Avoiding Burnout

14 12 2010

I’m stressed, my internal two-year old is throwing a fit.  Not only can I not seem to find the energy or motivation to get done what I need to get done, I just plain don’t want to.  Being grown up, responsible, and ready to take on the world is the farthest thing from my mind.

I am in the midst of a mental hijack and am feeling the effects of burnout- apathy, listlessness, and fatigue have all set in.  And now that I’m in this place, I’m stressing about being unproductive.  This stress I’m adding to the mix is really only keeping me stuck- I’m making my own problem worse.  I can feel the toxic slide beginning and I know that I can’t afford to indulge this mood.

I pull away from my desk, close my eyes, and take a deep breath.  For an instant I regain normal adult brain functioning.  My years of counseling training have paid off- I can think again! As this brief moment of clarity sets in I’m off to the races.  I know enough about myself to know that this mood won’t subside on its own, and as I sit at my office in Northbrook and look out on the parking lot, I know I need to act and act quickly before the next tantrum begins.

I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths, and a little boy of about 3 years old floated into my consciousness.  This may sound weird, but we had a conversation.  I imagined what he needed.  He looked really sad and really scared, and I knew that as a responsible parent and adult, it was my duty to comfort this boy.  He was the one throwing the tantrum and refusing to get any work done, and he was the part of me in need of attention the most.

Though I was reassuring this young part of myself, adult Andrew was getting some care and comfort as well.  My self-soothing words seemed like cold water on a hot day and I felt the rest of my body relax.  The knots in my back loosened ever so slightly and the tension in my head eased.  I breathed a deep breath and sigh of relief.

I was once again in touch with myself, my inner child and with my power and purpose in life.  I felt more ready and able to go about my day and get done the work I needed to do.  I was in the same moment, my internal parent and internal child giving counsel and compassion as well as a firm call to action.

Once I opened my eyes and regained my focus, the feeling of dread, fear, deadness, and anxiety had all but subsided.  I was back, my brain and body nourished and no longer hijacked were ready to once again be the productive and responsive tools that I needed them to be.

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Holiday Hangover

7 12 2010

The first time I ever went out drinking was a day of exploration, fun, and carefree unconscious exuberance.  At the time there didn’t seem to be any consequences, but little did I know what was going to happen the next morning.  Though I wore the headache, irritability, lethargy, and pain as a badge of honor, I told myself I wasn’t going to drink like that again.  Oddly enough, once the hangover subsided and I returned to normal, I forgot my vow and was out at it the next weekend seeking a way to be connected with others yet unconscious and unaware.

Now just as I have been physically hungover and sick from drinking too much, I have also felt an emotional hangover when I spend too much time drinking in painful emotions without taking the time to express them responsibly.  This happens often with my family where I feel a lot, take on a lot, have racing thoughts and feel internally out of control yet appear dead to the world.  The exhaustion this struggle c

reates is breeding grounds for an emotional hangover.  The effects of which sometimes take days to recover from.

When I leave and retreat back to the safety of my apartment in Chicago, I slowly and painfully regain the consciousness I worked so hard to suppress.  I come away feeling so thirsty for aliveness and connection that it hurts.  I literally go through the physical sensations of being hungover even though I haven’t had a drop of alcohol!

The jolt that gets me out of my funk, the water that cures my emotional dehydration, is safety in community.  I had the experience of being jolted into aliveness through the tough support of community encouraging me to leave the mess I wallow in and join society as an alive, functioning, and supportive member.  While I am getting better at recognizing my foul moods, I depend on the support of other people to help me out of them.  When people hold for me the higher vision of being the strong, confident, capable man that I am I can more readily step out of my deadness and awaken to the aliveness of life that is happening all around me.  I choose to participate in the abundance around me instead of walking around in a slump only aware of a very narrow spectrum.

Where disconnection is my alcohol, community is the best cure I know for an emotional hangover.  The desire and drive to connect keep me in check, and where I once struggled with drinking too much my current area of growth is disconnecting too much.  Thankfully through the support of the community at the Center for Christian Life Enrichment, as well as my friends and growth work partners, I am creating the community and the opportunities for the type of authentic connection that are unavailable to me in the grips of an emotional hangover.

I hope you will join me in my efforts to connectand connect authentically by adding to the conversation either online or in person-  Here’s to an emotional hangover-free Holiday season!





Un-Mute

25 10 2010

Un-Mute

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

My 4th grade music teacher, Ms. Deal, taught me an important lesson on the importance of sound in creating understanding.  She showed us the same scene from ET two different ways- with and without sound.  Without the sound, the intricacies of dialogue, inflection, and tone were lost, and without music setting the mood, I quickly lost interest.  As unsatisfied as I was initially, the second time, with the sound was breathtakingly suspenseful.  Each new sound was introduced and blended with the rest, creating a tense yet memorable experience.  What I came to realize was that as frustrating as it was to watch that section on mute, I often interact with the world in the same muted way.

Think for a moment about how muting keeps a speaker from transmitting sound.  Speakers rely on electric impulse to create vibrations that are amplified to fill a room with life-giving sound.  Sound is constantly being generated in the form of electrical impulses, yet muting diverts that current to an internal loop.  Un-muting sends that potential energy coursing through the wires to be amplified and expressed.

When I am emotionally muted, my face, like a screen, plays a movie lacking the soundtrack my voice provides.  As I continue my personal growth work and gain access to my internal director, I am learning how to un-mute my emotions more effectively.  The more deeply I connect with myself and express my internal drama out loud, the more my body pulses with energy and aliveness.  Each time I turn my emotional volume up a notch my soundtrack and screen begin to match, and my internal director celebrates.  Being in sync allows for more understanding and connection to occur with God, others, and myself.

My internal director is designed to make impactful movies; ones that people want to pay attention to and connect with. A great movie begins with meaningful dialogue and clear sound.  As I pay closer attention to how well my internal sound matches my external being I will be transforming my life from a boring movie on mute to an Academy Award winning film.

So, check your volume, are you muted?  Let’s emotionally un-mute and begin living in the surround sound of our lives, telling the world that we are a movie worth seeing!

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Andrew Mercer is a committed Christian as well as a licensed therapist practicing out of Northbrook, Illinois at the Center for Christian Life Enrichment. He has a passion for helping clients live in the full abundance that God intended. He regards honesty and truth as valuable principles in forming close relationships, and has a heart for the Northshore community and twenty-somethings. When he’s not working, you can find Andrew running, reading, and enjoying a healthy lifestyle.