Burnout has many causes, but one thing its victims have in common is they are pushers.
They push those around them (employees, colleagues, spouses, children). They push against what is. They push themselves. Relentlessly.
This pushing works for them, until it doesn’t. Eventually, inevitably, their fuel sources deplete.
I know. I pushed my way out of the trailer park, through a college education, up through various levels of outward success, right into burnout. I ignored my needs, my dissatisfaction, all the warnings. As my marriage, and then my health, and eventually my job performance suffered, I put my head down and pushed harder.
It all crashed.
There is no pushing away burnout. The willfulness that makes you think you can ignore the signs—put your head down and push harder—is EXACTLY what leads to burnout. (Discover where you are on the slippery slope to burnout with this quiz.)
The most surprising and wonderful thing I learned in my recovery from burnout is that the key to avoiding burnout was inside me the whole time. Like Dorothy, I wore the ruby slippers that could take me “home” to meaningful and sustainable work.
Finding the Rhythm Within
Nature is dominated by rhythms, and we are part of nature. Seasons, tides, night and day are all driven by the dance of the Sun, Earth and Moon through space. I chuckle now to think I could ever ignore these forces.
The moon, because of its close proximity and daily cycle, has the most immediate impact on us. Its gravitational force pulls the ocean’s tides; mustn’t it affect our watery human bodies? Many animals use the moon for navigation and reproductive timing. Is it possible the moon activates ancient signals within our brain and endocrine system, too?
For the past three years I’ve been tuning into moon cycles, observing their impact on me and my work. The moon has reflected to me my cycles of idea generation and review. It has taught me when to sow (invest my energy) and when to reap (harvest my return). It shows me when to take action and when to surrender. I’ve released much which didn’t really work for me. More and more, I’ve narrowed my focus to what delights me. Life got easier and lighter.
Honoring my natural rhythms checks my “pushing” tendency. Although I still feel the urge, I now deeply understand it is a waste of my precious energy to push against what is. I’d rather go with the flow, leverage the energies at play, to maintain true success.
Observing mooncycles can help beat burnout in three specific ways:
- You are able to access inner wisdom and greater creativity, making activities easier and more fun.
- You recognize (and surrender to) the natural rhythms present in your life. Going with the flow results in less conflict and stress.
- You waste less time and energy on activities that don’t bring reward.
Everything Begins with the New Moon
At first, my lunar alignment was calculated. I live in a city where the sky is small, so I rarely even see the moon without specific effort. I marked the new moon on my calendar each month, blocking out delicious me-time to sit with my journal and plant New Moon wishes. The idea being that during the new moon, just as the dark moon nudges toward light, we are planting the seeds of our experience for the next month or more. Basically, we are leveraging the moon’s waxing energy to establish intention. Using Jan Spiller’s book, New Moon Astrology: The Secret of Astrological Timing to Make All Your Dreams Come True, I engaged in a monthly practice of thinking about what I did and did not want to experience in the coming month. This made me tune into my own desires. I was more aware and grateful for their fruition. If nothing else, new moon practices are practices of Intention.
But they are so much more…
Hearing the Bell Inside
As I tracked the moon’s phases, I slowly developed an ear for its vibration within me. As one of my teachers, Dana Gerhardt, describes:
Imagine standing at a busy big city intersection. The cacophony of sounds, vehicles and people moving in every direction. As you stand there, you become aware of a man on the far side ringing a tiny bell. You can see him. You can see the bell, but you can’t hear it amidst all the noise. As you commit to hearing it, you narrow your focus and listen for it. Even in the noise you catch its tinkling sounds.
At first, I observed moon cycles outside myself, driven by the calendar. More and more I recognize them inside me, the specific way I feel, my drives, my preferences. I’ve learned to align my actions, leverage their energy.
Creativity and Moon Phases
The moon completes one orbit around the earth every twenty-eight days. As it travels through the sky, its reflection of light morphs through specific phases. Like clockwork, we can count on them. The ancients did.
A powerful place to begin your own exploration of moon cycles is to align with the moon’s cyclic waxing and waning. Beginning with the new moon, when the moon is absent from the night sky, the moon will grow nightly until it reaches full. This phase, from dark to full, is the WAXING part of the cycle. It aligns with planning and action, culminating in illumination or full expression. Pay attention to what works for you, what comes with ease, what brings you fulfillment. Do more of that.
After reaching its peak fullness, the moon gradually ticks through its WANING phase. This is a time conducive to release. Considering what was revealed by the full moon, let go of what doesn’t work, the struggles, the excess. There is liberation in recognizing what you shouldn’t—or can’t—do! Grieve it, if you must, as you recognize the limits of your willfulness. Create empty space for the coming dark moon that begins the next cycle.
For the creative professional, this flow is cathartic. It creates ease and increases energy. It keeps you focused and aligned with what matters to you. Cycle by cycle you cultivate work you enjoy. You let go of work, possessions, and relationships that don’t support your success and happiness.
Using the moon’s monthly cycle, I’ve developed a schedule for my creative work. Influenced by my teachers (Dana Gerhardt, Katie Vie) and honed by my experience each cycle, I share it here to help you find the calendar that works for you.
A Creative Calendar
Each full moon cycle is commonly divided into eight stages. The exact dates of these phases can be found at https://www.timeanddate.com/. Each month, I mark my planner and plan my deliverables accordingly. Even when I can’t control the exact scheduling of my projects, with intention and awareness I can align with these energies within myself.
- New Moon is conducive to inspiration, ideas, and dreaming. Gently notice what is asking for your attention and nurturing. Write it down.
- Crescent Moon supports preparing, planning.
- First quarter (half-moon) is a time to engage with curiosity, to playfully explore what is beginning to take shape.
- Gibbous (almost full) may present challenges, discomforts, and necessary adjustments that come with the inevitability of birth.
- Full Moon brings the full force of momentum and, possibly, divine intervention. What you began on the new moon is fully illuminated, like it or not.
- Disseminating Moon brings breakthrough, birth, output. Katie Vie likens this to the exquisite relief of an exhale after holding a full breath.
- 3rd quarter (another half-moon) is to polish, refine, complete.
- Balsamic (crescent) is time to celebrate and review.
Download powerful Mooncycle Review questions for your own use. Play with this calendar. Refine it with each lunar cycle as you gain awareness of your own rhythms. Be guided by ease. Avoid struggle.
The Opposite of Burnout
I began writing this article on a balsamic moon. It was rough. Words didn’t flow. I couldn’t focus. Knowing the time was not right for creation, I didn’t push. Over the course of days, I caught words on paper without expectation. As the moon moved through darkness and into the crack of a waxing crescent, suddenly my words were kissed to life. The resulting article was different from the one I envisioned when I started. It practically wrote itself.
Tuning in to your own natural rhythms is a way to keep your internal fire alive. By directing your life with ever-increasing awareness of what brings you joy, producing more work with greater ease, leveraging energetic support, and releasing obstructions, you will discover the opposite of burnout for yourself.
Keep your fire alive! Download The Opposite of Burnout: Crisis Edition 2020 now.