From Burnout to Breakthrough

Finding Joy and Fulfillment in Service to Others

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"Just let me get through the day," had become my mantra.

“I am so fried, I’m almost sizzling!”

I can recall feeling this way on more than one occasion. Sometimes, it was directly related to my professional role as a Service Provider in various capacities. And sometimes, it was a result of personal turmoil in my life. More often than not, it was a little bit of both.

One day in the shower, I found myself chanting over and over again, “Just let me get through the day,” I realized that this had been my mantra for some time. The daily routine was to stay in bed as long as possible, even though I had already been awake since 5am mulling over every dreaded detail that lay before me. At the last possible second, I would drag myself out of my uncomfortable cocoon and in nothing less than a frenzy, get myself together, get the kids out the door and begin the white knuckled drive into work.

My face hurt from clenching my teeth. My shoulders thought they were attached to my ears. My stomach was in knots most of the time. And I was ready to spit nails if anyone ruffled my feathers or looked at me sideways.

The really sad part was that I was sad. My life had become a series of tasks that needed doing. Checking off the to-do list ~ a little reward that I had created for myself ~ just wasn’t cutting it anymore. In fact, on better days, I would actually add more to the list to have more to check off just so I could get my high.

“Just let me get through the day.”

The Turning Point

For some reason, on this particular day those words hit like a gong and echoed through my being for hours. It was a turning point. It dawned on me that if I kept going this way, I would get to the end of my life having just made it through a series of days. Merely surviving.

These symptoms are common for anyone who has walked the perimeters of or taken the nose-dive off the deep end of burnout.

And if you happen to find yourself in Service to others, you likely know this all too well. For as long as I can remember, if you were in the helping professions, you were warned about the high potential for burnout and trained to identify signs and symptoms within yourself and your colleagues.

Any role, whether professional or personal, paid or voluntary that requires emotional labor and spiritual presence in service to others has a high potential for burnout. But that doesn’t mean it is inevitable.

Preventing burnout and learning how to bounce back from it are valuable skills to acquire. Sometimes, we don’t know what’s happening to us until it’s too late and we are already knee-deep in burnout stew.

There is an alternative. My journey began that day in the shower.

The Heart of the Matter

And I knew that it wasn’t just as simple as starting a new exercise program, a fresh meditation routine or eating more greens. I would certainly benefit from more sleep. All those activities had their place in my overall sense of well-being, and yet, it wasn’t quite hitting the mark.

I picked apart my relationships ~ both personal and professional. Was there something in these connections that needed alteration. Probably. Still no definitive direction was clear. Sure, I’d like it if so-and-so stopped this or started that, but it didn’t have the power to put that spunk back in my step.

Am I having any fun? Like, not just weekend fun ~ real daily fun within my life?

Do I feel that what I’m doing matters? Does it make any difference ~ not to anyone else ~ to me?

When was the last time I celebrated my blessings ~ not just the people and circumstances in my life ~ the gifts of my own soul?

I was getting warmer.

It is exactly this kind of exploration ~ down and dirty soul searching ~ that has the power to re-ignite our energy, our sense of purpose, and our excitement for life and all that it entails.

The Epiphany

Through this process, I began to feel my heart and soul align and my focus became crystal clear. I followed my curiosities and embraced the excitement and enthusiasm that welled up when I allowed myself to love what I love. And when I included myself as someone important to love, everything changed.

No matter how many candle lit bubble baths I lounged in ~ wine on the side ~ could have ever come close to this epiphany.

I had been missing the point. I was not just a machine to be maintained. I was not something to be tended to only when things were falling apart. Caring for myself did not have the end purpose of making sure I could do more for others.

I am here to live my life to the fullest expression possible. And that means that what brings me profound joy and deep fulfillment had to be acknowledged. And then it had to be honored and integrated.

For me this showed up as spiritual exploration. And it continues to this day. I have learned how to embrace the mystery of life ~ sometimes, kicking and screaming, but open to it nonetheless.

As I found ways to integrate what I was learning spiritually into my practice as a Service Provider, everything became an opportunity for learning, for growth, and for deeper connection within myself and with others.

And I found my sense of joy and fulfillment that has since become the foundation for my life and my service. It acts as the barometer by which I can measure how my experiences align with my soul. This foundation is there for me to return to when I am tired or worn out ~ missing the zest ~ acting as a compass for the return to my own heart first.

Connection to others is right around the corner from that point.

What matters to you ~ what brings you joy and fulfillment ~ is the key to remaining vibrant in your life. It is the key to engagement and presence.

Vibrant, engaged and present people don’t burn out. They may flicker. And they know they hold the match that with one strike, sets the fires ablaze.

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