Originally published in Comfort Zone Newsletter: November 2005.
I know that many HSPs have a real problem with burnout. There are so many reasons, all coming down to being overstimulated by the physical, social, or emotional demands of the work environment, without enough downtime. Drudgery jobs, as Barrie Jaeger (Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person) calls them, will always cause burnout, as will craft if you are not careful. But so will your calling if you donÂ’t pace yourself. So here are my four thoughts on burn out, and the first is the one I just said:
Pace yourself. You can sustain almost anything if you take enough breaksÂ–ten minutes, an evening off, a day off, a vacation–and take them BEFORE you are burned out. DonÂ’t confuse overwork with being conscientious. If you burn out, that is the opposite of being conscientious. Think, is it better to quit your job, or to quit it at four?
Unyoke yourself from the non-HSPs around you. You canÂ’t work their way. You arenÂ’t weaker, but your specialty is quality, not quantity. Use your creativity to find ways to do less and accomplish more.
Get a good doctor who understands HSPs and will treat you specifically for burn out and guide you in preventing it (e.g., consider the state of your adrenals, hormones, neurotransmitters, sleep patterns, etc.). In other words, someone who does more than treat the result of burnout, like chronic infections or stomach problems.
If this is a pattern, find out why. There are numerous reasons for people to overwork themselves again and again in every job. Generally it comes down to either having learned it from others or it being an attempt to counteract a chronic sense of unworthiness. Sometimes what was learned was simply to treat yourself just as poorly as you were treated, or as those around you treated themselves. Becoming conscious of the cause is only the first step, but a huge one. Then you get help of some sort, and start on your healing path.