Dear Dr. Ash,
I’m an entrepreneur, a one-person operation. As such, I’ve battled and overcome burnout, a few times! I feel I’ve managed to take control of my work life but my “spare time” has been getting busier and busier. Fortunately, with things that I love doing. My husband is concerned that I’m getting too busy again and doesn’t want me to risk burnout again. Is this possible? When you love all the things that you’re doing does it add up and lead to burnout?
– Burning out from what I love
Stress can come from the funniest places. The obvious sources like work, young children, or illness in the family. Or the not so obvious sources like celebrating the holidays, being overly busy, and not having enough downtime.
Stress And The Body
The funny thing about the body and the subconscious mind is that it doesn’t know the difference between the source of stress. It just thinks “oh no! We’re under attack! Put up the defenses!” whether you’re rushing around on vacation or caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s.
These defenses can look like frequent illness, finding yourself getting more and more short-tempered, or even getting depressed.
When I was a psychologist my colleagues once pulled me aside and told me that I was “somaticizing” my stress. I hate the term somaticizing because it’s basically a nice way of saying “it’s all in your head” in psychological terms.
And let me be frank – that’s a bunch of bullshit.
Here’s what happens. It’s not all in your head. But your brain is the most powerful organ in your body. You can literally heal disease with the brain. Scientists often discuss the placebo effect when they’re doing drug studies to describe people who are having a healing response without being on the active drug. Funny thing is almost no one is talking about how this essentially is scientific evidence that the mind has the capacity to effect healing properties in the body.
Well, the same happens in the other direction.
But the problem is, we tend to push down stress. We ignore it. We say “it’s no big deal”. Or, in a case like yours where the sources of stress are pleasurable, we decide that being busy “shouldn’t” lead to burnout.
Unfortunately, the body didn’t get that memo. It just responds to the cues that it’s short on time, that it’s getting less sleep, that it’s not getting enough downtime, and that you’re always rushing around. The subconscious mind is constantly seeded with thoughts like “gotta run!” and “gotta hurry up so I won’t be late!” and “omg I’m so busy!”. And that subconscious mind interprets everything literally meaning that it experiences this all as stress. Regardless of the source.
So yes, the short answer is, your husband is onto something here. When you get short on time, are constantly rushing, and have no time for downtime to “do nothing” and rest then there is always a chance of burnout. A good chance, believe it or not. Especially if you’ve experienced it before.
The Kids Call This FOMO
But I want to address something. Then how does this gel with the idea that we should follow our urges? That we should follow what feels best? Our deepest desires?
Well, ironically the pursuit of pleasurable activities in life can be just as motivated by “shoulds” as the goals and achievements. We feel we “should” go to the party. We feel we “should” take our friend up on that dinner invite. We feel we “should” see Beth because it’s been 2 months since the last time.
So we go and do the thing that feels pleasurable at its root, even though part of us really doesn’t want to.
These days they call this FOMO or the Fear of Missing Out.
But in fact, it’s not always a fear of missing out on the good stuff.
It can also be a fear of letting people down.
Guilt about not seeing someone more often or not attending their party.
Shame about needing to rest or wanting alone time.
Fundamentally, this comes down to not attending to your own needs enough.
That’s right, self-care often means saying no to things which, on the surface, look fun and fantastical.
It means following the “I don’t wanna” as much as the “hell yes let’s do this”… BOTH are required for living a hell yes life.
But silencing the “no” is often what happens when you come from a background of Toxicity & Trauma. You feel like you always have to say yes or you’ll be abandoned. Or you’ll be left out. Or they’ll forget about you. It goes back to a corn gut-level instinct that you’ll be thrown out of the group should you say no to coffee that one time.
Sounds kind of absurd when you read it. And yet, you can feel in your gut that this is accurate.
Shouldn’t I Live Life To The Fullest?
As many of you know, I’m a world traveler. I’m currently living in Bali and have all of SE Asia at my back door. People often ask me “have you seen this? Have you done this? Why aren’t you traveling more??” and I say “I love to travel. But I travel slowly because I know I have time”. And frankly, I get stressed out and burned out when I travel all the time.
So the other reason you feel the need to pack in all the pleasurable things at once is that you fear that you don’t have enough time. That you have to cram them in now or you’ll lose the chance.
This is being motivated by a feeling of lack.
A feeling that there’s not enough (time, money, opportunities, nice weather – you name it). This comes from buried limiting beliefs that end up self-sabotaging you and driving you to make choices based on those “shoulds” rather than on what actually feels good at that moment.
There’s no shame in slowing down. There’s no guilt in saying no. There’s nothing wrong with finding time to just “be”… but the world has us believing that our life is more successful the more we cram into it.
So I’d urge you to slow down. To smell the roses. And to really deeply experience everything you’re doing.
Because if you’re jamming your schedule tightly with activity after activity – are you really slowing down enough to even enjoy any of them? Probably not as much as you could.
“There’s no shame in slowing down. There’s no guilt in saying no. There’s nothing wrong with finding time to just “be”… So, I urge you to slow down. To smell the roses. And to really deeply experience everything you’re doing.” – Click to Tweet
Want to Know More?
Want to know more about how to live a “Hell Yes Life” free of the “shoulds” and the feeling of lack that motivates you to constantly do do do? Then, join The Abundance Revolution for a special price up to 70% off through the end of December 2018. Don’t miss out on your chance to shift this whole pattern for good so that you can savor every juicy morsel rather than feeling like you have to hoover down the entire buffet because you may never see it again.
Anxiety. Fear. Playing Small. Stuckness.
You’re living in a prison of your own making.
It’s time to change that forever.