Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Burnout & self-compassion

Have you ever felt burned out? It's not only people with busy careers who experience burnout. It can happen to anyone who gives and gives and gives, whether to others or to some career or project. If you feel hard-edged, overwhelmed, emotionally exhausted, fearful and cynical, it just could be burnout.

Joan Borysenko has written a practical book that comes from her own experience of burnout, Fried: Why You Burn Out and How to Revive. In it, she speaks of getting to the point where you lose compassion for yourself. When you feel no compassion (or love) for yourself, it's extremely difficult to gather up the resources to feel it for anyone else.

She recommends something she learned from Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's medical correspondent. It's called "compassion meditation." You begin with sending blessings of loving-kindness to yourself—and after you've generated self-compassion, you move on to send those blessings of loving-kindness to others (family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, strangers, enemies and to all beings).

An open heart
Borysenko writes that a basic form of meditation is: "May I be at peace, may my heart remain open, may I be happy, may I be well." You can come up with your own form of blessing, which you send to yourself until you can feel its effects—and then you send to others. Send yourself the blessing for as long as you need until you begin to warm and soften. Feel your heart open up. You'll know when you're ready to send it to others.

This isn't only good advice for people experiencing burnout. We can all benefit from more self-love and self-care. It is the starting point for the love we give away.

Remember the 1960's song, "What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love"? Yes, it does. And it all begins with you and me.

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