Gone are the days that burnout is helped by completing a stress cycle, by mindfulness activities, by taking a day off here and there. Those of us who have been burned out—or suffer with it currently—know that these are barely-there band-aids that don’t actually help. In my experience, they often can harm, too—tricking us into thinking it is indeed our problem, and only our problem. This is clearly false advertising.

What we do know is that burnout is a systemic problem that has its roots in inequities and oppressive practices that often most of us are barely conscious of on a daily basis. And though we don’t have power to change the system entirely, what we can do is enact greater responsibility for ourselves within these systems so that we can be the force for change in our own lives—and maybe, just maybe, the lives of others.

While this is not a comprehensive list by any estimation, I encourage you, if you are a burned out helping or healing professional, to start here.

ONE: Recognize the systems that are causing your stress

Where in your life do you feel “oppressed”? Perhaps that can be as small as the weight you feel when you have to do carpool for the 6th time this week. Or perhaps it is as big as dealing with microaggressions or overt prejudice at your work. Write down how these situations affect you, from your body to your mind, to your spirit. What ways are you suffering within these situations? Can you give yourself some grace around the fact that your reactions—perhaps anger, disappointment, shame, fear, or any iteration of these—could be entirely warranted and not your fault? If your feelings of anger, fear, etc. have something to say to you about these situations, what would they say?

What I’ve found in working in burnout recovery is that those folks who understand the collective, generational, cultural, systemic causes of their burnout do better often in part simply knowing that they’re not the cause. The relief can be palpable. We are interconnected beings, and when others are stressed—even if the “other” is something as big as a family, or a community—then we are too.

TWO: Do a boundary audit

Boundary hygiene is the first set of to-dos on any burned-out healer’s list. We notice the places that our boundaries have been loosened or too rigid and learn ways to foster self-compassion and trust our sense of safety and autonomy to do the work to regain a healthy perspective on our boundaries. When we are stressed, we reduce the ability to even see how our boundaries affect others, or often, our lack of boundaries. We then set ourselves up for disappointment or hurt in part because we are unclear from our own perspective where to land. I would ask yourself—what people are in your life stepping on your toes, or stressing you out? What boundary is being tested or ignored here? Remember, boundaries are about maintaining relationships with people, not pushing them away. When we reframe and know that we have agency here, our sense of self-esteem becomes much more secure.

THREE: Do a time management audit

When we feel emotionally exhausted, we scroll, we zone out, we overeat, we under sleep, we oversleep. Our well is dry, but we feel unable to maintain a sense of patterning in our lives that feels balanced. Time management is essential to reclaiming a sense of resiliency back into our lives in burnout. Look at where we are filling our time with nourishing practices for self-care and renewal and double it. If you take 10 min to eat, take 20. If you take a 5 min shower, take a 10 min shower. If you write in your journal once a month, write in your journal twice this month. Notice the spaces where you feel more connected to yourself—and give yourself that time.

FOUR: Identify supports

We are interconnected, interdependent, and entirely in each other’s lives—especially those of us who are healing professionals. When we take care of ourselves, those we take care of will benefit. Where can you increase the amount of support you are getting on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis? Where can you entirely “let go” and allow yourself to be fully seen and known? Is that one person, or a group? How can you allow yourself to be nurtured? We need each other, now more than ever. You deserve to allow in support.

FIVE: Reconnect to sense of call

In my experience working with helping professionals over the years, the ones with the strongest sense of call are often the ones who are the most burned out. They stay in situations that are borderline abusive (or flat out!) because they feel a deep inner connection to service. Where is your sense of call coming from, and how can you reconnect to it? I often allow folks to deepen into a relationship with a call, often connected to a younger version of themselves. If your call had an age, what age would it be? If you call would say anything about you now, what would it be? What is its greatest hope, and its greatest fear? Allow your call to have its own voice. Only then can we reconnect to it.

When we actually stop gaslighting ourselves and do the real work of true self care, we are able to nourish ourselves even if systemic or cultural pressures remain. Our ability to do this work is responsibility to our own sense of call as well as to those we care for. When we become more aware of ourselves and reconnect to our sense of peace, power, and purpose, only then are we able to move into the world post-burnout into our resilience once more.

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About the Author: Allie Kochert
Allie Kochert, MA, LPC, CSD is a burnout and resiliency expert and holds space for others to grow into their authenticity and soul's purpose. As a licensed psychotherapist, spiritual director, educator, and consultant, she holds multiple certifications and two decades' experience supporting folks on the healing journey. She specializes in supporting holistic and embodied mind-body-soul support for helpers, healers, and women+ in spiritual vocations. You can find her at www.rootgrowthrive.com.

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