‘Burnout’ applies to a state of being in which you just don’t feel you can do any more and may not even WANT to do any more. You are tired, exhausted, not interested, and your ‘get and go’, got up and went! The candle was lit, burned fervently for a good period of time, and now the candle has only a small amount left. When the flame burns to the end, and there is not any more…you may want to simply quit, leave, walk away or, at the least, not put much effort into your work.
It’s not a nice place to be. It is uncomfortable and unhappy. Yet, when you contemplate getting a new ‘candle’ to light and start to pick up your game, it makes you feel even more tired. You are burned out, at your wits’ end; you’ve given your all and don’t feel you have any more to give.
What to do, when you are too tired to do anything?
Mindfulness meditation may help. If you don’t want to take a class, here are steps to assist you. What do you have to lose by trying? If it works, great! Learn more! If it doesn’t, you’ve tried. If it gets confusing, email me or sign up for a guided course (sometimes it is easier with other folks and an instructor).
- Week 1: Start simple. Don’t try and solve everything at once. At first, don’t try and solve anything at all. Sit and focus all your attention on your breath and the physical sensations you feel with each breath. Notice that no two breaths feel exactly the same. Do this for two to three minutes, once a day, or maybe several times a day. That’s it. Do this for at least a week, Not trying to achieve anything, just breathing and feeling. Each time your mind wanders, bring it back to the physical sensations of the breath. Don’t judge yourself; there is no ‘wrong’.
If you cannot sit still and pay attention to your breath, walk and pay attention to the physical sensations of walking. Notice that no two steps feel exactly the same. Feel your feet as they touch, perhaps roll, and then lift off the floor. Feel your hips move, your hands and arms. When your mind wanders, bring it back to the physical sensations of the walk. Walk like this for two to three minutes, once a day, or maybe several times a day (maybe walking to and from getting water, using the restroom, or walking to your car – or when you chose). Do this for at least a week, not trying to accomplish anything in particular, simply feel. Don’t judge yourself if it is difficult, there is no ‘wrong’, and it will get better with practice.
- Week 2: Increase the time spent focusing on the breath, perhaps adding 1 minute every couple of days, building to about 10 minutes by the end of the second week. If this means that you do it less often, that is ok.
- If you are ‘seeing’ things more clearly, perhaps issues at work, problems to be solved, things to be organized, or difficulties in communication. Don’t try to see them differently… just notice if there is a difference
- If you look forward to your scheduled 10 min. mindfulness break
- If you feel more relaxed after meditating
- If you can keep your attention on your breath more easily, versus wandering.
- The differences in your meditations from day to day
- If your breath is more even
- If you listen to others or to yourself more closely
Just notice, don’t try to make anything different, just notice if anything IS any different.
- Week 3: After your ten minutes of meditation,
- Continue to sit and ask yourself what issue needs your attention. Attend to your breath until something comes to mind. Don’t second guess it, don’t try and find something more significant, harder, less hard, just let yourself sit for a few moments with the knowledge of what came to mind.
- During the day, let possible solutions come to mind and try them. See if trying one possibility works (or partially works), then let yourself see another potential solution. Try that, until whatever it is has been resolved, so it is no longer what comes to mind after the next days’ meditation. Then, do the same thing with whatever comes to mind the next day… and the next… solving one thing at a time.
- Of course, you are still doing your job, still going through the motions… and you may have many more issues that you are working on. But, you are also solving the issue that comes to mind after your meditation until it is no longer first to come to mind.
- At the end of the week, notice… notice a – g above, and anything else that is different.
- Week 4: Once a day, following 10 minutes of meditation, and allowing one ‘issue’ come to mind, choose to do one of these two things below (a or b):
- Say to yourself something like this:
- May I be happy, truly deep down happy.
- May I be calm and at peace.
- May I move though my life with ease, one step at a time, one breath at a time.
- May I be as mentally and physically healthy as I can be.
- May I be protected from harm – illness, injury, hurt… and may I be protected from my own negative self-thoughts.
- May I be filled with lovingkindness, both receiving and giving.
- List 3 to 5 things you are grateful for Try to change at least 1 of the things you are grateful each day.
- Do something nice for someone each day; compliment them, bring them a cup of coffee or some water, or ask them how they are. Invite someone to go on a short walk outside or write them a note thanking them for their work. And, at least once a week, do something nice for yourself.
- Say to yourself something like this:
While there may be more to be done, try this one-month program. Then, either try it for a second month. Notice how and when you do these things each day. Notice if they are now part of your day and part of your life. Notice how your life is different. Notice what has happened to your ‘flame of life’.
For those interested in research:
- Taking a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class (or a derivative thereof) has lowered emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (feeling disconnected or detached, even from yourself), and improved feelings of personal accomplishment, and improved self-reported mental well-being among health care providers. Goodman, M.J., and Schorling, A mindfulness course decreases burnout and improves well-being among healthcare providers. J.B., Int’l. J. Psychiatry in Medicine 2012;43:119-128.
- Taking an MBSR class designed for teachers, lowered teachers’ burnout and psychological symptoms; improved observers’ ratings of the teachers classroom organization and teachers’ performance on an affective attentional bias task, and increased teachers self-compassion. The control group increased their cortisol levels and burnout. Flook et al., Mindfulness for teachers: A pilot study to assess effects on stress, burnout and teaching efficacy, Mind Brain Educ. 2013 Sep; 7(3): 10.1111/mbe.12026.
- elevated cortisol levels are associated with high stress. Elevated cortisol levels also interfere with learning and memory, immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease…and more
- A persons’ level of mindfulness was associated with lower levels of burnout, among workers at a call center. This may mean that a higher personal level of mindfulness could be protective against developing burnout. Sharma, R. and Sandstrom, C.J. Burnout and mindfulness – a study of south African employees working in a business process services environment. International Journal of English Literature and Social Sciences (IJELS) Vol-4, Issue-1, Jan – Feb, 2019, 99-106.