3 Antidotes to Burnout Culture

  Photo via    Pixabay

Photo via Pixabay

Burnout culture runs rampant in social change spaces.

And it doesn’t have to be this way.

I had a lot of fun talking about that with Sarai Johnson on the podcast last week. 

We laughed, I talked about that one time I cried in front of my nonprofit boss, we had a great time. (Sarai is an amazing coach, speaker, and author, and the founder of Lean Nonprofit.)

Burnout culture is when...

+ you advocate for others, but feel like a doormat when it comes to your own need for rest and respect

+ you teach yourself how to run an organization, but you’re never done trying to prove yourself as a leader

+ your funders refuse to pay for overhead or salaries, because it’s not “program"

+ you realize how much you've been sucking it up to avoid conflict

+ taking anything for yourself (like vacation) feels like robbing your colleagues, and the communities you serve

+ you fear that if you stopped sacrificing, the whole thing would collapse around you

Burnout culture is fundamentally dehumanizing.

It’s that stingy devil on your shoulder, whispering that you and I are only worth what we produce by the end of the day.

That we are only as good as our impact. That we ourselves are not worth caring for or investing in. And that is the exact opposite of the world we want to build. It doesn’t have to be this way. Because while we’re all affected by the culture we work in, it doesn’t define us.

Because you are not just MAKING an impact. You ARE the impact.

You are worthy of support and care. And what makes you stronger, will strengthen your cause, too.

So here are 3 achievable ways to thwart burnout culture, and thrive while you make your impact.

1: Reset your perspective.

Chronic stress has a narrowing effect on life. Our bodies get rigid, our breath gets tight, we develop tunnel vision, and every encounter with another human feels like an interruption. And all we hear is the voice of burnout culture urgently hissing, “work harder, work faster!”

So give yourself a loving reminder that reality is much more spacious than that little devil wants you to believe.

Keep it simple.

Step outside, look at the sky. Feel its expansiveness and all the possibilities that lie under it.

Take in the trees, and reflect on how effortlessly they grow -- at their own pace, with nothing to prove. Feel the earth underneath your feet, how solid it is, how it’s always been there.

Take in a slow, deep breath. Hold for a moment. Then let it out, in an easy sigh.

Repeat as needed.

2: Listen to the Dialogue Lab podcast. 

When everything and everyone around you seems to amplify Burnout culture, the leaders I interview and I are over here banging this drum:

"It doesn’t have to be this way. You matter. You are worthy of investment. You can thrive while you make your impact. Because what makes you stronger will strengthen your cause, too. We know, because we’ve been there."

Help us amplify that message by listening in, and if it resonates with you, share it with anyone you know who could use an antidote to burnout culture. 

3: Allow yourself to feel good about what you have already accomplished.

My clients are pretty amazing people. But almost every one of them has struggled with a serious case of the “neverenoughs.”

The “neverenoughs” is that feeling as the day draws to a close, that no matter what you got done, you should have done more. It’s that sense that however checkered your career may be with accolades, titles, and accomplishments, it is still not what it should be. And it’s habitually writing off those accomplishments as the product of luck or favors, and not of your skill and hard work.

The “neverenoughs” is an affliction that strikes women in particular, who are often socialized to downplay our achievements, and to believe that it’s a dangerous thing to feel *too* good about yourself.

So take a stand against the neverenoughs. Once a day, take 5 minutes to celebrate something you achieved -- big or small -- either that day, or in your career.

Reflect on the accomplishment, and allow the good feelings to rise up. Pay close attention to how it feels in your body -- especially your heart, diaphragm, and belly. Note with compassion any impulse to push the good feelings away, or to wave away its importance. And go back to that good feeling.

Now mark the good feeling with a token of celebration. Listen to music, dance, call a friend, take a walk, whatever you want.

But whatever you do, don’t cut that celebration short.

So those are my 3 antidotes to burnout culture.

Where do you notice burnout culture? How does it affect you, and what do you do with it? I'd love to hear from you. 

And if you found any of this helpful and think you might be able to use some a bit of tailored support in your work for social change, shoot me an email and we can schedule a no pressure free consult.