“Burnout” is a well-written, concise, and liberating book! In this post, I share my nine takeaways from it to help us lead a fulfilling life, and avoid burnout. It is a must-read for all women who have felt overwhelmed at some point in their lives or have thought that they are “not good enough!”
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“Trust your body.
Be kind of yourself.
You are enough, just as you are right now.
Your joy matters.
Please tell everyone you know.” Burnout, 2019
The title “Burnout” feels constraining, but ironically, the book is liberating in the truest sense of the word. It facilitates awareness about burning out and the thoughts or beliefs which might hold us back.
Any woman who has ever felt “not enough,” “guilty,” managing a lot,” or any such not-so-good emotion, please read this book! It is outstanding as a tool to restore our emotional well-being.
What is Burnout?
Burnout, as defined in this book, starts with emotional exhaustion leading to loss of compassion and, lastly, a decreased sense of accomplishment. In other words, it is that feeling where we feel overwhelmed, exhausted, overworked, and yet feel we are not good enough!
Burnout – Book Takeaways
Here, I’ve summarized my nine takeaways from the book. Besides that, I’ve included the quotes that struck a chord with me. This is not a sponsored post, and I strongly recommend that you read this book! I’ve arranged the takeaways in the order that I love them and not necessarily chronologically per the book.
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1. Deal with both the stressor and the stress
As the author explains, a stressor is external, e.g., job, relationship, etc., and is the cause behind our stress. Stress, on the other hand, is our body’s response to the stressor. Now before reading this book, I clubbed them both as “stress.”
Who knew that it makes a world of difference to bin them separately! The author highlights that we need first to take care of the stressor, then direct our energy towards stress per se – and close the stress cycle.
What is a stress cycle, you ask? Once stress is triggered, we go through it with all our grit, and then a nice dinner, a movie, or a workout – takes the burden off of us, closing the stress cycle. This concept of stress cycle is not unique, and we have all experienced it. But the author underlines the dire need to close the cycle every time to ensure that we don’t burnout!
Deal with both stressor and stress: Quotable Quotes
“Remember, your body has no idea what “filing your taxes”… means. It knows, though, what jumping up and down means. Speak its language – and its language is body language.”…”Physical activity is what tells your brain you have successfully survived the threat, and now your body is a safe place to live.”
“Because you experience stress every day, you have to build completing the cycle into everyday. Make it a priority, like your life depends on it. Because it does.”
“Stress is not bad for you; being stuck is bad for you.”
2. Beware of Gaslighting
Gaslighting is the term used to describe “the larger phenomenon of women and other marginalized groups being told over and over that they imagine discrimination. That is gaslighting you.”
Our wellness is at stake if we have self-doubt occupying our minds. And self-doubt is triggered significantly by Gaslighting.
My takeaway from this section was less of blaming the world for gaslighting us and more of we gaslighting ourselves! If we guard ourselves and pledge to not fall into the trap of self-doubt, no matter what, we can prevent being gaslit. That requires awareness, discipline, journaling, and positive notes to self!
Beware of Gaslighting: Quotable Quotes
“And that feeling”… when “you are not sure because maybe they’re right and you’re overreacting and being too sensitive?”..”That’s feeling gaslit.”
“Gaslighting creates deeply uncomfortable feelings of being trapped while making you believe you put yourself in that trap, which just makes you angrier and sadder and less hopeful.”
3. Know when to give up!
We all, especially women, tend to stretch ourselves too much – much beyond when we should have given up! Move on, and pivot is the takeaway! The idea is to act and not keep complaining – sometimes, quitting can nurture us and help us improve our overall health!
Ever felt that letting go is a sign of failure? That is the trap that the author speaks about!
Know when to give up: Quotable Quotes
“Science has an answer for when to walk away – sort of. It’s framed in terms of an “explore/exploit the problem,” as in “Should I explore new terrain, or should I exploit the terrain I’m in?” Animals in the wild are good at it. “
“If you’re feeling not just frustrated and challenged, but helpless, isolated, and trapped”…” you should definitely quit whatever it is.”
“That freedom comes when we have abundance enough and safety enough to let go of what is broken and reach for something new.”
“If our goals are what we want to accomplish, “meaning” is why we want to accomplish them.”.. “our goals give us a sense of engagement with something larger than ourselves.”
4. Manage your Monitor with planful problem-solving!
The author introduces the term Monitor, which we all know about but to which we perhaps never paid close attention.
What is our Monitor?
Monitor “is the brain mechanism that decides whether to keep trying… or to give up. The Monitor knows (1) what your goal is; (2) how much effort you’re investing in that goal; and (3) how much progress you’re making.”… “There are so many ways a plan can go wrong, some of which you can control and some of which you can’t, all of which can frustrate your Monitor.
With the above definition in mind, the author suggests that we satisfy the Monitor with planning and moving towards the goal. That, in other words, is taking care of the stressor. When we understand how our Monitor works (it is satisfied when we move towards a goal and vice versa), we can “influence” our brain by strategies like better planning!
How do we do that?
