#61 Burnout and Exhaustion: One Perspective

burnout and exhaustion

After awaking in a strange place with no memory of what happened, Frédéric Meuwly realized he had blacked out. His body suffered from severe burnout and exhaustion; his mind suffered from paranoia and instability.

The Gift of Disruption

Meuwly found himself asking clinic staff about his situation and when he would be allowed to go home. In his 2018 Tedx Talk, Burnout: A friend of a friend’s problem, he shares what he learned from this blessing of burnout and exhaustion. 

“I realized that if I really wanted to get out of the hospital and reconnect with life, I had to welcome disruption. I had to fundamentally and quickly change my mindset so that I could welcome that disruption,” says Frédéric Meuwly.

“When I look back, I think that burnout has been really an incredible experience in term of learning, so it was a great gift in a way.”

Effects of Burnout and Exhaustion

Physical: Meuwly explains how the autonomic system automatically regulates our physiology. This autonomic nervous systems is broken into two categories: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.

The sympathetic nervous system stimulates your body; the parasympathetic nervous system slows your body down. We need both to function properly. However, burnout and exhaustion over stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which is the active mode of our bodies.

This condition becomes worse with chronic stress. The reason is because the nervous system gets itself into what Meuwly calls a ‘locked’ active mode. It is so over stimulated that it is always in the ‘on’ position.

Mental: The ego does not want to accept that you are becoming more and more tired. Frédéric coins the term ‘superhero syndrome’. Despite your tiredness, the ego wants to project a positive self-image. It wants you to believe you can still act like a superhero despite getting more and more overwhelmed.

Moreover, as the exhaustion progresses, you create a biased perception of yourself. This biased perception leads to tension between ego and the self. If severe enough, the ego dissociates with the self and you get trapped inside your ego, a state he refers to as ‘depersonalization.’

Emotional: You lose your ability to regulate your emotions. Thus, you get hooked into your negative emotions. And this creates what Meuwly calls an ’emotional black hole.’

Managing Burnout and Exhaustion

Burnout is like being a hostage. You’re a hostage to your: nervous system, ego, and negative emotional state. Essentially, you are holding yourself hostage by your nervous system that is locked into active mode.

To end his TedX Talk, Meuwly states you cannot get out of burnout and exhaustion on your own. His theory is that you need support, you need resources, you need a secure base. You need safe and secure bonds with other human beings.

One free resource I highly recommend is a youtube channel called Therapy in a Nutshell. It offers numerous self-help videos posted by a marriage and family therapist.

If you find yourself in a cycle of burnout, exhaustion, anxiety, stress, etc. and you can defeat this on your own, that’s fantastic. Otherwise, I welcome a conversation. Please send me a note under my Contact page and I can offer my best to you.

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