get trapped in trying to find the perfect approach, the best way forward, or analysing our errors. This distracts from the key which is to understand that attempts to control your emotions and thoughts often is the very issue which keeps you stuck in stress.
Change your expectations to a more realistic model
Achieving smaller steps consistently is more likely to be a sustainable approach then going all-out for short bursts of time. Pace yourself as you work towards rebalance – you’re running a marathon, not a sprint.
Try choosing one thing you can commit to this week which would represent a step in the right direction for you.
Plan ahead for what is likely to derail your intentions and learn to manoeuvre around your mind if it gets in your way.
You are not your mind; you are the observer who sits behind your mind. You can notice the feelings and thoughts that keep you stuck, and go ahead anyway to do what you know you need to for wellness.
Dr Bek is a Burnout Recovery (and Prevention) Coach with a special knack for working with professionals in the medical, nursing, and veterinary fields. She helps individuals and groups in developing sustainable, practical solutions to burnout that don’t take a lot of time or require you to wear leggings (unless you want to).
Rebekah Doley BA(Hons) GradDipPsyPrac MSc(Inv Psy) MJur(Law) MPsy(Clin)/ PhD
Clinical & Forensic Psychologist
Registered Psychologist (AHPRA) | Chartered Psychologist (BPS) | Mediator