Burnout: Running on Fumes

Burnout: Running on Fumes Em Capito, LCSW, MBABurnout has become such a standard mode of operating in our culture that we can end up living there, accepting that life will get better “someday.”

Despite wise advice to always keep one’s gas tank at least half full, about once a month I roll my Jeep into the station on fumes and a fervent prayer.

It starts with lack of awareness.

I’m running around mindlessly and don’t notice that the gas meter is dropping perilously low until the little light comes on with a ding.

Then I have no excuse; I simply neglect it.

I justify putting it off for a few more miles because I’m running late (when am I not running late?).

I know better.

I know that running my car on empty is really bad for the engine. And I have a strong desire to avoid expensive repairs.

And yet, in my rush, I sometimes allow other needs to take priority.

I also make this same mistake with my life. But, in life, the consequences are more immediate.

The art of resilience isn’t about being strong (or full) all of the time.

This practice is about becoming more aware of the resilience gauge, and doing our best to proactively refuel before it’s an emergency.

For me, at half-tank or less, I start to become a tad impatient. I say things without thinking. I eat junk. I stay up late watching junk.

Resilience is a more accurate view of what we often think of as willpower.

It’s the measure of whether we are able to exist inside our present experience in alignment with our values and goals.

As our resilience is depleted, we become the worst versions of ourselves.

By the time I’m running on fumes, I’m headed for a total meltdown, a fresh load of guilt layered on the burnout for all of the stupid little mistakes that have spun up while in the red.

This is no way to live.

The small sacrifices of taking a day off, going to bed early, stopping to really eat a meal, or sitting for a few minutes to meditate produce a ridiculous return on investment, lengthening the life of this one irreplaceable vehicle we have and infusing that life with meaning.

If you’ve also been running in the red, an invitation: take a deep breath, slow it down, and pull into the station more regularly.

2 Comments
  1. “The small sacrifices of taking a day off, going to bed early, stopping to really eat a meal, or sitting for a few minutes to meditate produce a ridiculous return on investment…”

    Love, love, love this. The pandemic has put a hole in my gas tank. I try to keep it full but I sure seem to be draining it daily.

    I need more fuel, yes. But also some repairs. And maybe just not to drive.

    1. You’ve got a lot to juggle with that little one out of daycare during all of this! It’s funny how we tend to think we can still accomplish the same things on a pandemic / sick / sleep-deprived day as on a peak performance day. Love the triage – here’s to repairs, less driving, and refueling!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.