How to prepare yourself for the next chapter in your career

Burnout Prevention

by Gratia Napier

It was August 2013. I had recently wrapped a 4-month, 10-city traveling production throughout the US, and I was sitting across the table from my Brother, who I heard say, ‘Wow, Grey. It sounds like you’re really burnt out.’

I had just gotten done sharing that I didn’t know what was going on with me. I didn’t feel like myself. That no matter how much sleep I got, I was still exhausted. I was distant and experiencing dark, scary thoughts, and I was coming to terms with the fact that everyone else in our immediate family was or had been medicated for depression, and now it was my turn.

At the time, I didn’t realize how significant his response was. ‘Burnt out’ was just a figure of speech people use when they’re tired or overworked, right?

That night, I recalled the conversation to my Mother. She had also noticed the change in me during my visit. Initially, she had the same impression as I did – that with rest and with her particular brand of TLC, I would be back to my old self again. With the time passing without improvement, and after hearing my Brother’s reply – she read the writing on the wall. This was a state of chronic prolonged stress that was taking its toll on my well-being. I was burnt out.

Stress is an inherent part of our human experience, and it’s important to acknowledge that there is such a thing as a healthy dose needed to keep our nervous system balanced and resilient. When it is, we naturally recover from stressful experiences – what Dr. Dan Siegel refers to as being within our window of tolerance. When we get stuck outside it, without enough recovery, we enter burnout status.

When we are outside our window of tolerance, we interpret the world through a defensive state that doesn’t allow us to make clear and considerate decisions and move intentionally in the direction we desire for ourselves. In some people’s cases, it actually makes them run in the opposite direction (hello, flight).

Most of the stress that we experience in our modern day is emotional, making these threats that we react to less overt – it’s no longer the lion running toward us, but the scope of work that we’re disengaged with because it doesn’t have the impact that’s important to us, or the impulse to prove our worth through our productivity that’s beyond our actual capacity. When we suffer from this prolonged emotional stress, the fundamental aspects of ourselves that create harmony within us begin to erode. Even our ancestors didn’t run into a lion every time they stepped out into the open, and in our case, we are walking into the threat every day and exposing ourselves to it.

Preventing burnout is more than just responding to the immediate threat in front of us. However, that may be the initial reason to knock on a coach’s door. It’s getting to know our general pattern of automatic responses to threat that are embodied within us – referred to in Somatics as Conditioned Tendencies (CT), identifying what we have personal care and commitment to and cultivating the practices that connect us to safety and enable us to show up in the face of challenges.

Considering that the newest research on burnout reports that, on average, 65% – 70% of the workforce have experienced it, it’s a crucial aspect to consider in Job Coaching. Since work is a relationship that’s part of the fabric of our current society, then we have the responsibility to understand what we want and need from our working relationship and make choices from that informed place. As with any relationship in our lives, we want them to add to the engagement and fulfillment we experience, which stems from safety, dignity, and belonging.

Burnout can require a long recovery, in my case 1.5 years, but by respecting it as a very real possibility that it’s something you will face in your career and that the key to avoiding it is building a more connected relationship with yourself, you can remain oriented to your path without its pitfalls.

 

About Gratia

Through intentional change and embodiment practices, I support those who are overwhelmed or burnt-out find rejuvenation and step back into their personal and professional lives with connection and clarity.

I believe that supporting people to connect with their truth and thrive in what they most desire in life is what I was put on Earth to do. My gift is helping others articulate their needs, build a kinder relationship with themselves, and intentionally bring what they most desire into action.

 

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