I recently conducted an online survey. I asked about people’s energy levels and whether or not they feel at the point of, or close to, burnout.
The answers floored me: A whopping 79% have experienced, or are experiencing, burnout or feel they are close to it. I knew our insane pace of life and two years of pandemic had taken it out of us, and my clients often come to me when they’re on the verge of burnout, but even I never expected the number to be this big.
So in case you weren’t aware: Burnout is a very real threat. And with my emphasis on prioritising passions in life, you may well ask what the one has got to do with the other. Well, it turns out they are very much connected, and in the following, I’m going to explain to you how.
More importantly, I’ll also show you how to prevent the one and focus more on the other. I’m sure we all agree that prioritising something you love doing is better than feeling burnt out, don’t we?
It sounds so simple – and yet, here we are. The second highest result from the survey was that 73% of all participants stated they’d like to do more of what they love. Thankfully, this is just what I specialise in, so let’s explore what the connection is between the two, and how you can make it all work for you.
Let’s dive in.
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Why you may not realise you’re burnt out
A lot of people think that burnout means being so overworked or stressed that you collapse and are unable to work at all for a while. Indeed, this is how burnout manifests – and yet, it’s only its last, most severe stage.
The literature on the subject has many different systems dividing burnout into 3, 4, even 12 stages. Most of them start with something that sounds positive: Actual enthusiasm for one’s work. Yes, even if your work is one of your passions, you can burn out. In fact, it’s likely you will, at least if you don’t pace yourself.
But there’s another type of burnout as well: One that comes from being either unchallenged or underappreciated. These things, and any combination of the above, can also lead to burnout.
- Different systems disagree on the details, but basically, the stages of burnout include:
- Initial enthusiasm or at least motivation
- Fatigue (exhaustion in later stages)
- Being unmotivated and/or irritable
- Isolation in one’s social life
- Collapse/inability to work
By the way, burnout isn’t limited to job situations either. It’s entirely possible to burn out whilst looking after the household and/or children.
Often, burnout remains unrecognised because it never quite reaches the last, most drastic stage. People suffer for years, sometimes decades.
The role of negativity bias
Negativity bias is something I talk about a lot. In case you’re new here: Negativity bias is a scientific term for the way we’re wired to pay more attention to the negative than the positive. It’s a survival skill from the days in our evolution when “negative” might have meant a dangerous animal on the verge of attacking us. We couldn’t afford to prioritise anything else.
These days, we’re no longer in such raw, immediate danger all the time, but the tendency to single out and focus on the negative, has remained. To counteract this and arrive at true balance, it’s necessary to consciously focus on the positive – and because it’s not something that comes naturally to us, we need to train ourselves to do so.
Far from denying the existence of the negative, I recommend allowing, acknowledging and experiencing every emotion. Negative emotions only take hold when we try to brush them aside. If they’re allowed to run their course, they’ll fade in time, and that’s when we can consciously and deliberately choose to see the silver lining again.
In the context of burnout, this is important to know because burnout reinforces our natural negativity bias. When you’re already fatigued, you’re more likely to believe believe your efforts are in vain anyway, that nobody appreciates you and that you’ll never be good enough. You can develop all sorts of beliefs that are as harmful as they’re untrue, like the thought that everyone else has their act together and you’re the only one who can’t quite get their ducks in a row.
The way to cure burnout?
No, I’m not going to tell you that passions are the cure for burnout. That’s far too simplistic, and it also reinforces a harmful idea that circulates in social media these days. Valuable things like self care, and indeed pursuing passions, are touted as band-aids for the way our lives are so overloaded with activities and expectations these days.
Simply inserting passions, whilst not changing anything about the thing that threatens to burn you out, is not the way to go. It’s only in addressing the root problem, in setting boundaries or if necessary, change jobs or get help in the household, or anything else that’s necessary to fundamentally de-clutter your life and focus on the essential, that you’ll recover.
The role of your passions
However, passions can play a significant part in two parts of this:
- The recovery process. Inserting joy into your life, gradually and step by step, is a shortcut to chasing off the feeling of meaninglessness that often accompanies burnout. It also shows you that quite literally, there are more important things in life than work and productivity.
- Maintaing a balanced life and preventing future burnout. Setting a firm priority on the thing(s) you love, that light up your soul, is like an emotional vaccination. You become immune to burnout, and as a bonus, you won’t let stress and pressure get to you as much, because work or your role as a caretaker / housekeeper is no longer the sole source of your self-worth.
I’m sorry to say that this isn’t easy, or something you can achieve overnight. And at the risk of sounding like I’m “just promoting my own services”: Coaching is absolutely the way to go here. It saved my own life years ago, and I can’t overstate its value.
You don’t need to do this alone. If you’re part of the Wild Spirits community (join us by signing up to the newsletter using the form above), I’m only ever an email away in any case. I’m happy to answer questions or hop on a Skype call with you (and no, that won’t cost you anything).
If you’d like to make a lasting transformation, find a coach you resonate with or consider my programs. Life doesn’t have to be a drag.