Think about the pressure we put on ourselves to fill our fabulous lives with friends and family, making our homes both a sanctuary and a functional living space and, oh yes, an impressive career punctuated by promotions and advancement. All of this can lead to one common destination – total life burnout!
The symptoms can come on slowly or hit like a ton of bricks. The first sign is that everything you volunteered yourself for suddenly turns into a heavy obligation. You start to look at your fun-filled life with dread and fear. While all week you couldn’t wait to get to your packed weekend, now that you are in it, all you want to do is unpack, unwind, close the blinds and make it all stop.
Fried, fried, fried…
Here’s why this happens – our bodies are complex integrated systems that all run from one place – our brains. And stimulation of any kind sends signals down to the rest of the body to react. So the same system that explodes when you hear that someone you love has died also explodes when you win the lottery. And though most of us don’t get one piece of huge information everyday, we do get a million medium pieces of information and it adds up to big time system overload. Ever get to the point where the phone rings and you want to jump out of your skin? You are in the red zone!
No wonder you don’t want to get to that yoga class during your lunch hour – right after you check your email to schedule that hot dinner date in the city on a Friday night, which may conflict with the charity event you promised to attend! So, if you are in a serious state of life burnout, let’s look at how to give in, give up and get through to a place where you love your life again.
The first stage of burnout is bewilderment. This 6am spin class was so fun a month ago and now it’s such a drag! You excitedly jumped on the Internet to find a new lover and now the prospect of meeting another stranger at Starbucks stops you cold. What is going on? Well, your system is frayed to the core and there’s nothing left to feel any J-O-Y. That’s actually the point of why you signed up for all the things you did. Joy is where you started when you picked the career that led you to the job that now, you can hardly get out of bed for. You are in a place where you are just not feeling the joy. So, give in and give something up.
Go to rehab
Yes, it’s great that you belong to so many organizations and gyms and chat rooms and book clubs and subscribe to the right magazines and get invited to so many parties! But they all can’t mean anything if you don’t enjoy them. Try this… for one week kiss your fabulous life goodbye. Stop being great and be the burned out you. Eat the foods you gave up when you decided to cleanse your colon. Throw a blanket on your couch that’s really comfy and doesn’t match a thing. Stay up late watching a terrible movie and leave a little popcorn between the sheets. Don’t go to spin class. And, most of all do not feel guilty! You are in burnout rehab. You need to accept your burnout place and wallow in it. You are officially off the hook for your over-packed, over-stimulated life. If you just feel like lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, do it. It’s just one week. It won’t kill you. In fact, just the opposite will happen – it will heal you!
Okay, you’ve sat around in your sweatpants, ignored your phone, friends and loves… your body is even in atrophy. Now it’s time to pick your life all over again. Sit down and look at a blank (totally blank!) one-week calendar. Now, mark out the time for your job. And then eight hours of sleep each 24-hour period. And then look at the remaining slices of time. What did you miss the most this week? Was it the book club? The therapist? That 6am spin class? What activities would you choose if you had no obligations? Write out the ones you really missed and then, decide to add back all of them except one. That’s right, you are officially going to drop out of some part of your fabulous life and here’s why – you got burned out because you were doing too much. You had no free spaces for spontaneous eat the marrow of life living. Now is the time to give yourself the freedom to experience joy from an unexpected place. Remember, that’s the point of filling your life with great things – it’s the joy.
So, if you are burning out of your super-life, it’s time to simply stop it all. Go down into the pit so when you come out, you can remember that eating healthy makes you feel good. And getting to the gym is actually, pretty fun. And you do have a lot of friends that care about you, and like to see you. Life isn’t so bad when you have the capacity to enjoy it. So let yourself power down. When you come back up, your life will still be in place, but now, you’ll be there to feel the joy!
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