Treat Burnout as A Disease. Stop Managing The Symptoms.

Jan 23, 2022
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I used to think practicing mindfulness was a universal good.

I was wrong.

For many people, the way they practice mindfulness simply prolongs their burnout and stops them from making the decisions right for them. The problem is when the focus is on reducing stress rather than removing the source of stress itself.

When I had a full-time job and was managing my side-hustles, I was starting to burn out. It had become difficult to juggle my priorities and my mind lived in a state of strain. Going for walks, doing yoga, and other healthy habits helped but only fleetingly. I had to quit my job to regain control of my energy.

I’ve heard too many tech founders talk about how their meditation practice allows them to work 100 hour weeks.

This is toxic.

42% of women and 35% of men said they felt consistently burnt out in 2021. This is not okay and it shouldn’t be normal. Life is too short to be sacrificed in this way. If you want to rid yourself of the cancer of burnout, you have to stop making it bearable.


Prevention is better than cure

Whenever I had a cold, I would start wolfing down oranges in the hope that Vitamin C would help me recover quicker. Do you know what I should have done instead? If I ate them when I was healthy, my immune system would be stronger in the first place!

Some people treat their mental health in the same way. You shouldn’t only take a rest when you need to because you’re overwhelmed. You should take them preemptively to stop the build-up in the first place. Mindfulness works best if practiced even when you’re in a good place. It’s a way of keeping you in the zone!

If you’ve ever experienced burnout, you’ll know it’s a state where everything feels harder. It’s not the best time to try new skills out. I didn’t get into a tournament ring then try to work out how to not get hit. I practiced in a safe setting first so my instincts would kick in when I needed them.

I’ve encouraged people to use breathing exercises in the past and they are scientifically proven to help with anxiety. Yet as Dr. Rangan Chatterjee and James Nestor point out, it’s a lifelong habit that makes you healthier both mentally and physically not a magic band-aid.


Chronic burnout

I’ve had people on my podcast Mindful & Driven who swear you need to hit rock bottom to make any meaningful change in your life.

I 100% disagree.

I don’t need to jump off a cliff to know it’s a bad idea.

Many people think of burnout as a single breakdown but for some people, it’s a state they stay in for months or even years. They might try different ways of managing it but don’t make the hard decisions when it’s sometimes within their power.

I’ve known people who’ve worked in investment banking for almost a decade and are always exhausted. They try to numb themselves in different ways. Fine dining. Expensive watches. Travel. Drink. Drugs. Nothing works for long and they continue the job they hate.

It brings to mind the quote often misattributed to Albert Einstein. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

Earlier in my twenties, I traveled to over ten countries a year using my vacation leave from work. Was I traveling because I was running toward adventure or because I was running away from my daily life? If you truly want to rid yourself of burnout, you need to work out how to design a life you don’t need to escape from.

If you know your current situation isn’t working for you then try to change either your mindset or your environment. Find low-risk activities you can experiment with. My first article was just a new year’s resolution but it’s changed my life.


We all need help sometimes

Why is it we go to the hospital if we break our leg but if we feel broken inside we often suffer in silence?

You don’t have to fight your mental battles alone.
You don’t have to fight your mental battles alone.
You don’t have to fight your mental battles alone.

One of the first steps to dealing with burnout is admitting what you feel. It should be either someone you know and trust or a professional. It’s too easy to try to distract ourselves and hope the problem goes away. Despite all the progress in reducing stigma, a burnt-out mind can think that’s more painful than the void inside.

Yet people who care for you will want to help you even if it’s just being a shoulder to cry on.

Adam Erhart quit a job he hated as a jet pilot. His wife encouraged him to enter marketing instead and he’s now thriving with a huge fan base.

John Mashni quit his high-paying job because his wife held an intervention. He now loves his life and has published multiple children’s books.

My family encouraged me to quit my job even though I was terrified. I’m now the happiest and most confident version of myself I’ve ever been.

Sometimes we put ourselves through hell and justify it because we’re doing it for the people we love. You might be surprised how their ideas and support could take you down a much more fulfilling path if you let them in.


Know yourself

Your version of success doesn’t need to look the same as mine.

Yet I want you to not feel the pain I have when I’ve been burnt out. Take time to sit and reflect.

What is the root cause of the negative feelings you experience? 
What can you do about it? 
Are you using coping strategies to avoid addressing the real problem?
What are your real priorities?

Of course, it’s good to use whatever healthy techniques you can to reduce your mental suffering. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture though. Don’t allow these techniques to give you an excuse not to change the course of your life.

Everyone reading this has different circumstances and for some, their financial situation can make them feel trapped. If you know that’s what is stopping you then fixate on it. Spend your time coming up with plans of how you can gain some security.

Pick one battle at a time and fight it until you come out as the victor. It’s up to you to decide what you’ll regret more. Trying and failing or never trying. Use your priorities to guide you to where you want to be. It won’t be easy but there will be many people on the same journey as you.

Don’t give up hope.

Amar's Letter

Real talk on driving impact as an imperfect human.