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What follows are three of the root causes at the core of the burnout cycles, self-sacrificing choices, and unsustainable realities. Consider how each has affected your life.
The systems we work and live in were built for burnout, not to support us to thrive.
Designed during an era when profit and productivity were king, our current systems lack human sustainability and wellness at their core. Take a closer look at the current business, financial, educational, health-care, and government systems and consider the consciousness of the culture and the people when these systems were designed.
Created to fuel an industrial revolution and ignite an information age that exploded us into this age of technology, the core intention was not about supporting and sustaining women, families, humanity, or the planet. These systems were designed with a focus on maximizing productivity and profit; minting workers to manufacture more stuff; and training leaders to grow bigger and faster so they could succeed in a world rooted in competition, domination, accumulation, and consumption.
Humans were and still are referred to as “resources.” And in the current collective consciousness, resources are things to be utilized and monetized for short-term gains, not nurtured and protected for long-term sustainability.
Now that may sound sinister. And while you and I both know there have been sinister acts that have exploited people and planet, I don’t think there was a clandestine meeting headed up by a Dr. Evil–like dude with the agenda to dominate humans for personal gain. If we look back, we can see both the positive and negative impact of what the former consciousness created — infrastructure, transportation, technology, and advancement in medicine and science.
We can’t really know if we could have evolved differently as a society. Maybe the pace at which all this growth occurred, and the choices made, was how it had to happen to bring us to where we stand now. Maybe not. We’ll never know.
But if you look at the present state of humanity and the planet, and into the future — really look — this knowing becomes crystal clear: the consciousness that got us here cannot take us to what we need now. A society and market system that values domination, accumulation, and consumption, where the measures of success are rooted in profit and productivity instead of people and planet, is just not sustainable.
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“Grow, grow, go, go, more, more, faster, faster” is causing us all — and the planet — to burn out just in order to keep up. And things need to change, now. We need to do things differently.
Now do not go into overwhelm as I start to peel the film off how big a systemic issue we have. Or start feeling like Oh great, more I have to do! How am I going to change that? I can barely manage my life now I don’t want you to take this on or do anything right now. I just want you to become more aware.
We accept the ways we work and live as how things have to be. But humans made the systems, which means we have the power to change them.
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, PhD, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, refers to our collective systems as the overculture: “the dominant and often power-mad culture we try to navigate without being crushed or over-assimilated into.” Sound familiar?
The truth is, women did not create the current systems. We acclimated to survive within them, because we had to. In the 1970s and ’80s, when women entered the workforce in full force, we became men in black suits, warriors armoring up, ceiling breakers, and fighters. We put on shoulder pads and bow ties to look like men. We became tough on the outside to play with the boys. We suppressed our feminine presence. We stepped on and over our sisters to succeed in the patriarchal hierarchy. These were acts of survival.
We didn’t have the mass of women in positions of authority or influence even a decade ago or the consciousness to do things differently. We had to play by the rules that were set for us. As a result, we have come to accept how we work and live as “normal,” even if intuitively we know it’s unhealthy and unnecessary. Here are just a few examples that point to how insane our way of working and living has become:
- For doctors in residence, laws require working a maximum of eighty hours a week, with no shift exceeding twenty-eight hours. Awake for twenty-eight hours? Is this even humane or safe?
- Forty-one percent of teachers leave the profession in the first five years, citing burnout stemming from the volume of work, lack of enough time to do the work, and inadequate resources. I would add “and insufficient financial compensation.” The people responsible for educating our children — those we give birth to and love — are some of most the underresourced, undersupported, and underpaid. What does that say about what we value as a society?
- Think it’s better to work for yourself? Seventy-two percent of entrepreneurs report mental health concerns, and entrepreneurs are thirty percent more likely to experience depression than the general public.
- Maybe just get a job with less responsibility or that’s mentally less taxing? Employees in packing and shipping facilities for some large internet-based retailers have been forced to wear bracelets around their wrists to monitor their productivity, driving some to pee in bottles so they don’t get docked for time going to the bathroom. Really.
The Tip of the Iceberg
This is just the tip of a long list of the insanity we’ve come to accept, results of an overculture that just keeps moving faster, in the name of “progress.” The pressure coming from this overculture is real — housing prices skyrocketing, the cost of living increasing by double digits, exorbitant tuition for private education just to give our kids a better future. This all makes it so we must work more and earn more money, just to keep afloat. No wonder we don’t have the energy to question why our society and world is working this way.
We’ve been assimilating for so long that, like goldfish living in a fishbowl, we don’t realize we aren’t living free. Lost in the frenzy of trying to survive, we forget that other worlds — oceans of possibility — outside the fishbowl exist. And then one day, we go belly-up from all the stress and self-sacrifice. And you know what happens? We get flushed down the toilet and replaced by another fish that looks just like us and moves into our plastic castle, and the overculture continues without us. And for what, really?
We do not have to live and work this way. Humans made every nonnatural system on the planet. Think about all the systems — the financial and consumer markets, education, corporations, government, health care, agriculture, religious institutions, and so on. These are all human designed. Which means humans — of which you, and I, are one — have the power to design and create something new. Just take that in. We can vision and create the new systems and ways of working and living.
Now, here’s the empowering wisdom that honestly keeps me motivated to continue showing up and waking up. Systemic change can only start in one place, within yourself. Which, as it turns out, is where you have 100 percent of the control and power. If every woman knew this and embraced her power of systemic transformation through self-transformation, we’d bring about a tidal wave of awakening that would catalyze and change things in potent ways.
Your personal “internal operating system” is programmed to work hard, take it all on, and sacrifice your personal needs. Even if you want to change, your internal wiring is set against it.
Let’s be honest. Even if someone said you could stop working so hard or doing so much tomorrow, you would just find another way to exhaust yourself and fill up your schedule. It has been imprinted into you.
You would go find another fishbowl or create one of your own. I see this often with women who change jobs and organizations or who start their own gig, thinking it’s their ticket to sanity. But in reality, it’s the same game, different name. They just design another way of working and living that enslaves and exhausts them. Maybe the prison cell is prettier, is bigger, or has more amenities, but they still get trapped in the same crazy pace and race.
Why? Because if you do not elevate the consciousness within you, the reality on the outside cannot change.
Your internal operating system is deeply affected by the environments you grew up in; were educated within; and work, live, and interact in now. Which means you’ve got a boatload of programming for self-sacrifice and overwhelm, such as:
“I have to work hard to succeed.”
“Taking care of my needs is selfish.”
“If I don’t do it, no one else will.”
“I can’t rest until all the work is done.”
These internal programs are not just beliefs in your mind; they are deeply ingrained imprints in your being and body. This is why even if you really want to change, you resist. These imprints are embedded into your emotional, physical, and energetic bodies and your mind. Which is why you cannot mentally think, plan, strategize, or hack your way out of burnout and self-sacrifice.
These imprints form your thoughts, feelings, and cellular-body memories. They drive you to unconsciously make choices that cause you to take on too much, work too hard, and give too much — which, as it turns out, your human body was not built for.
What Now? What Drives Your Choices?
We are fine with talking about the overwhelm, burnout, and pressure. We’ll participate in a conversation about work/life balance or listen to a litany of mindfulness tips. But to go where real change happens? No way! Go into our hearts, where the unconscious fears — of everything falling apart, not having enough, not being needed or valued — have become imprints within our internal operating systems silently running our choices, thoughts, and emotions? Heck, we don’t want to admit to ourselves that we even have these fears! We’d rather stay where we can be in control. We hide in our minds, skim the surface, and make small changes to get by.
But if those routes worked, you wouldn’t be here with me now, looking for something different, and deeper.
Your heart, much more than your head, drives your choices about how you give your time, energy, care, and resources. The thoughts in your mind follow the feelings in your heart.
If you don’t possess the awareness of how your heart functions — emotionally, intuitively, and spiritually — and the deeper imprints driving you, then your choices are much more likely to come from your weaknesses, wounds, and fears than your innate strength and wisdom.
We just don’t link what’s happening in our hearts to the busyness, burnout, and pressure we experience in our daily lives. And until we do, nothing can really change.
©2020 by Christine Arylo. All Rights Reserved.
Excerpted with permission of the publisher.
Publisher: New World Library.
Overwhelmed and Over It: Embrace Your Power to Stay Centered and Sustained in a Chaotic World
by Christine Arylo
The tasks and pressures never end in our culture, a culture built for burnout. But there’s a way to stop stressing and start thriving — to wake up to the underlying systems and unsustainable ways of working and living that sap your strength, drain you dry, and fragment your focus. Christine Arylo shines a light on the external forces and internal imprints that push you into overwhelm and self-sacrifice. She then shows you how to access your power to achieve what matters most, including receiving what you need and desire. You’ll learn to release the old approach to working, succeeding, and managing a full life, and embrace a new way that gives you clarity and courage to make choices in your day-to-day and overall life design that support and sustain you.
For more info, or to order this book, click here. (Also available as a Kindle edition.)
About the Author
Christine Arylo, MBA, is a transformational leadership adviser, teacher, speaker, three-time bestselling author, and host of the internationally acclaimed podcast Feminine Power Time. As the founder of the Feminine Wisdom Way, an online wisdom school for women, and Expanding Possibility, a feminine leadership consultancy, she offers teachings, mentoring, retreats, and trainings that have touched thousands of people on six continents. Visit her website at ChristineArylo.com