Being in burnout is like running out of gas in your car. Except the car is you. And the level of gas in your tank is the amount of energy you have. When you are in complete burnout, you have only fumes left in your tank, and no energy reserves to draw from.
I meet people in my practice who are metaphorically stranded beside the road, unable to move their car, because they have run entirely out of gas.
This image conjures up three questions that I work with my clients to address.
1. How did your gas level get so low?
Everyone is aware when you drive a car, that you must constantly keep an eye on the gas gauge, and put more gas into the tank to avoid running out. So what stops people from topping up the level of gas in their own tank?
2. How do you get the gas level back up?
In the immediate-term, the only way to restore energy levels is to sleep, and sleep, and to continue to sleep some more, until your gas tank is back up to 3/4 full, which is where you will want to maintain it for optimum performance.
3. How do you prevent yourself from running low on gas again?
Once your energy level has been restored, you will have to establish some better habits to prevent yourself from falling into burnout. It is important to realize that depending on how burned out you are, returning to this improved state and optimum energy levels can take several months to accomplish. Establishing a regular exercise program is the most effective way to stay out of burnout. However, you will also need to keep up on your sleep, eat healthy, and rethink your approach to work and relationships.
Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta
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