Book Cover of Burn Out
The author of that little paperback, a psychotherapist called Freudenberger was the first person to bundle the feelings and thoughts together and name them

Tina Sparkles: “I’m tired all the time. Life is a struggle every day….in fact, I hate it. I hate my life.”

So I ask: “What’s going wrong?”

Tina Sparkles: “Everything. Well, nothing specific. But everything. I guess in the past few months nothing bad has happened. It all looks good from the outside. I’m just miserable. The worst thing is I’m actually too fucking tired to even be miserable.”

So I say: “Uh huh. The banality of burnout. I know just what you mean.”

Burn out is 30 this year.

1980. Around the time that J. Lennon was shot down in New York City and when most of the western world was humming ‘Do That To Me One More Time’ by Captain & Tennille, a small paperback called ‘Burn Out’ hit the shelves.

Not the most interesting piece of information I know.

But here’s the thing…

Up until that point, we didn’t have any terminology for the feelings associated with burnout. Were feelings that couldn’t be described actual feelings, or just mutterings of the insane?

The author of that little paperback, a psychotherapist called Freudenberger was the first person to bundle the feelings and thoughts together and name them. Naming them validated them. The insane mutterings finally made sense.

Burn out was born.

Read again. Gutted. Derelict. Empty. Void.

A building destroyed by fire is a mere shell of what it was.

And, what was it before? A complex system of order, harmony, life, energy, purpose, drive, structure, meaning, solidity…I could go on.

Once gutted, it is left derelict, empty, void, no life, no purpose, no meaning. Where there was light…now, just shadows and cinders.

Look at the language used to convey meaning. Read again. Gutted. Derelict. Empty. Void. No life. No purpose. Hard to find meaning.

Heavy stuff. But not isolated to the world of construction. In fact, in a city like Sydney, it’s much easier to find burnt out people than burnt outbuildings.

Pushing the proverbial up the perpendicular

The candidates for burnout are high achievers. They not only push the proverbial up the perpendicular, but they also push it well good and they push it well good for years.

Tina Sparkles has been overworked, overachieved, over-stressed, and overdone for years.  Over time, her body has started to break down.  Its desperate pleas for rest are ignored. Piece by piece, part by part. Things start to go wrong.

Every cold or flu that rips through the office ends up in an exclusive relationship with Tina Sparkles.

There’s that lingering sinus infection still lurking from last winter….

Then there’s the depression; the prescription for Zoloft, Aropax, Cipramil. Whatever or whichever one. Taken daily.

The fatigue sets in. The spark is gone and there’s a massive effort to put on a front. Everything’s fine here people. Nothing to see. Move right along. An extra short black or two in the morning…or an extra latte in the afternoon. Just to get through the afternoon.

Sleep is unrefreshing. Waking up tired becomes the norm. In fact, it seems it doesn’t matter what questions are asked. The only answer is ‘tired’.

The ability to mount a response to even feel becomes less and less. The ability to feel gives life meaning. As Tina Sparkles loses her spark and her last iota of enthusiasm…she becomes uninvolved in her own life.

And so she employs all means and efforts to squeeze the remains of what can be squeezed from life. The extra few glasses of Moet on Friday night. The mid-morning and mid-afternoon Cherry Ripe hit. A few lines of coke…”ahhh yes I can feel again, I’m back and god damn it, I have energy.”

The high achiever stops performing at work. Some days it takes hours just to write a few emails.

What sex life? There is no sex life if there’s no sex drive. Emotional? Yes. Very. Unstable even. Volatile. Tears. Not coping. Too tired to cope. In fact, 35 years old and too tired to do life.

The measures to take

When the body is in harmony, it is a superb energy producer. What’s more, when the body is aligned with and can tap into the abundance of the energy supply of the cosmos…the potential is just like energy itself, limitless, boundless and infinite. Sounds like Deepak Chopra a bit. Well sorry. I’m trying to make a point.

So how does a burnt out person get back to self? How does the energy come back? Will the willingness to do life return?

And the answers.

A burnt-out person will find her or himself again. There is one main path. There are also a few supportive measures.

Rest does not involve caffeination, cocaination, champagnation.

Ask your granny what convalescence means. She’ll tell you. The only way back to self is through rest. The body is burnt out but has an amazing capacity for regeneration. Tissue repair, sleep deficits, renewal of energy production pathways can only be done when the body is at rest.

Rest does not mean going to work on the weekends. Rest does not mean bringing work home. Rest does not involve caffination, cocaination, champagnation. Rest involves sleep, napping, lying in a nice spot in the warm sun reading the paper or a book and dozing.

Rest means removing self from the cubicle. Rest means going home early. Rest means saying no to Friday night booze bashes in open-plan offices. Rest means planning nothing on weekends. Rest means staying away from banal (or any kind of) shopping centres on Sundays. Rest means being selective about how time is spent. Rest means saying no to a lot of stuff.

And the other measures?

No coffee. But I said that already. Caffeine directly stimulates the adrenal glands to mount a stress response. Guess what? The adrenals are shitted. There is no longer a response available. Give your body a chance to recover. Don’t drink coffee. For one month. Then review.

Eat. home-cooked nutritious food. Soups and other delights. Get rid of the sugar. It seriously reduces immunity (yep even studies have proven it) and strips vital life energy.

No booze, no coke, no fags. Promise.

Take your herbs. There is a superb class of herbal medicines called The Adaptogens. The Russians did a whack of research on them during the Cold War to be fitter and stronger than the Americans. The Chinese and the Indians of course have been taking them for 3000+ years. The Adaptogens get in and modify the way the body handles stress. They increase resilience and immunity. The rebuild and protect.

Take your supps. Repair and strengthen energy and neurotransmitter pathways with serious and super clean B vitamins. Use the best quality money can buy. Like a shot of B complex in the bum every day. Worth it. Absolutely. Super mushrooms, yep. These as well. Some Zinc and a lot of C. For lots of reasons.

The deal.

Tina Sparkles may be scared at the thought of rest. What? Do nothing?

Yes, do nothing. But not forever. A good month or two of solid and dedicated rest means the body gets a chance to recover and replenish. Gradually life starts to come back. The first new shoots of energy sprout through. Be gentle, don’t tear the new shoots off with excitement. Don’t spend the new reserves all at once. Trust in the process.

Keep resting, keep rebuilding, keep repairing. In time, the body will be regenerated. Enthusiasm starts to come back. Life is not just something going on out there. Life is happening inside.




With thanks to my BMX bandit, HJ Freudenberger and the many Tina Sparkles.