- Plan Plan Plan! Meal-planning, work planning, prioritizing – these tools have been so fulfilling in this past year, and I have this book partly to thank to. I have always loved to plan, but this book put a name on it, which makes it so much better!
- Make realistic plans! With lockdown due to COVID-19, we all have limited time with chores etc. So, setting high expectations out of ourselves can lead to disappointment and become a stressor! Therefore, setting realistic goals and planning accordingly and reduce the anxiety.
5. Find meaning in what you do, for well-being.
Now “finding meaning/purpose” is clichéd, you say? Do something that you are passionate about is something we have all heard over and over again. So what sets this chapter apart?
What sets it apart is how the authors make a case for finding meaning in what we do. Meaning is not just a good-to-have, but paramount for us to thrive and avoid burnout.
The authors call it connecting with our own something larger – for one it could be “work for the environment to leave a better world for kids,” and for others, it could be “raise kids so that they know they are loved,” or something different. When we know our lives have a positive impact, that feeling is nourishing and healing!
Find meaning in what you do: Quotable Quotes
Meaning “helps us thrive when things are going well, and it helps us cope when things go wrong in our lives.”
“Meaning is not found; it’s made.”
“Ask yourself, What am I doing when I feel most powerfully that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing?”
6. Mental rest is paramount!
Rest and sleep is something I have brought home in many of my wellness blog posts, namely, “The art of good life,” “7 TED talks,” “Essentialism.” And the value of rest shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us. Yet, it is astounding how little we lay importance on it.
The authors of this book to emphasize how lack of sleep can impair our well being. Action? Let’s all prioritize sleep. Let’s all prioritize rest. Let everything else wait.
Mental rest is paramount: Quotable Quotes
“We are built to oscillate between work and rest. When we allow for this oscillation, the quality of our work improves, along with our health.”
“Anxiety and sleep, too, are closely related and mutually casual.”
“… sleep is medicine for you.”
“These days, the message is not so much that we don’t need sleep, but that if a person has time to sleep, they’re doing something wrong; they’re not working hard enough.”
“We think rest matters because you matter. You are not here to be productive. You are here to be you.”
7. Have gratitude for “who” you have and “how” things happen, not just for “what” you have
Not that’s a masterstroke, right? I’ve been journaling for expressing gratitude and never thought of these separate buckets. Having gratitude for what we have isn’t as effective as being grateful for who we have! The authors state that the latter nourishes us and helps us thrive and keeps grief or anxiety at bay.
Being Grateful: Quotable Quotes
“If , as you write, you feel yourself being drawn into negative, critical thoughts and feelings, gently set them to one side and return your attention to one thing you’re being grateful for.”
“We don’t have to wait for the world to change before we begin to heal ourselves and one another.”
… thank “those who have encouraged us to become who we are. That’s how to gratitude-for-who-you-have.”
8. Joy is better than Happiness
“Joy vs. Happiness” was my favorite piece in the book; alas, the authors saved the best for the last! I picked this takeaway is from the “Conclusion” chapter of the book and hope you appreciate it too.
While the external factors can dictate our happiness, we can be joyful regardless; joyful from within – and working towards being joyful is the antidote to burnout. Reach out for support and be there to offer support to others – to let each other know we are “good enough!” Self-doubt can take us south toward burning out. Connection with people is “as essential as food and water”!
Joy is better than Happiness: Quotable Quotes
“Isn’t joy the same as happiness? Oh, no.” “When we engage with something larger than ourselves, we make meaning, and when we can resonate, bell-like, with that Something Larger, that’s joy.” … “no external circumstances can take away our source of joy, no matter the “happenings” around us.”
“Wellness is not a state of mind but a state of action.”
“The cure for burnout is not” just “self-care; it is all of us caring for one another.”
9. Lead a life of more self-kindness
An often-overlooked deterrent in most of our lives is this voice within which tells us that “we are not good enough!” If you have read “Becoming” by Michelle Obama, you will remember her stating that too – that feeling of not being enough!
The message in the book, Burnout: we need to learn to tame that voice and not let her overpower us!
How do we practice self-kindness?
- Write down what that inner voice tells us and address its fears. I have been practicing this for a while now and must say that although I have started recognizing that voice and flagging it, it will still take some time to “tame it!”
- Practice! Practice! Every time we hear that voice within or someone else telling us that we are not good enough, let’s step back and not let it govern our actions.
Lead a life of more self-kindness: Quotable Quotes
“Self-compassion: it’s hard at first. That’s normal. For some people, it stays hard. Also normal. But the result of practicing self-compassion is that you grow mighty.”
“Perfectionism is a lot of different things- some of them generally benign or even beneficial, and some very toxic.”
“The opposite of harsh self-criticism and toxic perfectionism is self-compassion.”
“Diligent practice of self-compassion works; it lowers stress hormones and improves mood. And many years of research have confirmed that self-forgiveness is associated with greater physical and mental well-being. All without diminishing your motivation to do the things that matter to you”
As the authors say, “We don’t have to wait for the world to change before we begin to heal ourselves and one another.”
Let’s be kind to ourselves and others, let’s have gratitude for who we have, and lastly, we are enough, just as we are right now! Take care and be well.