“Does it take what you’ve got before it gives what it gives you?”
That’s not really a million dollar question, but I call it that, because it gets close to the bottom line of my decision making process these days. With burnout, I tend to weigh any activity in terms of energy–energy it takes to do it, energy it gives me in the doing.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about the similarities and differences of burnout compared to other conditions of low energy, including chronic fatigue and depression. And while, indeed, there are many differences, the commonality of low energy means that I’ve gained a lot of insight by hearing what it is like to live and experience other diseases or conditions where exhaustion is a reality.
A common question (after the unspoken one, “Is it just in your head, a mind over matter thing?”) is, “Why can you do some things and not others?” Or stated in another way, “Why do you seem to have energy to do the things you want to do, but not what you need to do?”
These are fair questions. And I will say that I often ask them of myself. Actually, I look at each situation and try to understand, “What is it that makes this seem doable and not that?” and “Why is this doable now, when it wasn’t earlier?” Being a lover of systemization, I think I’ve been compiling and collating and connecting my own observations. I don’t have any great answers, but I am getting a better idea of what goes into “having enough energy”.
For today, the top question is one I’ve realized that I unconsciously ask before engaging in any activity. With burnout, unfortunately everything gets weighed by what it is going to do with the dregs of energy reserve that I have left. Is it going to decrease that energy or increase it?
Once I’ve asked that, I go through other questions, such as “How can I create the energy I need to do that task?” But each potential answer goes back to the original question, “Will doing this take the energy I’ve got before it gives me the energy it’s going to give me?”
I hate being so pragmatic, but that is part of coping with and fighting burnout. Accepting this as my reality actually helps as I let go of things that I can’t do. I think when I fight my reality of the burnout, I get more discouraged. When I accept it, I’m more free to find joy and contentment in this place, and not be so sad about all that I can’t do.