When we believe everything we think, we easily become “burned out.” We can experience burnout with anything: our jobs, our marriages, our parenting–even our friendships and hobbies.
We know we’re starting down the road to burnout when in our minds we start to justify distancing ourselves. “I’ll just go through the motions.” “They don’t deserve me anyway, I’ll put in minimum effort.” “This wasn’t what I wanted.” “I’m just going to live one day at a time and get through somehow.”
These thoughts can make it difficult for our job, marriage or family life to be meaningful. When we believe those thoughts, a negative spiral takes place. We withdraw from discomfort, we disengage from our commitments, and as a result we experience less meaning. Finding less meaning, we are even less tolerant of discomfort and frustration, and we withdraw further. This is the melt-down we call burnout.
To stop burnout, practice mindfulness. Bring the mind back to the sensations of the body, the sensations of breathing, of contact with the floor. Do not fight your thoughts, but don’t believe them when they aren’t helpful. Just because you think it doesn’t mean you have to “buy” it!
We need to remind ourselves periodically of why we made the commitments we have made, of what really matters to us. If we chose to get married, have children, have a certain career, engage in a particular hobby, we had reasons for doing so. We need to ask ourselves: “Would I choose to have this discomfort, these annoyances, if that meant that I could live for what matters to me?”
Our minds want comfort and ease, all the time. That’s ok, as long as we don’t let our minds run the whole show.
Burnout is about our minds’ obsession with comfort and ease, at the expense of our values. We do not need to burn out. If you don’t want to burn out on what matters to you, don’t believe everything you think. Pay attention to what is happening from moment to moment, and see whether there is more to the picture than what your mind is telling you in the middle of a stressful day.
You just might re-discover why you made those commitments in the first place.