Burnout Blessings: What Burnout Has Taught Me

5 min read

I certainly didn’t see my burnout experience as a blessing when I was in the thick of it. Instead, I felt ashamed. As a psychologist, I thought I should have known better. I told myself that if I had done better, I could have avoided the fallout of my burnout and prevented the negative impact on others, including clients, colleagues, and family. I was in this spiral of shame for some time. It took a while for me to come out of that—something I will share with you in another post in the new year. For now, with the holiday season upon us, I want to reflect on the blessings of my burnout in the hope that it can help you see your burnout experience in a way that supports your healing.

Blessing 1: Connect With Self

The first blessing of my burnout was learning to connect with myself. Burnout taught me that I had disengaged from my felt experience and was living through what I thought “I should be doing” rather than what I needed in the moment. To help return to my felt experience, I regularly practiced journaling, meditation, therapy, talking with loved ones, and mindful practice. I continue this practice today to stay well.

Blessing 2: Lead With Your Values

The second blessing was to live a life through consciously chosen values. Leading up to burnout, I was living a life of fear. It was driven by fear of being seen as not enough by clients, co-workers, and peers and thus being rejected. To keep this threat from emerging, I overworked, overplanned, and over-invested in my work life to the point it took over my life. Now, I regularly review what brings my life a sense of richness, meaning, or purpose and align my actions accordingly.

Blessing 3: Create Space

The third blessing was that I needed space; space to process. Before burning out and no longer being able to work, I had no room in my schedule to process the inevitable emotions that come with the work or the personal adversities that happened in my life. Burnout has taught me that to do this vital work and thrive in this human life, I need to create space in my schedule for the activities that support my well-being (e.g., rest, nutrition, movement, socialising, therapy, supervision, debriefing, fun, etc.). I now have a working schedule with the space built to emotionally support me daily.

Blessing 4: Slow Down

The fourth blessing has been to slow down. This has to be the biggest blessing. Before, I would go from one thing to another with a sense of urgency. And even if I weren’t doing anything, my mind would be still racing with a sense of urgency. One of the signs that I have learned to slow down is the pace of my walk. Before, I would be metres ahead of my husband when walking together on a trip, with the dogs, shopping, etc. Now, I find I am behind him. I am the one with a slower pace. It’s a bit of a mantra now for me. Whenever I feel a sense of urgency, I say gently to myself, “Go slow.”

Blessing 5: Let People In

The fifth blessing from burnout is letting people in. Before burning out, I didn’t truly let the compassion of others in. I was so focused on noticing and alleviating the suffering of others that I didn’t have space to do so, or I even thought I needed it. Boy, did I need it. Burnout taught me that we cannot do it alone, not forever, and that we need to surround ourselves with compassionate others, allow the compassion in from others, and be that compassionate other for ourselves.

Blessing 6: Play

The sixth and final burnout blessing I’d like to share is the need for play. Just because we are adults does not mean we no longer need to have fun. I must admit I am still working on this one. I call myself a recovering achievement addict. It’s hard for me just to let go. With anything I do, I usually find myself making it about a goal—something I need to achieve. For well-being, we need to have non-goal-oriented time. I am bringing play into my life through my artwork and when hanging with my dogs.

So there you have six of my blessings from my very own burnout experience:

  1. Connect with self.
  2. Lead with your values.
  3. Create space.
  4. Slow down.
  5. Let people in.
  6. Play.

I hope this has helped you connect to the blessings of your burnout experience. If not, that is OK, too; appreciation of burnout can take time. Stay open-minded to the possibility. With your mind open, the appreciation may flow.

Take care of you,

Shannon

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