egative life choices steal your peace of mind and eclipse your well-being. I encourage you to get rid of everything you neither need nor want in your life. This includes anything from old sneakers to outmoded dreams.
It may be hard to believe, but you have both negative and positive stress reactions. Negative stress responses include feeling anxious or scared. But adrenaline also flows with positive stressors, such as starting a business, falling in love with an idea, or painting a gorgeous sunset for the first time.
Watching for Signs of Burnout
Too much of either positive or negative stress can result in stress overload, commonly known as "burnout." Burnout occurs when you blow your circuits and feel physically and emotionally exhausted. If you say things like, "I used to love my work and now I can't see the point" or "I can't get out of bed anymore," you may be burned out.
Work or career burnout happens when you begin to question the meaning and value of your work. If you strive endlessly to meet unrealistic expectations, you may come to a standstill. As uncomfortable as it is, burnout can often launch dramatic positive changes. When your body and psyche sound the alarm, your job is to listen and redirect your life.
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Challenge: Burnout Warning Signs
Simply circle any of these warning signals you regularly experience in your life and add up the total.
- Difficulty getting up in the morning
- Frequently being late for a job or for beginning your creative work
- Skipping your job or creative work time
- Irritability or quickness to anger
- Frequent illnesses or aches and pains
- Inflexibility or resistance to change
- Feeling unappreciated
- Hopelessness and detachment
- Being accident-prone
- Increased alcohol or drug consumption
All of us have difficulty getting up certain mornings, when it's raining out or we have a dreaded meeting ahead of us, but pay attention if there's a pattern. If you have a total of three or more warning signals that you experience on a regular basis, then it's time to start problem solving.
Are You Vulnerable to Burnout?
The kinds of people who are especially vulnerable to burnout are people who are conscientious with high or unrealistic expectations for themselves. People who are irresponsible usually don't get overly stressed because they're not that invested in the first place.
There are three major behavior patterns that may signal your vulnerability.
1) Superachieving: If you are a superachiever, you work as hard as you can until your work is done, even if it risks your health and well-being. High-pressure responsibilities or agreeing to unrealistic deadlines for creative projects are common predicaments for superachievers. Instead of renegotiating or setting realistic limits, the superachiever works beyond the point of exhaustion in order to meet the expectations.
2) Overscheduling Your Life: A second formula for burnout is overscheduling your life. A classic example is the superwoman with the sixty-hour-a-week job, a husband, two kids, a dog, a goldfish, elderly parents, a Girl Scout troop, church committees, and a passion for metal sculpting. Who comes last? She does, with sculpting as a close second. The gateway out of this madness is learning to say "No."
3) No One Else Can Do It As Well As I: The final pattern evolves from the philosophy "No one else can do it as well as I can." If you live by this axiom then you probably can't delegate, can't negotiate for help, have perfectionist standards, and may try to manage everything all alone. Who wouldn't collapse under all that stress?
Making Sound Choices In Order to Experience Support
Making sound choices about what can be delegated and choosing the right people helps us to let go and experience the luxury of support. By not training others appropriately or selecting the wrong team of people to work with you, you may create the self-fulfilling prophecy that no one else can do it but you. Try sharing your load with a competent assistant or partner who has both the ability and the willingness to do the job, and notice the difference.
If you are an overscheduling superachiever with a "No one can help me" motto, watch out. You may already be burned out or on your way. You have to confront the caretaker versus creator dilemma and make yourself and the choices in your life top priority.
Challenge: Life Change Review
Another catalyst for burnout is too much change in too short a time span. Adapting to multiple changes may drain your energy, even if it's wonderful change, since you are using lots of coping skills to make the transition.
Circle any of these changes, either positive or negative, that you have had to handle the past twelve months.
- Death of a spouse or close family member
- Purchasing real estate or a new business
- Personal injury or illness
- Marriage or commitment to a relationship
- Recognition of personal achievement including awards, promotions, or goal attainment
- Change in the health of a family member
- Pregnancy or parenthood including adoption, stepchildren, or caring for another family member
- Change in financial status, either an increase or decrease in net worth
- Career or job change or shift in work focus or aspirations
- Divorce or the end of a significant relationship
- Job loss or the failure or rejection of a creative project
- Beginning or ending an educational or training program
- Changing a personal habit: quitting smoking, dieting
- Legal troubles
Review your results. For some people, achieving a goal is a positive event, while for others it raises terror about vulnerability and becomes a negative stressor. Decide how each of these life changes is positive or negative in their impact on you. Then look at your total score.
If you had three or more of these events in your life this past year, a lot of your energy has been preoccupied coping with change. If that's the case, try to put on the brakes and resist tackling any more changes until you feel centered again. You need time to reflect and integrate the new.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Conari Press,
an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC. www.redwheelweiser.com.
©2000, 2011 by Gail McMeekin. All rights reserved.
This article was adapted from the book:
The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor
by Gail McMeekin.
Since its first publication in 2001, this book has helped hundreds of thousands of women break through creative blocks and realize their dreams. Combination guidebook and inspirational treasure, The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women profiles 45 dynamic women who share their secrets for success. Each chapter offers the 12 secrets, keys, and challenges to help women work through the creative process. Together they offer an inspirational roadmap, providing all the tools women need to uncover their own authenticity and realize their creative dreams.
About the Author
Gail McMeekin, M.S.W., is the founder and president of Creative Success, LLC, where she helps creative professionals and entrepreneurs turn their passions and unique ideas into prosperous businesses. She is the author of The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women, The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, and The Power of Positive Choices. She is a national executive, career, and creativity coach as well as a licensed psychotherapist and writer. (Photo credit: Russ Street) Visit her website at: www.creativesuccess.com