Burnout: “a uniquely personal and multi-level reaction that occurs when limits have been exceeded and a person has gone over the top of their “give-ability” threshold…. analogous to a dam that, over time and without sufficient fortification, is finally weakened so extensively by the stress placed upon it that its power to hold collapses, and the water
rushes through.” -DP
Finding ourselves now fully entrenched in the 21st century, most will agree that life has become increasingly complex. Advances in technology have instigated necessary restructuring within economic, bureaucratic, industrial and organizational arenas. As a result, the majority of the population seems to be working longer and harder just to “get by,” creating less personal time amidst exponentially mounting physical, emotional, familial, financial, and societal pressures.
To this we must add other uncertainties—the ground from which the majority of our food is derived is dangerously de-mineralized, while other food sources contain substances whose names we can’t even pronounce; the purity of the air we breathe and the water we drink is questionable at best and frightening in many cases; viruses and bacteria are mutating at such an extraordinary rate that our medical capabilities often fall short and are unable to provide us with the security of a defense; and we are constantly barraged with electro-pollution, the repercussions of which are not yet clearly known and may not be until irreparable damage has occurred. Included in this scenario must also be the reality of the potential threat of international relationships exploding, surprise terrorist attacks, and nuclear devastation.
On an even grander scale, the earth’s protective atmospheric layers are deteriorating, the magnetic poles are shifting and, as a result of the earthquake that created the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, our planet was set “wobbling” on its axis and its rotational frequency increased. Weather patterns are changing all over the world, often with unanticipated and horrific consequences, while the earth’s crust continues to be closely monitored for signs of increased activity.
Whether we choose to consider these factors as individuals, members of a family or community, employees, employers, or merely as citizens of planet Earth, it is no wonder so many of us feel as though we have no control over our lives. With levels of predictability and feelings of safety at an all-time low, it is a natural reaction to feel overwhelmed, stressed, disempowered, and burned out on a daily basis. How can anyone be expected to adequately administer to others when caught in an ever expanding spiral of chaos?
The famed researcher, Dr. Hans Selye, introduced the concept that some stress in life can be a positive motivating factor. However, when the quantity or intensity of stressors exceeds an individual’s coping ability, negative effects will naturally occur. As a Doctor of Oriental Medicine for over 22 years, I have been witness to the variety of ways in which these effects manifest. Currently, within the microcosm of the world that is my office, it has been my observation that these levels of uncertainty and stress, rising steadily since the advent of the 21st century, have resulted not only in greater variability of physical symptoms, but also in increased behavioral reactions that swing from self-protective aggression to fear-based emotional impotency. Participant response from previous workshops has affirmed these findings.
Life has, indeed, become more complicated. As can easily be surmised, not only from the information presented above, but from life as we see it on a daily basis, it is no longer merely our reactions to our work or our familial obligations and demands that have led many to the edge of the burnout precipice. Once armed with this understanding, it then becomes poignantly clear that the “old ways” of caring for ourselves, such as eating right and getting sufficient sleep, may not be enough anymore either.
The downside to our current state of affairs is that the challenges facing us are multileveled, multifarious and are, often, unpredictable. The upside is that chaos can potentially give birth to new perception and that, believe it or not, we hold within our grasp the means by which to achieve, maintain, and sustain a sense of solidity, clarity, and empowerment during these uncertain times. To recognize the existent truth of this fact and, on a broader scale, to perceive the true reality of our current situation, is the first step towards self-care and wholeness. As we allow ourselves to expand beyond the limitations imposed by our rational thinking process, we open to another way to see—and be—in the world.
The act of being aware incorporates all of the senses and activates our entire operating system, and it is through that awareness we are provided the opportunity to make conscious, proactive choices, rather than living in a state of reactionary readiness. It is also true that, as we become more adept at living daily in a state of heightened awareness, boundaries begin to blur between ourselves and all that exists around us, giving us the additional opportunity to acknowledge the possibility that we are not as separate and alone as we may have previously thought.
The next step is to joyously choose to take a risk, open a door, broaden a horizon, push a personal envelope, trust a process that your rational mind may not completely grasp, embrace change and accept with good humor the truism that “just because its right doesn’t mean it’s easy.”
The final step lies in comprehending—and accepting– the fact that all of us have, inherently available to us, the necessary tools with which to attain balance in our lives, as have our ancestors for centuries. They are as jewels in a hidden chest, merely forgotten over time. The map and the key are ours for the asking; they belong to us. We have merely forgotten how to begin the search. Now is the time to remember.
The preceding material is the premise upon which my upcoming publication, once finalized, is based. Entitled “Giving Without Losing: Transforming Burnout to Balance,” I believe this work will assist in offering an opportunity for us to begin to remember—who we truly are, what tools we have at our disposal, and how to use them to care for others while not losing ourselves in the process.
Drawing on insights gleaned from ancient tribal wisdom, modern research findings and years of experience in cross-cultural healing and the field of Energy medicine, I will be inviting you to open, what are perhaps, new doors of understanding. These publications and workshops, unique in their perspective, yet filled with common sense, will offer the reader—whether it be corporate CEO or family caregiver—the opportunity to discover that, despite the inability to change any particular situation, there are always choices available, choices that provide positive, and more fulfilling, ways of working—and being—in the world. Look forward to them!