Feeling Out of Order?

When busy becomes a badge of honor.

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Left to Right: Eléa Faucheron Photographer: Christine Lentz

WARNING: You might be suffering from burnout if, you’re considering getting “Out of Order” tattooed on your forehead! Or you idealize leaving it all behind to simply exist while waiting tables on a tropical island. On the other hand, the idea of jumping on a train to Idaho and disappearing into the horizon sounds lovely. In addition, a strange desire to exchange your savings account for a loincloth and a mountain has been welling up in you.

Which begs the question: Why are so many of us struggling with chronic stress, otherwise known as burnout, and dreaming of escaping our lives?

Former President Obama called, cortisol (a stress hormone) “Public Health Enemy Number One.” And the World Health Organization listed stress as the epidemic of the 21st century. The consequences of a desperate, overwhelmed, overworked society is a public health crisis of huge portions.

I often hear people share stories on who has the most insane work schedule. “I worked ninety hours last week, had a mole taken off my back, took the kids to ten soccer games, scheduled my trip to New York, invested in a new company, had cryotherapy, and finished the deck.” Overdoing swagger is a neon sign that despite our ever-increasing productivity, we don’t feel relevant or possibility we are unknowingly addicted to meth. This is how we end up: “Out of Order.”

Overachieving has become incessantly destructive. We all know it, we all take part in it. If there is an ear within several feet of us, we’ll fill it last week’s insane work schedule. To the unkeen eye it might appear as if we are bragging, but usually, it’s a call for help from ourselves. “Save me!” I know it, I did it, and to this day I still catch myself falling into its clutches.

Running ourselves ragged has become a badge of honor. When you BurnOut, the most debilitating symptom is corrupted thinking. It sounds like this: Everyone has discovered the secret to success but you. You need to work more than 80 hours a week be because hard work = success. What is that yellow goo oozing from your eye? Oh, who can be bothered which such minor irritations, keep working, success is just around the corner!

Depressingly, when you’re working yourself to the bone, fatigue opens the door to insecurity. Scrolling through your social media turns into a heat-seeking missile of self-flagellation. They have a new Jeep, took a trip to Fiji, bought a house on the island, and met Richard Branson. What have I done lately???? Suddenly your own triumphs are hiding from you!

For me, to stop overdoing, felt like failing. If I just worked harder, faster, I would reach success. I was accustomed to barreling through everything, whether I was exhausted, sad, happy, overwhelmed, or mediocre. No time to stop; only one speed.

On an emotional level, BurnOut is the exaggerated effort of searching for worth in one area of our lives. A singular focus on work becomes the key to feeding all our basic human needs. With that ideology, we abuse ourselves and an old adage slips in: If I just work harder, I will be successful. I will find happiness. Depleting ourselves in the present moment, to gain what we think will be more time and money, later on, is a poor strategic plan. For most, once they get that time, it is spent battling with health issues due to years of abuse.

When it comes to health, our passion for work can be our greatest asset or our biggest liability. A very wise woman once said to me, “In order to burnout, you first have to have a burning passion.” That intense passion drives us to idolize projects and status while we strive to be more. We fall into traps: “I will take care of that oozing eyeball when I have time, when this project is done, or when I have more money.” This creates a venus fly trap that will swallow you whole every time!

Here’s my advice for making repairs on feeling “Out of Order,” that won’t have any questionable inky effects. The key is to start small.

First, nix something. For example: Cross one item off your project list this year, not because you did it, but because putting your energy into better health is needed more this year.

Second, ask yourself this question. If I took just 5% of my weekly work hours and instead applied them to fueling my health, how would I feel?

Third, do something so fun that you laugh till you cry! Then feel the clutches of “Out of Order” release, as feeling like yourself returns.

Originally published at

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