Dr. Freudenberger offers three basic ingredients for overcoming burnout:
Self-Awareness: He says to ask yourself, “Are you in charge of your life? Or has it taken charge of you? By fostering this kind of awareness, you will eventually get in touch with the real you that you have become so estranged from, and some of your detachment will vanish.” (p. 205)
Kindness: Dr. Freudenberger recommends getting out an old family photo album. He explains, “Old photographs teach us a lot, especially about kindness … when you sit down with your album, look at that child you were from the vantage point of who you are now …. And remember, that little kid hasn’t vanished from the earth.” He reminds us that the child in us is alive and well somewhere inside and that we can help that child emerge by being kind to ourselves, accepting who we are, and exploring where we want to go.
Changing: The more well rounded our lives are, the more protected we are from burnout. He recommends, “If you’ve stopped trying new activities, make a conscious effort to start again. Dig up your old adventurous spirit and get it going. Try jogging or skating or swimming or tennis or dancing, but try something.”
Finally, Dr. Freudenberger offers encouragement: “In every fire,” he says, “there are glowing embers. You can use them to rekindle the spark.”
And that’s true. Burnout is not a terminal condition. But it’s also not a condition that gets better by being ignored. So take an honest look at your life. Reassess your goals in terms of their intrinsic worth and update them as needed. A choice you made early on in life may not be the best choice for you right now.
Also, look at your relationships as objectively as possible. What are you bringing to your relationships, good and bad? And explore what your relationships are giving to and taking from you.
Look at your work. Does it consume you? Do you have a life apart from your job, or is your life your job? And is that what you really want?
Finally, what’s the state of your social life? Do you have one? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but never took the time to do it? Why not?
When I was writing my book, High Octane Women:How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout, a friend sent me what I considered a very powerful quote, so powerful that I ended my book with it. Written anonymously, I believe it should serve as an important reminder that life is more than just a job or a marriage or the zealous pursuit of any singular goal.
First, I was dying to finish high school and start college.
And then I was dying to finish college and start working.
Then I was dying to marry and have children.
And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough so I could go back to work.
And then I was dying to retire.
And now I’m dying …
And suddenly I realized I forgot to live.
Achievement and success are important, but are they worth sacrificing everything for?