Burnout is usually associated with work. When you arrive at burnout
- you no longer derive pleasure from your work,
- you can become rather cynical about its value, and about the workplace
- and what you see as the lack of support.
- You also become negative about your own abilities
- and you can dread going back into the situation each day.
Some workplaces are toxic environments which people need to get out of as soon as they find an alternative.
What we’re concerned with here is that stress we can reduce significantly ourselves with the practices of mindfulness and self-compassion.
What are some personal sources of stress and burnout?
One is perfectionism. As Kristin Neff has pointed out, research shows that perfectionists are at a higher risk of psychological problems, including depression, anxiety and eating disorders.
An approach based on self-compassion would drop the perfectionist demand instead of striving endlessly to achieve the impossible.
Your attachments can also be a source of stress and burnout. For instance, suppose you are attached to an image of yourself as a person who can endure whatever life throws at them. If you cling tightly to that image, you are likely to remain in situations (unending workplace bullying for instance) that you would be wiser to get out of – and self-compassion can help you to see that.
But when you are stressed out, that’s very hard to see. Stress induces a sort of tunnel vision that narrows your options.
Mindfulness can help you to pull back from that swirl of thoughts and feelings and to see more clearly.
Self-compassion allows you to say ‘no’ to loading more and more onto your shoulders. Greg McKeown, in his book Essentialism, points out the obvious but often unappreciated fact that we don’t have to meet every request life throws at us.
He also points out the less obvious fact that creating some space in your life can require turning down good opportunities as well as bad.
“Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter,” he writes
Some stress is inevitable. For instance, if you’re a parent of a child with demanding disabilities and you’re also trying to hold down a job, you probably have a higher degree of stress in your life than many other people. In this situation, self-compassion and mindfulness can be a huge support. Mindfulness can help to calm down your own emotional system as you address your many challenges. And self-compassion can give you that kindness and support that you need and that you may or may not get from others.
Remember the fundamental principle: whatever is going on in your life, offer yourself self-compassion. That is always in your power to do.
This article is a shortened version of a lesson in my True Friend self-compassion online course which is available on demand.
More resources for self compassion
Image by Yuris Alhumaydy