A whirlwind Western world worships productivity, as defined by how much we “get done.” But I’d love to see you become “undone” with joy. Because let me assure you of this: Learning how to be unabashedly alive is a very productive goal.
It’s in these everyday tasks, habits, and self-talk that you risk losing sight of your nimble, guided self. Not to mention the self-talk that cripples you, makes you feel behind, even before you’ve sipped your morning coffee.
I want you to be free. Freedom doesn’t mean you’ll run away to Istanbul or forget to pay the rent. It’s a remembrance, not a forgetting. It’s remembering who you really are.
It’s the preconceived ideas about what we “should” be doing that prevent us from listening to our hearts in any given moment. Stop this well-intentioned discipline in its tracks. Set down the laundry or report, even for a minute. Become vulnerable and present to your present life. Your deep self wants to offer you a solution to help with burnout. Do you want to listen? Here are three steps to help with burnout:
Practice 1: Take a New Look at What It Means to “be responsible”
When you’re busy doing so many things, you might think you’re just being “responsible.” But you have a higher responsibility to listen to the part of you that honors the higher promise of your life. Why would any of us choose a routine instead of a miracle? When we’re burnt out at work or in life, we don’t always realize what we’re not getting done by “getting things done.”
A Course in Miracles teaches, “The miracle comes quietly into the mind that stops an instant and is still.”
One day in the middle of a busy month of a busy year of a busy lifetime, I decided to give myself a mini-retreat on the plump sofa of my back porch. Actually, I’d hurt my neck. And the pain was distracting me from answering e-mails. It was bad. You could say it was a pain in the neck. So, I resolved to put aside my tasks and spend the day listening to my body and myself.
It was the most “responsible” thing I could have done. I got more “done” but not doing anything.
Practice 2: Be Spontaneous (A Self-Care Day doesn’t have a to-do list!)
That’s not to say it was easy. As soon as I proclaimed my mini-retreat, I Immediately I heard a perky voice within dictating glamorous, acceptable ways to relax. Maybe you should go get a hot stone massage. Hey, you could read that new book. Since you’re not working today, why not organize your meditation space?
I was horrified to see that even in the domain of self-care, I had a brisk checklist waiting to devour me.
I spent the day in my favorite ratty T-shirt instead, resting on my couch, “doing nothing,” meditating by not even trying to meditate, just being and receiving cues from a tired and pained body. It was one of the most productive days I’d had in a while. I didn’t meet with friends. And I didn’t watch television or listen to an audiobook.
I met the silence, big as a bear. It held me. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d given myself space to just be. I allowed myself to be bored and awkward at times, like I was on a really bad date, the kind where you’re maybe hoping for a tiny stroke so you can leave—but I wasn’t bailing and calling a cab. I remembered again, in tiny bursts of raw self-acceptance, this is what my soul needs to experience, and it’s not on any to-do list.
I always hunger for real life, not the mass-marketed “get real” life. I want to smell the wild honeysuckles taking over the wooden fence, knowing I only have a bucket full of summers here on earth. I want to taste my life, seize moments that will live inside me forever. I want to choose my right life. I don’t want to live on auto-pilot. I crave a shift in consciousness.
In rebellious chunky penmanship, I wrote in my journal:
“I am not going to answer e-mails today or get back to clients. I want to know, witness, and love myself. This day of self-care will get more ‘done’ in my life. I want to know, witness, and love myself.”
Yes, I know. I’m no Malcolm X when it comes to insurrection. Still, this was a Rosa Parks, I’m-sitting-down-and-you-can’t-stop-me moment for a responsibility freak like me.
I was done with burnout and spinning my wheels. I was experimenting with taking a spontaneous day off: off-line, off-limits, and off my own back.
Practice 3: Show Up and Just Be Yourself
Don’t pressure yourself — just BE yourself. That day, “doing nothing,” I ended up journaling, resting the cells in my body, forgiving myself for forgetting myself in any way, cradling a part of me who’d suffered disappointments, and not pushing myself to do or be anything.
And when I least expected it, another part of my mind woke up. It felt like the stone had been rolled away from the gate. In the quiet, self-love and creative ideas deluged my mind. I couldn’t write fast enough. I chased the bursts of illumination and ideas that flew at me like a pack of butterflies, and forced my “practical” mind to take a backseat.
Then, later, I even wrote the newsletter for my business, the main task that I’d set aside that day. It was suddenly easy. Everything felt like mind candy. Work that would have taken me hours only took minutes and came out better.
No, I was not on drugs. But the lack of self-judgment is intoxicating. And if I could bottle this mystical superpower I would.
Why not try it yourself: take a spontaneous day off (ok, even an afternoon will do) and see what happens.
Experiment. Adventure. Your creative ideas await.