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The Secret Message in Burnout

Those lightening bolts in your head are trying to tell you something...

Burnout is not just a priority problem. 

It is a symptom —

A symptom that is trying desperately to tell you that something about how you are spending your time is not completely aligned with your intended destiny or “dharma”. 

Most people talk about burnout as a time-management or “over-working” problem. (In astrology there usually is a strong Pluto and Saturn presence in the charts of people who have the over-working sort of burnout.) That is part of it, but it does not explain everything. Balance and attention to various parts of life — emotional, relational, physical, spiritual, creative — are definitely important. But, if we live a life of balance and still feel overwhelmed or run out of enthusiasm for what we are doing, this may be a blessing in disguise. It may be a sign from our soul.  

Psst!  You are no longer where you are meant to be at this point.

If some part of our soul’s intended purpose is not being fulfilled in a job, then that may be okay for a little while. We are possibly doing tangential element of our soul’s purpose in that job or learning something meaningful. But if we start to feel restless or an increasing lack of fulfillment, then it is time for some soul searching and deep questions:

“What is missing from my life at this moment?” 

“Is there something I’d like to be doing — personally or professionally — that I’m not doing right now?”

As in life, work does involve compromise. Often not EVERY aspect of a job is pleasurable.  So we may need to have some allowance for the less pleasant aspects in order to balance an employer’s needs with our own. But, if you are feeling ALL or even MOST of the tasks of your current situation are unpleasant, then it’s time for inquiry. 

You might also wonder:  “Why do I stay?”

Often we stay in a less ideal position out of financial fear or apathy.  Not knowing what else we might want to do can keep us stuck.  Having so little energy that we don’t know how to create change is another problem.

      Burnout has already started to set in, if this is the case.

Financial concerns are legitimate, but this is your destiny we are talking about.  It’s often irresponsible to make rash decisions, but it’s very reasonable to use dissatisfaction to motivate yourself to make a plan that will essentially BUY YOUR FREEDOM a little bit at a time. 

  • Create a financial strategy for saving (put away a set amount of money per month, minimize trips and “luxury” spending, etc.).
  • Visualize (daily) what you’d LIKE to be doing with your time.
  • Think about skills you naturally have and enjoy using.
  • But…don’t spend all your time in your head.
  • Recommit to being the BEST EMPLOYEE POSSIBLE in the job you are in RIGHT NOW. 

The most incredible way to prove to yourself and others that you are truly destined for MORE is to be downright outstanding in your current role. 

While doing your absolute best in your current role, learning as much as you can, you can simultaneously be diligently working towards what you’d rather be doing.  If you genuinely dislike your current role and cannot imagine how you could do it well AND you also already have the financial means to tolerate the risk of leaving, then go ahead and LEAVE.  But if you do not have the financial means, then try to honor the motivations that caused you to accept the job in the first place.  Your employer believed in you and gave you your position, probably because you said you wanted to do it and felt you could do a good job.  Stand behind your word, if possible, while also firmly working towards the goal of your soul.    

Sometimes we do not heed the “writing on the wall” and a disruption happens.  We may get fired or kind of semi-consciously sabotage ourselves.  If this happens, it usually means we weren’t paying close attention (head in the sand) and honoring what we were feeling or observing.   It’s good to have compassion about that.  It’s also important to have understanding for our employer in this situation.  It’s not really fair for them to have to pay an unhappy employee doing a job begrudgingly. 

The Universe will ultimately push us in the direction of our destiny if we do not walk that way ourselves. 

Job loss is actually a wonderful opportunity to remember our resourcefulness.  If scrambling to get a job is what landed you in this mess in the first place, then try not to do that again.  Attempt to be really conscious about what job or position would take you at least one step closer to where you’d actually like to be.  Sometimes many skills are needed to get to the ultimate dream job we imagine for ourselves.  So, many different steps (and possibly many different jobs) may be required along the way.

Hints about your soul’s mission can be found in your astrology chart (a discussion for another article), but in the meantime, think about what you enjoy. Keep in mind that not everyone’s “soul mission” is about doing some specific job or making some profound community impact or discovery.  Some people’s missions have to do with certain relationships (or traits) they need to cultivate, spiritual lessons they need to learn. 

