The Gift of BurnoutMar 31, 2021
Marianne was having unexplained fainting spells.
There was no medical underlying reason. She’d been tested, poked and re-tested. She was my coaching client – and she was unhappy at work. 53% of North Americans from a 2018 study reported that they were unhappy at work. Marianne blamed herself for her misery. She thought something must be wrong with her because she couldn’t just be happy like her colleagues. She was good at her job and much appreciated, but her longing for something different was palpable. Her fainting spells seemed like a physical manifestation of her yearning, a soul nudge, reminding her that she was purpose adjacent in her work.
Diane was thrilled about the job she had. At 31 she was in a well-paid, job with lots of responsibilities where she was doing work that would improve the lives of girls and women in underdeveloped countries. Her colleagues were great. The environment was supportive. And everyone was a high-achiever and worked at least 60 hours a week. During the pandemic, she’d been working at home alone for almost a year, on zoom meetings most days and under pressure to complete essential projects. She was now working 70 hours a week on her job. And then she started to get angry and impatient and frustrated with her colleagues and her boss. She’d never been like this before. And then a colleague died unexpectedly, and everything began to feel overwhelming. She started crying on her zoom meetings, turning off her video, withdrawing.
Jenn runs an online coaching business. She's in her early 60's and Black - and the vast majority of her clients are white. When George Floyd was murdered, it opened a pandora’s box of feelings for her that she’d managed to compartmentalize and deny for her whole life. She has suddenly become THE Black person of reference for all her white friends and colleagues. She is totally burnt out from being the only Black person that all her white friends know and seem to want her to educate them or validate them. She wonders why she is so sad and angry all the time. She feels overwhelmed by grief when she allows herself to feel. She no longer has the energy to teach her white friends that Black people are worthy and human, something she realizes that she’s been doing for her whole life. She’s worried about how this is impacting her business.
These three women are experiencing burnout.
Originally identified in the 1970’s but finally recognized as a “thing” in 2019 by the World Health Organization describing it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” And the onus on managing this stress is also shared by the employer.
I believe however, that burnout isn’t just related to the workplace. Suppose we replaced workplace by Pirate World? You know, Pirate world, the world where only accumulating loot and power over others is important – and Black people, women and so many other groups are supposed to be the Pirate Helpers without any other role?
Here’s my Burnout definition:
“A syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic Pirate World Stress (PWS), that has not been successfully managed.”
And the trigger for this burnout is Covid 19 and its host of variant friends.
The low dose of chronic stress from one year, and counting, of covid and the worry about being downed by a deadly variant before getting a vaccine, has totally gutted these three women’s ability to cope with frustrations that they SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN COPING WITH IN THE FIRST PLACE.
THAT THEY SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN COPING WITH IN THE FIRST PLACE.
And therein lies the gift of burnout.
Your body and soul notice what your mind hasn’t processed yet. And your body says “no”.
Your body decides it is going to make you aware of something that you have been blind to.
“Nope” says your body. “We are not going to support you in what you are trying to do anymore. We are taking care of you. You will faint, have uncontrollable rage or tears, or lose all your motivation or energy until you listen to us. And don’t try to find a medical fix. Some things might help, but you have to ask yourself, what is your life trying to tell you that you have been ignoring, denying or repressing?”
When Jenn, asked herself that question, this is the answer she got.
“You no longer have the energy to fit in. Start telling your truth. It doesn’t matter at all who hears your truth or what they think. You need to release this and your only goal is to let your truth out, to stop keeping it inside. Not to change the world, not to help anyone, just to be soul aligned. That is the healing that your ache is calling for. The people who resonate with your message will still buy your services.”
Are you burnt out?
Your body and soul are trying to tell you something. Sit down when you have some undisturbed time. Ask yourself this question and then free write in your journal the response. Don’t filter, you don’t have to show this to anyone.
“What is my life trying to tell me, that I’ve been ignoring, denying or repressing?”
Names have been changed above to protect peoples’ privacy, but Jenn is me.
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