Why the last post about intuition copped some flack

This post was written by Megan on May 15, 2010
Posted Under: myths and assumptions about burnout

Walking on beach with crutches cartoon

The last post, Vibe Queen gives unexpected answer to burnout, inspired some heated burnout discussion 'off the court'. The niggly bit came from the following passage:

"Whenever I read any introductory material about people with burnout, the inevitable criteria of 'long-term dissatisfaction' tends to crop up. It usually appears after the other inevitable criteria of 'long-term stress'."


Where I went wrong

A number of burnees explained to me that they haven't been dissatisfied with their work or how their life was generally travelling. They believe the problem was simply working too hard for their poor minds and bodies to cope.


This response makes perfect sense

Those professions with the biggest burnout stats are teachers, nurses, doctors, people who work in emergency services, law enforcement and communications, government employees, those who work in NGOs (not-for-profit organisations) – and people like me, who work for themselves. Also, mothers should be added to that list.

These people have a strong emotional connection to what they do for a living. So there is logic here. Many burnees have already listened to their intuition and feel good – not disillusioned – about their general purpose.


If you have burnout but are not on this list…

…don't panic. It doesn't mean you are in the wrong profession. This list is just scratching the surface. As Mark Twain said, "All generalisations are false – including this one."

Maybe CEO's of multinationals suffer from burnout, but they are too enshrined in gold for anyone to notice. 


So you are passionate, not disillusioned.

Maybe we can broaden the theory. Perhaps we can say that it is your body that is disillusioned. 

In other words, your intuition is smart enough to tell you that you are following your bliss. But it might also be smart enough to tell you that your body is not feeling quite so passionate. 


Let me tell you about one of the best weeks of my life

Extraordinary note: this particularly fabulous week didn't involve sex or drugs (just a tipple or two of cab sav).

I was invited to a week-long writer's retreat on a sub-tropical island. It was a private affair, organised by a writer friend who had two other buddies with a bent for words. Remarkably, every one of us had some serious health issue. So my chronic fatigue blended nicely into the woodwork. 

My friend happened to own a glorious, multi-bedroomed abode on the island, looking directly over the sea. This pad was so beautiful that, when I walked through the open native-timbered front door, I wept with happiness.

My company was as comforting and inspirational as my surrounds. We shared our scribbles, received encouraging feedback and wrote some more. And ate and drank, and ate an drank.

Another extraordinary note: We managed to keep to drinking tea during the day – the tipples of cab sav were reserved for the evening (or white wine if in the hot tub).   


But here's the thing…

With every day of creative inspiration came a reduction in my energy levels. My body didn't know the difference between excitement and negative stress. Why? Because my adrenal glands are designed to 'activate' in the same way for both.


Excitement can be debilitating

As the week of inspiration continued, I was increasingly having to disappear off to bed for long naps. And then stay there to write. The idea of taking a break to wander along the golden beach by the gently lapping waves became less and less attractive.

Instead I began writing about old people in slippers who have trouble with stairs.

When the week was drawing to a close, one of the others sighed into her wine glass and said 'I wish we could stay another week'. The other two agreed. I replied, 'If I stayed another week, I will end up in hospital – on a drip in a coma ward.'

Which makes following my passion a problem.


But that's just me

This is what happens to people whose adrenal glands and central nervous system are all shot to ribbons.


What about you?   

When embarking on something that inspires you, how much can your body handle?

If you leave a comment about it, I promise to do my best to contain my excitement.


This post was written by Megan Hills. Megan is a writer and cartoonist who has always had a tendency to get over-excited. You should have seen her in kindergarten. Find out more about Megan.

Reader Comments

In my work as a Chinese medicine practitioner, that's acupuncture and herbs, I regularly come across much of what you are talking about. People that are so excited by life and bathing in all it's glories that they have become disconnected from their bodies. I have wondered for some time if this is something like an addiction. The desire to feel good overcomes all anything to the demise of the physical body.
I get the statement that people don't understand why they are so ill and then are able to point out that they rarely stop even when they are not at work. They sacrifice some or all of the following: regular meals, the right sorts of food, quality rest, 'reasonable' exercise and some form of regular stress management.
The body in many cases is not designed to cope with the amount of stress we place it under without some sort of repair and care process. We are 'human. Denial is at your peril.

Written By Jeff on May 15th, 2010 @ 6:35 pm

Maybe if we have 'play time' – apart from our work and passions – we can get a bit of renewal. As much as I love my passions, I relate to what you're saying about how they can be draining if you're already run down. 'Play' seems different though – maybe we have less of a sense of identity invested in play time than work time or passion time. On days when I have to dig deep, I work for 20 minutes then let myself play for 5 or 10, and repeat this cycle as long as I can. Usually I get a lot more work done than if I had just tried to force my way through.

Written By Val on May 16th, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

Jeff's comment about the over-riding desire to feel good holds so true I think – the pursuit; we're all in 'chase' mode – and somewhere along the line we have to pay attention to the general maintenance of our body and mind. We service and repair cars, houses, computers etc so why not ourselves? This is not original, I know, but I'm typing this as a reminder to myself too. I'm sitting, wrapped in winter clothes and a scarf, on what is a mild day, with a sore throat and that general weariness which gets a bit too much when one's mind is forever whirring. Quiet mind. I'm off for more lemon tea. Thanks Megan (and Jeff).

Written By Sara on May 17th, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

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