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.