Low Energy and Burnout – Part 2

By Jim Selman | Bio


When we know that there is an end to a particularly strenuous period of work, we can feel energized and become even more productive. When we think that the flow of work is endless or that we have no choice in the matter, then we may begin to break down, feel disempowered, become tired. Life begins to feel like a burden.

I have found that resolving these kinds of chronic negative moods about workload and feeling overwhelmed begins by reconnecting with the fact that we always have a choice, even when part of our story is that we do not. When we can ‘own’ that our work is our choice (even if we don’t particularly like what we are doing), then we have taken the first step toward changing how we relate to it. It is OUR job.

The second step is to learn to ‘be present’ when we are working. One of the common pitfalls we can all fall into as we become more competent at a job is to ‘go on automatic’, which allows us to spend more and more time thinking or feeling sorry for ourselves and ultimately making the situation worse. If something happens that ‘jolts’ us into being present (such as a crisis), we experience an instant shift in our mood and our energy level increases dramatically.

The third element in mastering these types of moods is to approach all work as physically challenging. In other words, we need to stay in shape if we’re going to play at a level of peak performance. This is just common sense. If we are feeling fit and ‘alive’, we will generally bring that to whatever we are doing. Having a heavy workload doesn’t mean that we need to feel heavy also. We can only accomplish what we can accomplish in a day, and whatever is unfinished on or ‘to do’ list will be there tomorrow. In the end, we’ll all die someday and leave something unfinished.

Finally, it is important that we acknowledge what we are not doing. Depending upon the organization and the nature of our work, it may even be appropriate to publicly acknowledge all the things that are not being done—not only to eliminate the extra stress of trying to hide incomplete work, but also to allow others in the organization to respond responsibly to the reality of a particular work situation.

At the end of the day, no employee should ever need to sacrifice over long periods of time or put up with low energy or negative moods. But the responsibility for doing something about these begins with the employee, not the employer. Our moods are not caused by our circumstances and our workload. Our moods originate in how we relate to our circumstances and our workload. When we assume responsibility for how we relate to our circumstances, we are no longer victims. We can then either initiate changes in how we work or change our experience by becoming even more present while we’re working.

© 2009 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

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