Have you ever experienced burn-out? Whether from overwork or other pressures and stresses in life, it’s a sense of utter exhaustion, constant anxiety or depression, emptiness, and mental confusion. It often involves physical symptoms of both tiredness and jitteriness. You feel like you could sleep for a week, but have trouble falling and staying asleep. You either lose your appetite or overeat to comfort yourself, which makes you more sluggish. Irritability is often a symptom of the FOG Syndrome — fatigue, overwhelm and guilt – guilt about never getting it all done, not coping well with the demands around us. You’re like a vehicle running on fumes. So, how do you refill, revive, and refresh yourself? How do you go from burnout to bliss?
- First, take a time-out — a day, a week or more from your regular life. Use that time to reflect, refresh and reset your spiritual compass. Do a lot of nothing. Sleep, eat healthy food, exercise and play. Go fishing. If your time is limited, make it a daycation.
- Use a small journal to record your thoughts and prayers. Have a conversation with God and yourself, looking honestly at what is stressing you and what is blessing you. Write down what you want to stop doing, start doing and keep doing to create a pace of grace that will sustain you instead of drain you.
- Dare to choose a new way to live and work. Anne Wilson Schaef wrote, “It is only when we accept that we do have choices that we can reclaim our lives.” Ask yourself what activities, people and work bring you joy? The best way to make joy your priority is by realizing that you are worthy of it.
- As you discern a routine or lifestyle that brings you joy, turn it into a vision. “Without vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) Plan an ideal day, week, or month. Include reflection, reverence, rest and recreation, which brings true balance. Create a poster with pictures or images of your vision, to inspire you. Paste in words you find in magazines to reinforce that vision. I call this a “collage of dreams”.
- Above all, say yes to your true calling. Spend time to discern it, then act on it. A friend of mine spent all his adult life working as a post office mail sorter. He found the job dull, but it supported his family and allowed him to pursue his true calling, which was as a spiritual director, or counselor. He and I shared spiritual direction with each other, even though of different Faiths, and he was brilliant at it. He followed his heart. As Presbyterian minister, Frederick Buechner wrote, “Our calling is where our deepest gladness and the world’s hunger meet.” One thing I know for sure is that genuine joy means living a life of purpose, making a positive difference.
I ran into a Cook Islander friend recently, and as usual, she was all smiles. I asked her, “What gives you such joy?” She said, “Well, I wake up grateful every day and I thank God every night. I love all my different jobs. They give me energy and happiness.” She brings joy with her into everything she does, whether cooking, grounds keeping, visiting elders, or loving her husband. She rests every afternoon by reading good novels, including I’m happy to say, my novel, A Scent of Sage. She has a strong sense of confidence and gives excellence to everything she does. As Sufi mystic, Rumi says, “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”