This summer the Great Northwest suffered one of the greatest waves of forest fires in recorded history. Three weeks ago the smoke in my town was so bad the air quality became dangerous. Soot lightly collected on my car. It’s been a mess.
The picture attached to this blog post popped up not long ago on the internet as a “rose caught in a forest fire.” I cannot verify if this is what happened to the rose. But it reminded me of times when I’ve felt burned out. As I get older I found myself becoming even more prone to suffer from burn out.
Have you ever gone through times like that? When you look at the picture of the burned up rose does something resonate deep inside? Have you ever felt as though you just couldn’t go on? Are you ready to give up?
Before you give up try these 5 simple steps to fight burn out.
1. Remind yourself of the mythical story of the Phoenix.
In Greek mythology the phoenix was a bird which died a fiery death but rose to new life out of its own ashes. Crashing and burning did not signal the end for this mythical creature. It signaled a new beginning.
If you feel depressed, ready to give up, lethargic, not motivated, can’t sleep, or anxious then you might be headed for burn out. But the story of the phoenix reminds us burn out does not need to have the final word. There is a bright future ahead. But you need to take burnout seriously and begin now to fight it.
2. Second, and this will be the hardest step, pull the plug.
You must find a way to disconnect. The continued demands will only push you closer and closer to the flames of burn out. You must pull back from the heat before you turn to ashes.
What does this look like? It will vary depending on your circumstances but here’s a few ideas:
- take a vacation or even a leave of absence from work
- stop being so accessible. When you are not at work turn your phone off. Stop answering emails relating to work on your day off.
- watch every Abbott and Costello movie you can find.
- take time to play games with your grandkids.
3. Get more rest.
If you are already in the clutches of burn out this will be difficult. Burn out leads to anxiety which leads to sleeplessness. But you must rest if you are to replicate the act of the phoenix.
Rest does not always mean sleep. If you find it difficult to sleep then take solace in at least resting. Give yourself permission to slow down. If you are able to take a short nap take advantage of every opportunity. If you are still working go out to your car on your lunch break and tilt the seat back. Resting is important if burn out is knocking on your door.
4. Find ways to refill.
Think of the phrase “burn out.” It suggests your fire is going out because there is nothing left to burn. This summer I learned one of the ways professionals fight a forest fire is to encircle it and turn it in on itself. The idea is if a forest fire burns inward it will eventually run out of fuel and die.
When burn out starts to get hold of you it burns away your energy, motivation, and creativity. You must start to refuel and refill your life. Read inspiring and motivating books. Start talking to people about your dreams. Remind yourself of all the good things in your life. Think of the things you have achieved to this point. Learn. Love. Laugh.
5. Start again but add limits.
There comes a time, after you done the steps above, when you must begin again. You will know when the time is right for you. When the clouds start to lift and you find life exciting again then go for it.
But when you go for it you ought to think through some self-imposed boundaries. Burn out, unless you make changes, is prone to repeat itself. Without doing things differently you will find yourself again approaching burn out. Determine your limits and stick to it. For example, if you notice yourself not sleeping as well at night or feeling depressed pull back and see what’s going on. Don’t go down the burn out path more than once!
If you feel yourself becoming like the rose in the picture don’t delay. Become proactive in protecting yourself.
Are there any phoenixes out there? Have you ever suffered from burn out and managed to become reborn out of the ashes? Consider sharing your story or simply say “yes” to encourage someone who is going up in smoke right now.
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