Hello, It’s Me, Your Inner Flame!
Are you burning out? We all know that combustion, or the fuel burning process, drives cars, cooks food and warms our hands and feet. The more powerful and stable the burn, the more energy it delivers. What happens if that flame becomes only a flicker? The fire goes out, smouldering begins and soon there’s nothing left but a pile of ashes. Clinical burnout feels a lot like that fire gone cold.
“Burnout syndrome” has been recognized for the first time as an official medical diagnosis. The World Health Organization defines burnout as: “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. While this can be one of the contributing situations that can lead a person to begin to lose the altitude of their inner flame situation, I do not believe that this addresses the core of an increasingly widespread mental health issue.
Some of the symptoms can include exhaustion that doesn’t resolve with a weekend’s rest or even a week’s vacation, a loss of hope or optimism in a happy or successful future, anxiety and panic attacks that seem unrelated to whatever is happening at the current moment and a general feeling of distance or disconnect from work, friends and family.
Do You Smell Smoke?
We have all heard variations of the way many of us talk about burnout. Most of the time we describe a work situation gone awry. We might say, “oh, I’m so burned out from all these meetings…I need to sleep for a week” or “this job is burning me out, my boss just keeps piling on the work”. Sometimes we think about the work/life balance as being the cause of a slow dwindle of energy over time and a loss of enthusiasm or even hope about our relationships or careers.
In my experience as a trauma psychotherapist and shamanic practitioner, I have found that burnout is not primarily about how much work we do. It is not about how much vacation we have or whether or not the boss is a fire breathing dragon! I see burnout as the result of an abandoned or broken relationship internally, within ourselves. In other words, a lack of awareness about the fact that our primary relationship in this life is with that droopy looking person we see in the mirror every evening as we stumble to brush our teeth and wash our face before tumbling into bed.
Turn Up the Heat
How loving and nurturing is your relationship with yourself? What does your inner dialogue sound like most days? Many if not most people who come to my office or trainings, have never even considered that they have a relationship with themselves or that this internal relationship is what has the greatest potential to make their personal engine run well every day. When I ask, “so, who are your primary relationships right now?” the answer almost always begins with a partner, best friend or children. No mention of the person they live with 24/7!
Remember that instruction we receive when we are on an airplane and ready for take off? If the oxygen should get low, the masks will pop down and we are told to put them on ourselves before we attempt to help anyone else. In other words, if you put the mask on your nearest or dearest first, you will not be able to breathe yourself. You get the picture. Still, this is what many people think of as being compassionate or selfless or kind. Take care of everyone else first and then we will see if there’s anything leftover. This is a perfect prescription for burnout over time when it’s a way of life.
Speak to Me!
A resilient inner flame begins with a consciously loving, nurturing and compassionate relationship with yourself. Where you might tend to say, “oh how stupid that you dropped the entire carton of milk again” you could instead say, “honey, what’s up…do you need a nap or a good cry or a warm bath?” Your response to your big or small victories could sound like your best imitation of a
cheerleader with something like “Great job! “You did it, I’m proud of you!” Yes, I mean literally talk to yourself in the way you wish a warm and supportive parent or friend would talk to you.
Healthy inner relationship continues with creating consistent time and space for an internal check in. Ask yourself: what do you need right now? What would give you comfort or energy? This might be meditation or exercise or cooking a meal to delight all of your senses. It can also mean sitting down and allowing those deeper emotions to arise and flush out with your tears. Loving relationship can feel so easy when it’s for another person or animal, but when was the last time you looked in the mirror in the morning and said, “Hey there, sweetie, how are you doing today?” You might be surprised by the shifts that occur in your life and your external relationships once you start practicing unconditional, conscious and loving care for the only one who is always with you and always will be.
By Laury Naron