Out of office

Strategies for combatting burnout

👋 Hello and Happy Thursday to the 500 (!) Intentional Wisdom’ers receiving today’s newsletter. I sure hope you are getting to take a break this summer. I’ve got rest on the mind, partly because I’m running on fumes at the moment, and partly because I’m somewhat intimidated by what I’ve committed to this Fall when it comes to work, coaching my kids’ sports teams, and of course, continuing the mission of Intentional Wisdom.

So, to that end, I’m taking next week off. Yes, for the first time since starting this newsletter over a year ago, I’m going to take a break. I’ll be at the beach and hopefully hitting the reset button for a few days before coming back to tackle all that this Fall has in store. Before I go, I’ve got one more article to share—not surprisingly, it’s about taking care of ourselves.

One more thing: Scroll to the bottom of this email, I have a question I want to ask you.

Thanks as always for reading. — Greg

💡 One big idea


Burnout.

They call it “a disease of civilization.”

It happens for a variety of reasons.

  • We take on more than we can handle

  • We tie our identities too closely to our achievements

  • We’re overloaded with stimuli in a world of hyper distraction

  • We find ourselves in situations where cannot fully be ourselves

And it wears on us.

It manifests in many ways.

  • We lose sleep

  • We feel stressed

  • We make worse decisions

  • We say things we don’t mean

  • We develop new physical ailments

  • We distance ourselves from our work and the people around us

And if we’re not careful, we can crash. Hard.

Scientists have compared the experience of burnout to that of trauma.

In fact, our reaction to it—both chemically and emotionally—can resemble that of a person suffering from PTSD.

Our “fight or flight” instinct kicks it. We either strike up a battle to push back on whoever or whatever we view as the cause—or, we flee.

In the modern world, neither is typically a great outcome.

So how can we more productively deal with the very real challenge that is burnout?

We need the right systems to get back in balance

James Clear says that “you do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

This is absolutely the case when it comes to burnout.

We need systems that are set up to get us back into balance. Here are a few that may prove particularly effective.

  • Listen to your body — I’ve never had more random physical ailments (migraines, back pain, chest pain) than when I was studying nights and weekends for the CFA exams while working full time. I was not coming up for air at all for months at a time. Psychiatrist, Bessel van der Kolk aptly titled his book on trauma “The Body Keeps the Score,” and I’ve known this to be entirely true. We need to pay attention to the physical signals our bodies are sending us—and take them seriously.

  • Practice Gratitude I wrote about this recently. I am currently revisiting the “Appreciation” course on the meditation app, Headspace, because I’ve found it to be so helpful. What I love about gratitude is that your circumstances can stay exactly the same, yet the way you feel about them can be completely different. That is the power of mindset.

  • Move your body (ideally outside) — I believe our actions control our thoughts, not the other way around. Moving our bodies is natural and triggers all sorts of dopamine responses. Similarly, being in nature has benefits we don’t even yet understand. We just know it works. Go for a walk.

  • Learn something — Incredibly, one of the most common ways to release yourself from the feeling of burnout is to rekindle the beginner’s mindset; to learn a new skill or a new hobby—to follow your curiosity wherever it leads you and to have no expectations.

  • Focus on the process — We stress ourselves out by trying to control the uncontrollable. Focus on what you can control. Focus on your effort. On taking pride in your craftsmanship. The rest is out of your hands. Treat it that way.

  • Rest — And, finally, and maybe most importantly, take a break. It might seem like the entire world will come crashing down if you do. It won’t. As I’ve written before, some of our most valuable “work” comes in the downtime. We need to rejuvenate—to rest—so that we can “sprint” when the time comes.

And the time has come for me to turn on the “out of office” response.

I appreciate you reading this, as always, and I will see you in TWO weeks.

— Greg

Oh, and here is that question that I wanted to ask you:

How often should I write Intentional Wisdom? 👇

Answer Here Please!


Photo credit: Dale Aceron @ Unsplash.com

Extra Credit: Pods x 2 🎙

You want podcasts? I’ve got podcasts. In fact, I listened to a number of podcasts on the topic of burnout this week, which collectively inspired much of the content in this article. Here are two of the best:

🎙Arianna Huffington & Tim Ferriss — I think I listened to this one when it came out back in 2018, so it was fun to revisit, but Huffington is an incredibly driven and accomplished woman whose own burnout story inspired her to make many changes, including prioritizing sleep and rejuvenation, and starting Thrive Global. I also stole the Marcus Aurelius quote from her. Thanks, Arianna!

🎙Nathalie Rachel & James AltucherNathalie Rachel is a behavioral economist who specializes in burnout. In this episode, she lays out everything from definitions of burnout to the most useful tactics for addressing it. She also gives Altucher what amounts to a live therapy session as he deals with his own burnout in the wake of his wildly unpopular article, NYC is Dead Forever. Check out her work.

That’s really it!