Gioia and I were talking about ways to manage burn out and got intrigued by the evocative nature of that descriptor–burn out. The expression evokes all sorts of visual images: a flame sputtering and then extinguishing, a light bulb crackling on and off and finally going dark, the embers of a once glowing fire fading under a pile of cooling ashes, gaseous fumes gradually dissipating until they evaporate and disappear, a dying spark.
Being the “positive psychologists” that we are, we became curious about the inverse of burn out. What would that be? Invigorated? Energized? Enthusiastic? Engaged? Restored? And then what would the metaphor be? If we are burned out because we feel depleted, would we then be filled up, like a gas tank, or an artisian well? If our energy was low, like a fire that was in danger of going out, would we suddenly spark into an eternal flame? Would we light up? Spring to life? Get recharged, like a battery? Or perhaps we would transform into a renewal source of energy, like wind, or ever-flowing water.
Regardless, we know that one of the ways to manage burn-out, to fill ourselves up, and to feel renewed and re-engaged, involves taking care of ourselves. Because we may not be able to change some of the external factors that contribute to burnout (feeling like our efforts are not noticed or appreciated, that we cannot bring about any positive changes in our environment, not being challenged enough at work or being challenged too much and being unable to meet those expectations), it can be very effective to channel our resources to what we can most effect–ourselves!
Self-care, at its most basic, starts with caring for the body-drinking enough water, sleeping better, and getting basic exercise and nutrition. It means getting outside, spending time with friends and family and animals, remembering what you enjoy and what inspires you, and spending more time doing what energizes you. On the job it can mean taking pauses during the day, tweaking your work so you are able to experience some sense of accomplishment and enjoyment, using more of the strengths that engage you, and less of those that deplete you, identifying your values and aspirations, and connecting with people who support you. Click on the following link for a helpful handout on burn out: CWW-SelfCareDomains
Gioia’s main self-care strategies are spending time with her dog Barley, doing art work, and using sleep to let her brain come up with new ideas. Mine are getting a full night’s sleep, stretching, and trying to take life less seriously and enjoy myself more.
Rebecca and Gioia
Remember a time when you felt energized, engaged, and invigorated. Create a symbol for that sensation as if it were a source of renewable energy. Share it with us here or on our Facebook page.