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Identify Your Burnout Thought Errors

Updated: Jan 12

Change thought, feeling, then action - and get out of burnout.

As a person with a highly developed sense of justice, you know your depression, anxiety and fatigue is a direct consequence of overwork, toxic work dynamics, and being undervalued. You know your labour is being exploited, that you are being treated as disposable, that you are seen more as "human capital" than "human being."

"I would be well if my managers treated us properly," you think. Or, "I'll be fine when I get a new job," or "I'm not the problem; it's this bunch of aholes."

You have righteous rage about all that is unfair, including having to cram wellness practices into an already crammed life. You're like, "I'm stressed because of my shite boss, but I am the one that has to do the GD meditations?!" You resist adopting self-care practices in protest.

Imagining your wellness comes from something outside yourself is a thought error. It produces the feeling of anger, which produces the action of watching hours of Netflix instead of helping yourself. Unfortunately, the only one affected by your protest is you.

You are absolutely right: your crappy workplace and the exploitative mechanisms of capitalism created your problem, which is burnout. However, a big part of how workers arrive at burnout is that they believe they have no power, no choices, no alternatives. Chances are you're feeling stuck in a game that stopped being fun a long time ago, and you think that you have no more moves.

This is another thought error. A thought error is a specifically individual problem, not a problem of your exhausting context. What's awesome is that you have total control over your thoughts.

The thought that you have no choice but to endure creates a feeling. It's probably "defeat," because you're moving through life like a walking sigh. When you vent to loved ones about the same things you've vented to them before, they cheerily offer suggestions. You've said, "Tried that already" while blinking back eye rolls a hundred times over.

The feeling of defeat creates an action. Perhaps you go to a therapist, who makes more suggestions. You respond, "I've tried to stick up for myself, and it didn't work. I tried yoga, and it didn't work. I tried not caring. I tried finding a therapist (gestures wryly at the therapist). . . Nothing works."

You're just 100% in "I think I can't" mode: "I can't change the workplace. I can't take a break because everyone will judge me. I can't do self care because I'm too tired. I can't quit because I can't pay rent. I can't get a new job because no one is hiring. I can't run my own business because I don't know how." It's like every turn in the mental labyrinth ends with a brick wall with the word "can't" graffitied across the middle.


Photo of brick wall by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash. Word "can't" added by me.

I assure you, at least one of these thoughts is not a fact. There has to be some kind of option, even if you can't see it yet. And, yes, not being able to see the option is pretty much the same experience as it not existing. But maybe you can't see it because the option is not a way out but a whole new thing that you create yourself.

Getting out of burnout requires creativity.

Creativity thrives in a context of rest, time, relaxation, and mental leisure. That means saying "no" to some commitments. It means asking for help. It might even mean taking time off. It means trying those GD meditations, or something else that works for you.

You also might need to make a plan. I liken it to when you prepare for a job interview. Before you start your preparation, your Anxiety may say to you, "Oh jeez, are you sure you're ready for this job? Are you qualified?" And then you write down all the questions you anticipate, and then you write down all your answers, and then you practice. By the time you get to the interview, you've not only convinced yourself you can do it but you can imagine how you will do it.

Similarly, you need a plan for exiting burnout. Ideas need to be fully explored before they are dismissed. Research. If the idea involves money, do the math. Map out how the change could look, answer all of your own questions, identify all of your thought errors, and imagine what joys may open up for you if you succeed.

Your situation may not be your fault; but you're the only one that can change it.

I'm here to help you work with your resistance, explore your creativity, plan and make some changes. Please reach out, wherever you are.

This article also appears on Medium.

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