Saturday, May 23, 2009

Climbing out of burn-out

Burn-out is a physical and mental state you turn into by placing your body under severe strain until all resources and energy more or less is consumed, and the body can not recover without prolonged restitution and other necessary actions.

You don’t get burned out over night. The symptoms of wearing out come very gradually. Burn-out is not an own diagnosis. The doctor will instead use for example Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

I am old enough to have suffered burn-out. I suffered maybe 2, in fact. The first was when I held a job that I so did not like. to make things worse, I was not even earning enough as a single mother to buy my son's milk, without help from relatives. I chugged along because I was trained to die committed to duty and to never quit.

Well, life taught me another lesson. It taught me when to quit. My body gave in: I had fevers for a week (only at night), and then my hair fell off. I freaked out and took a leave of absence to discern what I had to.

What I had to do was to re-assess my life choices. I had to earn a living, true. But I had to be passionate (or at least, alive) about it. My spirit was dying and my body was close behind.

I gathered my guts and did what was then unthinkable: I resigned from the job. To be uncertain and out of a job was way out of my usual orientation. But then again, it was the only way to unlearn the over-achieving traits I had clung to for so long.

My burn out taught me so many things. One, I have to be kinder to myself, expecting less, pleasuring it more. There are things beyond my control and even after my best efforts, I cannot predict anything for sure. I have to regularly stop and check out my emotional and spiritual gauges and make sure that I am still alive and that my resources have not been depleted for the sake of duty.

Two, I have to train myself to cognitively see the positive side of the present, instead of being jittery about the future, or depressed about the past. It takes time to see the blessing in disguise, the silver lining of the storm cloud. But the time spent is all worth it as happiness is a matter of perspective and a matter of choice.

I am now in the middle of my life and I have once again burned out, taking in things bigger than I can chew. The symptoms were familiar: fatigue, depression, and then fever, allergy, conjunctivitis--all signaling my body's weakened defenses.

I cannot write, though I have been a writer by profession. My old hobbies are not interesting at all, and I just sort of lost my mojos. I am going through the motions and I am just blown around by the currents of midlife.

But I stop and get a grip: Instead of looking the present recession, I will see the fact that I am in one of the most prettiest cities in the world, where the weather is just beautiful. I have legal papers, my children are happy, healthy and thriving, and I have a job in the midst of a million lay-offs.

Instead of making mukmok at home, I will see the fact that I haven't been to the coast of Point Reyes, I plan to take my family on an RV to Grand Canyon, and maybe take that cruise to unwind. There are so many joyful things to do and I must no waste my time getting burned out nor depressed.

Ergo, Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

I will run, I will crochet--even when I don't want to. And I will write, even if I feel I don't have anything to say.

On this second burn-out of my life, I recognized the symptoms early and I will summon all my will to climb out of it.

No comments: