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The way out of the burnout valley


People are massive ‘not really happy. Yet it is only when we end up in burnout or other deep valleys that we decide to do something about it. Isn’t that strange? After all, striving for happiness is a lot easier if you don’t have to crawl out of a deep valley in the meantime. We only give priority to our vital life energy when we have used it up to the red. Bizarre right?!

‘A deep valley is often the place where the search for happiness begins’ .

Warning Signs

We like to point to the employer and the pressure of society as ‘guilty’. But most of the time we have to be honest with ourselves that we saw the burnout coming from miles away. Perhaps not consciously, but there were certainly plenty of warning signs.

Such as inner turmoil, an insatiable appetite for stimuli (any distraction from that yawning emptiness inside was welcome), and an overcrowded agenda. The automatic pilot switched on in rational mode and the displeasure spread to all areas of life like a suffocating oil slick. The pursuit of perfection and the judgments that were richly made, about both ourselves and others.

Happiness is a by-product

The way out of the burnout valley

Happiness is often seen as a by-product, as related to something that you first have to achieve. Get a higher degree, find a partner, get promoted, buy a house, have a baby, go on a trip… and receive a dose of happiness for free. And yes, often these things make us happy, for a while anyway.

After all, there are two kinds of happiness:

  •  – What we experience during a certain moment, experiencing positive emotions arising from circumstances. Instant happiness as in the examples above. It was mainly this form of happiness that I (unconsciously) pursued before my burnout. I hopped from one peak to the next without rest breaks.
  •  – An inner state of experiencing life, a subjective sense of well-being and satisfaction with life as a whole. (This includes both positive and negative emotions. After all, it is not possible to feel good all the time. Responding appropriately to negative emotions is both essential and healthy in some circumstances.) So this kind of happiness is not related to external circumstances, it is happiness from within. Something I hardly paid any attention to before my burn-out.

Happiness according to science

When are you really happy ? According to science, you are happy if the positive emotions you experience outweigh the negative emotions and your overall life satisfaction is high.

But there’s more; Recent research shows that you can increase (or decrease) your genetic happiness level by thinking, feeling, and behaving differently. (If you want to know more about this, I recommend the book ‘ Happy for no reason’ by Marci Shimoff.)

Think differently

Much has been written about the power of our thinking. It is now established that we create our reality with our thoughts and yet this is still dismissed by many as ‘spiritual fuss”’. However, there are numerous examples of people who have transformed their lives simply by changing their minds. From poverty to wealth, from illness to health, from anger to gratitude, etc.

‘A miracle is no more than a change in perception’ . Marianne Williamson

Thoughts under the microscope

The way out of the burnout valley

When I was in the deep burnout valley, I was, perhaps for the first time, really consciously present with my thoughts. I could no longer ignore them by being ‘busy busy’. For the first time, I began to really examine and question my thoughts.

My thoughts told me that I was a victim of unjust circumstances, they justified the anger I felt. But was this actually true? When my therapist said “A burnout comes to teach you something and gives you the chance to reorient your life, be grateful for it!”, then it felt much more like truth.

A simple yet powerful method for examining your thoughts is The Work of Byron Katie. She recommends examining each stressful thought through the following four questions and then reversing the thought.

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you be absolutely sure it’s true?
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without that thought?

Happiness starts in the mind

Gradually, the anger I felt about my burnout began to turn into gratitude. The fighting turned into acceptance and the life I had hitherto regarded as a thwarting adversary suddenly became a trusted friend. The change in my thinking caused synchronicity to flow into my life, where everything was stuck before.

Be a rebel

Rebelling against life makes no sense, any more than rebelling against society and dominant systems (which doesn’t mean we should just let them run their course). Real change starts within, starts in your mind. So the most rebellious act you can do is to change your way of thinking. Change your inner attitude and your outer world will automatically change with it. Because nothing is impossible if you just believe in it.

Some of the key thoughts that have made a world of difference to my way of living are:

“Life is on my side.”

“”Everything that happens happens for my own benefit.”

“I’m being looked after.”


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