Notes on burnout and the body

Notes on burnout and the body

How well do you listen to your body? Do you understand what it is telling you?  Are we over-extending? Are we under-extending but so afraid of over-extending that we tell ourselves otherwise? Are we being called to serve somewhere new or old?

The body is a site of truth. Our emotional, mental, spiritual bodies all come together and speak through our physical body.  Our physical body can tell us the truth of where these other bodies are at. on burnout and the body

Sometimes we extend ourselves too far, we live in a culture that glorifies endless work after all.  When we listen, our bodies may tell us to rest, to be alone, to be in community, to sing, to dance, to sleep, to make love – when we learn to listen to the cues of the body, we’re listening to and understanding our needs.  Everything we feel, we feel in the body.

Sometimes, however, we feel we haven’t gone far enough.  And, so, we push ourselves in ways that are counterintuitive to what we want and where we are being called, because in the back of our mind is that voice saying we haven’t done enough.  In reality, it’s not that we haven’t done enough – it’s that we haven’t done enough of what matters, of what we are really called for.  We’re exhausted from pushing against all the wrong things. (note: the story of ‘I haven’t done enough’ can also be the sound of violence against ourselves, and distinguishing between what is a true calling and what is a violent mechanism takes time. Listening to the body as well as your mind is the clearest way to determine what is violence and what is not, but more on this later).

This is not to say that when we follow our callings the work won’t be exhausting, rather it won’t be depleting.  Burnout is what happens when we have depleted ourselves of our inner resources, when we have ignored the signs given to us by all of our various bodies and their needs.  We ‘pushed through’, we ‘carried on’, but we also ran out of fuel because we were depleted more than we were ever nourished.

One of the reasons we look at listening to our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical bodies in changemaker resilience course is that the more we follow our true callings, listening to where it feels right for us to be, the closer we are to doing the work that nourishes us.  It will still be hard, there will still be bad days, you will still need to look at other areas of your life, but the first step will have been taken.  And as our callings are an evolving thing, always changing, we develop the skills to listen throughout our lifetime, ending one part of the burnout cycle.

If you want to be the first to hear about the next Changemaker Resilience course when it launches be sure to join the mailing list here.

You can also read more on the culture of burnout in activism and changemaking here.

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