In an era marked by burn out, how can we truly take care of ourselves? An article I read a few days ago inspired me to dig deeper into the subject and share with you perspectives from ancient wisdom. The article was about burn out and how millenials (persons reaching adulthood in the early 21st century) are so prone to it: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/millennials-burnout-generation-debt-work?fbclid=IwAR2jHIW1hIt8tdIytAsiMq2uGKvPKRFff3lROMqRhO7FBC8MMKWX58zcv8A
Do you feel tired? Beyond exhausted?
Living the ‘normal’ modern life is by itself quite a challenge, the frantic pace, the never-ending to-do lists, the lack of time, let alone the lack of quality time…
Add to it being an Expat: having no family around to help you, you work or evolve in an international context where communication requires constant adaptation (due to language or cultural differences, differing rules and regulations, etc…). Juggling between worlds, living under the pressure of having to constantly confront the ‘new’, it doesn’t take long before your mind and your body are on overload !… Whether you work in the corporate world, are an entrepreneur, a student or a stay at home mum or dad, you are saturated with information to process, decisions to make, and ‘tired’ becomes your habitual state, your default setting.
Before you know it you are … ‘burnt out’…
I have been treating a lot of people in my health practice (mainly Internationals) who have experienced it. Some people are consulting because they are aware they are close to burn out. Others however are searching for a solution to physical issues which sometimes they are not aware are by-products of an underlying deeper problem : chronic exhaustion.
Can you relate to this?
Burn out is a modern plague, yet Ancient Wisdom can give you valuable insights and solutions so you can start taking the first steps to your recovery.
In the Yijing (also called I-Ching or Book of Change), the hexagramme which depicts this situation with accuracy is Hexagramme 47, called ‘Exhaustion’.
In short it describes a situation where ‘water is leaking out of the lake’, the lake is emptying itself of its water.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the 5 Elements: Fire, Water, Metal, Wood, Earth, play a crucial role. Their qualities are related to specific vital organs of the body. We say that if they interact harmoniously with one another the body functions at optimal level.
When you think about it, what is the number one building block of your body?
Water represents 60% of your body. It is an essential element of your survival.
If there is no water, the body literally dries up. What we call the ‘fire’ element cannot be extinguished, and the logical consequence is : You ‘burn-out’…
Burn-out is a modern term. Yet, exhaustion being explained by the image of a lake emptying itself of its water is 3000 years old… and is just so spot on… same imagery, 3000 years apart 🙂
It goes to show how fundamental truths remain the same, regardless of time. Age-old wisdom truly is a remedy for modern times.
A very simple first step, which requires no doctor and no coaching, is purely and simply…to drink water.
If your body is tired that is the first thing it will need.
The power of water is often undervalued, maybe because it is so obvious, so simple? How many of you forget to drink enough water during the day because you are so deeply absorbed in your tasks?
Another way of being in contact with water is indeed bubble baths, they can do wonders when it comes to chilling and recharging at the end of a long day. I would however advise baths with salt (pure salt, not salts), which has regenerative properties, rather than soap, which can dry up your skin. If you live by the sea, and are lucky to enjoy a warm climate, bathe in water as much as you can.
Of course it is only a baby step and it will not be enough to cure you but it can be the beginning of your healing journey.
The Yijing (or I-Ching or Book of Change) suggests another way to restore your energy when you are exhausted. This one, although essential, is probably not the obvious one you would think of…
Restoring communication, both with yourself, and with others
Restoring communication, both with yourself, and with others
In an age of hyper-communication, are we really better at it? Pause, and think.
How often are you communicating clearly, efficiently, honestly and from the heart?
Burn-out also happens because of repeated miscommunication, disconnection. Basically things lack ‘meaning’. You are not being understood by others, and you don’t understand others? You feel unable to communicate and get your message accross, it can be with your boss but also with your spouse or your children. It feels like the line is always broken. Frustrating situations accumulate. Like short circuits happening endlessly. Until the cables burn out, the fuses blow…
That extreme state is depicted by hexagramme 23 (called splitting up), it is when things have gone too far and rest and radical change are required if not too late.
It is when you really need to STOP living on “cruise control” mode, where you just continue at the same pace, doing the same things the same way because you don’t know how to do them differently.
Are you trying to meet other people’s standards even if they don’t suit yours?
Are you trying to live up to your boss’s expectations regardless of whether they are healthy for you and legitimate?
You have to come back to yourself, you have to ask for help and accept it.
You have to take the time that your body needs so it can serve you and make you feel good again, perform again – but in a more selective kind of way..
You have to find meaning again. You have to reconnect to who you are, are you disconnected from your values? You have to live according to what makes sense to you. Ask yourself, what makes sense? (line 4 of hexagramme 47 helps us understand that).
Once you have realigned with who you are, you are in a much better position to express yourself in a way that will attract respect from others, and in a language that will be clearly understood.
Sometimes it just takes an honest conversation to start in a new way.
Why not attempt to clear the air if communication is unclear and leads to confusion.
If you start communicating about unclear situations, at home, at work, there is a good chance that your boss, your spouse, will actually appreciate your honesty rather than be offended by it and question your efficiency, your worth.
At the end of the day it all comes down to self-esteem, to the fear of being judged.
It is requires less self introspection and courage to live as a robot who accomplishes all that is required of him/her than to stop and think and look honestly at what it is you are trying to avoid by not listening to our body which has nevertheless its ways of showing you it is tired and it has had enough.
You are probably afraid. Afraid of being judged, afraid of not being good enough.
You are caught up in a toxic spiral which leads you to burnout, overwhelm and survival mode.
If you choose to take the time (even and above all when you think you Don’t have time) to feel and acknowledge these fears, you will understand that something is fundamentally wrong (untrue, dishonest) in the way you are behaving.
If you start to work on your fears, on your lack of self confidence, you will get stronger.
Yes it takes consistancy, it takes courage, it takes determination. But it is so worth it. It is liberating.
For all those of you overwhelmed with work, family, personal responsibilities, decisions to make, those of you feeling like you don’t Do enough, like you Are not enough : these symptoms are probably trying to tell you you are on overload and you need to reframe your mind.
Often it will lead to you realising you are actually doing too much, giving too much of yourself, spreading yourself too thin trying to fit in an ideal vision of somebody you would like to be or you are made to think you would like to be…
Stop comparing yourself to other people who seem to succeed (don’t be fooled by appearances).
Find a sense of purpose and meaning, communicate clearly and honestly to others on what would make sense to you and how you could achieve it.
Try to do less. Try to be the owner of your schedule. Try to incorporate ‘free time, do nothing, feel good’ regular moments in your agenda. Not just for a massage or a bath, but also to sit with yourself, even if it at first feels uncomfortable and awkward, or boring, to take a moment to feel what is happening there, without judgement, to cry if this is what is coming up, to just be there…
And remember, winter is The time for hibernation and self care!
When you finish reading that blog, you can read or re-read The Expat Winter Survival Kit.
In this new year, I wish that you take good care of yourself, drink water, enjoy bubble baths and massages, of course, they are a wonderful way to unwind. But most importantly, that you stop, come back to yourself, to what makes sense to you and communicate from the heart, with deep honesty.
There is still more you can do to regain your energy. You might want to be notified when ‘The Expat Rescue Remedy’ is available. It is a free 1H webinar full of wise and practical tips derived from ancient wisdom and health principles, for Internationals who want to thrive, feel healthy (in their body and in their mind), and at home wherever they are). If so, just join the mailing list here.