How Our Practice Can Help When We Feel Burnout?


It took me a few days to accept it.


Accept that, I am experiencing a "burnout".


And what is most interesting thing was that only when I stopped running away from it, I then had the choice to heal and regain my clarity and strength.






This was not the first time that a "burnout" has struck me. Each time I worked myself to the very limit until I felt so tired that I could not sit by my desk for a few days. I decided not to run away or cover it up this time. And I will look deeply into my fear, attemptation and the habit energy that tends to cover it up through distractions.


Here are some insights that came to me during my contemplations:


1). Inturned with our body, the physical sensations.

If we are willing to listen, our body has already been gently reminding us that we are running too far. It can be an increasing tension in our neck, or a heavy head in the morning . This human body has been passed down to us through thousands of years' human evolution. It is like an old grandma, ancient, slow but wise, original and extremely honest. If we listen to it and follow its guidance, we can heal ourselves before our body breaks down.


The only thing we need to do is actually very simple - take a moment to breathe in and out, and come back to our body, and feel the emotions and sensations in the body.


2). Coming back to the present moment.

"Most of us have been running. Practice stopping"
-- Thich Nhat Hanh


Business and burnout is another form of "running away from the present moment". We have projects to finish, clients to deal with and futures to plan for. We tell ourselves that we need to keep on producing, to hit the target and other people to take care of, and until everything is done then we will have the time to take care of ourselves.


3). Life is to live.

Life, mostly, is not necessarily a straight line but rather an upgoing and turning spiral. We are learning to ride in balance with all the ups and downs, turns and twists.


When we are carrying too much on our shoulders, we can feel overwhelmed. Instead of blaming ourselves or others, we can practice stopping, taking a pause, and feeling how we are feeling - the unease, the anxiety and the sadness. Once we are not labeling our emotions as "something wrong", we can start to accept it, embrace it and so to heal and transform it into understanding, compassion and love.


This is life. Life itself is the process of living through all these ups and downs, which itself is the purpose.


4). Taking care of ourselves.

Many of us are very dedicated to helping others, to bring peace to families, groups, to nature and to the world. We feel discouraged when things seem not moving forward. How can we avoid burnout?


Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh said:


"We have to organise our lives in such a way that we can continue to get the nourishment and healing that we need."

It is like we are holding a bowl in our hands. We need to make sure that ourselves have been taken care of then we have things to give to others. When our bowl is full, the water flows outside effortlessly. When we are in good shape, everyone who comes in touch with us will benefit from our joy, confidence and solidarity.



5). Support each other like a community.

A community is where you feel safe and supported. There you have your loved ones, families, friends who can understand you and are always there for you. As a member in the community, we should keep an eye on each other and be generous in offering our time, energy and material resources when the others are in need. We can also kindly remind each other when we sense the seeds of overwhelming and burnout starts to manifeste.


"You have to serve in a way that you can preserve yourself. Doctors, nurses, psychotherapists, and teachers have to do the same; they have to preserve themselves in order to last longer for the benefit of other people.
To preserve yourself is to preserve the opportunity to serve others. Preserving yourself and your compassion is the answer. And that can be done easily within a community of practice."

From Answers from the Heart (2009) by Thich Nhat Han



As a couple, have you noticed when your partner is lost in business and need a hand?

As a friend, have you been able to share your time or energy when they are in need?

As a child, have you remembered to share your gratitude to your parents about how much you appreciated their love and kindness?

As a spiritual practitioner in a Sangha, have you gently remind each other about our true nature when they are lost in despair?


You are not alone, and you don't have to do it all alone. Life is much more fun when we look at it in a collaborative way. When we understand our own suffering, we can understand the suffering of others, thus, when we help each other in difficult times, we are healing ourselves so when difficulties arise, we know we have a choice.


Yingge Xu

30th August, 2022



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