In May of 2018, amidst a project managing a $1 million-dollar campaign I froze in front of the screen unable to cope with the sheer quantity of ‘urgent’ emails that would take me at least 3 more hours to accurately address.
I’d been working for over 16 hours for 3 weeks and when I read an email saying “crises! The 3000 sign-ups from our email marketing system have got corrupted’ (paraphrased it a bit here), I just went completely out of gas. I did not have it in me- physically or emotionally – to go any further.
And while this was not an often occurrence in my very busy corporate life it does point to our collective value of chasing busy and holding onto this idea of efficiency over effectiveness.
It’s astonishing the sheer number of hours that entrepreneurs and leaders work, getting pulled back into work during late evenings when we should really be spending time with our families.
What perpetuates the feeling of burnout and keeps us in the cycle of being tied to our businesses and careers 24/7 is having no clear-cut boundaries with technology.
We feel compelled well to just to …you know, check-in real quick with our work every so often.
As we continue to step into leadership in our business or the business you are working for, we really need to learn how to preserve and renew our energy on a daily basis. We need to build proactive measures to mitigate the daily burn and feel replenished enough to put our best in the world.
And that’s where yoga comes in – it’s one of the best resources we have to prevent burnout AND recover from it.
But before I dive into how yoga prevents burnout, let me spend a moment breaking down the concept of burnout.
What is burnout and how it is different from stress?
Burnout is chronic stress or stress on steroids that can last a few weeks, months, or even years. It makes you feel cynical and overly critical about your work. Burnout has you not wanting to get out of bed and not go to work in the first place. It’s the lack of motivation to get started on ones’ work and very little or no sense of satisfaction in ones’ accomplishments.
Physical symptoms may include falling or staying asleep; unexplained headaches, or stomach aches, just to name a few. So really, it’s this state of physical and emotional exhaustion that involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and a loss of personal identity.
A yoga student of mine spoke about her burnout as this: “I burned out at my job because of all the expectations and lack of boundaries that I’d put in place because I wanted to be the best so badly. I really lost myself during that job — in multiple ways and for nothing.” Another student of mine felt “constantly depleted — even the simplest and previously enjoyable tasks would give me anxiety”.
Burnout is insidious, often hard to spot, and eats at our self-worth and self-esteem. And it all starts with having unsustainable work hours because you want to ‘win’ so badly, without having effective strategies to mitigate this state of chronic stress. So, the question I want to ask is have you ever dealt with the burnout before, or do you think you could be experiencing a little bit of burnout right now?
If so, then you are not alone. Over 50% of Indians have reported feeling burnout in their businesses or in their jobs. And this comes as no surprise since we work over 60 – 72 hours a week. But the good news is that there is hope for you and me and everyone else who struggles to find harmony between their lives at work and at home. And it starts with creating non-negotiable boundaries on most working days (unless there is a crisis of course) and practicing yoga as a way to renew all four sources of your energy: body, mind, spirit, and emotions
Why Yoga Helps Prevent Burnout
Regular practice on the mat can help you identify energy-depleting signals before you hit a wall. Yoga helps you slow down, breathe deeply, move assuredly, and think with clarity. It teaches you to get curious about how you move through your everyday life. It asks you to slow down enough to consider:
· How are you feeling today?
· How does your body feel today?
· What brings you peace?
· What’s triggering your stress?
These questions are often integrated into the physical practice of asana to promote heightened self-awareness.
Burnout is not necessarily the result of exhaustion, but also because of a lack of relaxation. Even when most of us are not working, we are not exactly relaxing. We often fill those spaces with watching TV, scrolling social media, or planning the next activity. That does not really help the brain or body to completely calm down and relax and hence we feel exerted even when we “just relaxed”. These minor thoughts also turn into stress because looking at other people doing well on social media urges anxiety and makes us unhappy with our current state. Yoga helps push those thoughts away and align your brain. It helps the mind to focus on breathing and being aware of your own body instead of peeping through other people’s lives. In an ever-evolving and never-sleeping society, living with stress has become normal, but we need to change that. Taking out some time to look after your mental and physical health is even more important when you’re under constant pressure.
Yoga is recommended even medically since it helps you shift from “fight mode” to “rest mode” and relaxes your body completely. It guides you to the path of “self-study” and “self-awareness”, which helps you recognize areas of your life with which you were never acquainted with. When you are aware of yourself, you are able to hear the messages that you could not because of all the unnecessary noises you were focused on. Yoga helps in creating a balance between your mind, body, and soul which is the ultimate way of leading a healthy life.
Once you start practicing, you might come across certain difficulties including:
- Lack of focus
- Inability to explore the process
- Muscle pulls or tightness
- Inadequate flexibility
- Easy distractions or short concentration spans
Yoga is not easy unless you’re not ready to surrender. It is not any other form o exercise that only helps you shed weight. It has a very holistic approach to make your entire body feel better and relaxed.
As you start to build a sense of curiosity for how you feel in your body and mind across different areas of your life, there comes a shift in how you show up in the world. You start operating from an internal locus of control rather than being reactive to all that’s being thrown at you.
Self-inquiry-focused yoga practice may also help prevent a sufferer from coming down the path of ‘burnout’ again in the future, through noticing how they are living their daily life and making the appropriate adjustments to live in a more balanced existence.
From the lens of science, Yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) that promotes the feeling of well-being, relaxation, and safety and significantly suppresses the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) which is responsible for stress responses.
So if you think you are heading towards burnout, know that yoga’s holistic practice of renewing energy in body, mind, and spirit can stop burnout in its tracks and a restorative, gentle practice can help one to recover from burnout.
If you want to learn more about how to prevent or recover from burnout with yoga, please visit my website. You can also DM me on Instagram.