Is there something you could add into your current work situation to make it feel more fulfilling while negotiating to reduce the less fulfilling aspects?  It may be that you need to go part-time for a while, especially if what seems to be missing can only be fulfilled outside your current work environment. Perhaps you might need to start a completely new project (or business)—if the yearning of your soul is for you to impact the world in a way that doesn’t already exist.

Sometimes we just need to take a portion of our energy in a different direction.  The feeling of unfulfillment may just be – “I need to teach more” or “I want to write something” or “I want to play with children” or “I want more colleagues”. Ponder if there’s a way your current role can expand to include one of your yearnings.  If not, then start dreaming about what role WOULD or could allow you to get a little closer to those goals.  Intentionally DREAMING about what you think you want for yourself is a mystical key that helps it manifest. 

Steps for Honoring the Secret Message of Burnout

  1. Spend time assessing what might be missing from your current work situation or what is making it less desirable.
  2. Decide if there is any reasonable way to implement something that will fulfill the missing piece within YOUR CURRENT WORK.
  3. If yes, talk to your supervisor about your ideas. Be prepared to hear his or her possible counter-argument and be motivated to get creative, compromise, and spend extra time (possibly even unpaid time) proving the usefulness of your ideas.
  4. Decide what you are ultimately willing to do if compromise is not possible on your employer’s end. Consider starting something yourself on the side. Work your way towards part-time employment (or maybe eventual full-time self-employment or a job change) to give yourself time to focus on your dreams. Even taking a brief sabbatical can be useful, if your finances can handle it.
  5. Have a dialog with your own resistance. What are the blocks to going part-time to pursue your dreams? They are usually financial. Keep in mind that it is pretty expensive to get fired or to fully burn out. Burnout often results in stress-related physical illness, and it can cause mental illness or anguish, as well. It usually takes longer (in every way) to recover from this than from money loss incurred in prevention.
  6. If you truly cannot see a way to take action towards your dreams, then I encourage you to just own that. Own your choice CONSCIOUSLY to stay where you are. Maybe it isn’t time for you to make a change (karmically). Maybe your soul is still learning something where you are. Try to embrace that choice and give thanks (inwardly or outwardly) to your current employer for providing you the security you need right now. If you can manage to stay in gratitude, honoring your choice to be there, then you can possibly shift the dynamic and ultimately may find yourself enjoying a job that previously felt depleting.
  7. MEDITATE DAILY.  Do yoga.  Spend at least a few hours every week in nature.  Put your bare feet on the ground.  Appreciate birds, flowers, water, and sunshine.  I didn’t talk much about these often-mentioned potential protectors against burnout because I was discussing the hidden message in burnout in this article.  But, it’s possible to heed the message in burnout, while also managing it holistically.  My approach to burnout that is impending or already set in is a whole-foods diet (minimal sugar, processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol), exercise, journaling, family and social time, and a creative outlet. There are also tons of herbal supplements that can help keep the adrenal glands nourished and the nervous system calm (holy basil, gotu kola, and ashwagandha are several favorites).  Keeping ourselves BALANCED and healthy in mind, body, and spirit will help us feel more intuitively connected with our soul’s plan.

Burnout is usually the final straw that makes people make a change they have been reluctant to make for a loooong time.  If it happens to you, try to not overreact.  Instead, attempt to compassionately embrace the seeming catastrophe as a natural culmination of months or years of suppressing the soul’s wishes.  It is often scary when change arrives, but if we can see it as happening “for us” and be curious about what it might have to teach or show us, we can use the energy for transformation and growth rather than disillusionment, self-rejection, and self-destruction. 

To walk your true soul path takes courage, integrity, agility, and compassion.  Every thing we do or encounter, every challenge or blessing, is taking us deeper into the center of our own mystery and further along the spiral stream of our destiny. Dissatisfaction and disappointments are clues.  Burnout is a teacher. So, make some adjustments.  Focus on resilience. Honor the wisdom of your body.  If it is complaining, LISTEN.  If it is tired, REST. If you are bored, NOTICE. Take this journey with your eyes wide open. Align yourself with the star in your heart. 

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