Learning to be satisfied with ‘enough’ is the key to defeating burnout and exhaustion – here’s how to do it
“I feel like I’m being pulled in all directions and I’m doing everything badly! I feel guilty the whole time that I should be doing something else, and I’m exhausted.” As a coach, I hear words like these frequently – so many of us feel as if we aren’t enough somehow, or that we can never do enough to fulfil the demands on us. We’ve all been through the Covid years, and now there are new challenges facing us that can feel relentless and overwhelming. It is often people who are vocational, passionate and talented, who suffer most from the sense that they can’t switch off – that they need to be constantly available and attentive.
n our current digital age, this can be the case for all of us, whatever our role or level of responsibility. We have collectively bought into the myth that we have to be immediately responsive whatever time of day or night it is. This way of living and working unchecked is at best unhealthy and at worst can lead to exhaustion and burnout. So, what can we do about what some call the ‘burnout epidemic’ sweeping all sectors of our society?
I believe that the answer lies in us reclaiming the concept of ‘enough’. Reclaiming it from any association with mediocrity or settling for average, and thinking of ‘enough’ instead as a pathway to contentment. Knowing that we are enough can give us permission to put in place the boundaries that we all so desperately need in order to live and work healthily. Believing that you are enough means that you replace any sense that you lack something, with a state of fullness.
You move from chasing the ever-hungry, never-satisfied state of striving to focusing on what you have and starting from there. A state of being, doing and having enough allows us each to stand in the fertile ground, well-rooted, and well-resourced so that we can flourish with creativity and brilliance. Far from being mediocre, enough is a springboard to self-belief, health and sustainability.
So how can we go about being and doing enough? The first thing is to look at our mindset. Whilst the feeling of overwhelm is always prompted by the reality of having a lot of demands on us, it is often our mindset that tips it into a feeling that we can’t cope. So many of us default to what I call a scarcity mindset. This is a sense that we lack something, and it’s from here that we get lured into believing that we can’t stop. This mindset is fear based and fuels a sense of inadequacy that somehow we lack what it takes to be successful, or have to prove ourselves in order to convince others that we are good enough.
This is where imposter syndrome lurks, accompanied by its toxic friend perfectionism. If we are able to catch ourselves coming from this place – notice our thinking, reactions and assumptions are scarcity based, then we can start to make a choice to replace it with what I call an ‘enough mindset’ where we focus on what we have, not what we lack. An enough mindset is based on the belief that we are lovable exactly as we are – with all our flaws and talents. Of course, we can change and grow, but as a starting point, we are simply who we are and that is enough, in and of itself. For many of us, this is the work – to spend time learning to accept ourselves exactly as we are. The move from fear to acceptance is useful because, we can replace a critical voice with an appreciative one.
Once we’ve worked on being enough, the second step is to consider how we can do enough and for that we need to look at our boundaries and what resources us. Boundaries can get a bad rap in today’s culture of always having to be available and driven to work around the clock. But healthy boundaries are the key to healthy living because they contain us. Like a plant pot, boundaries give us structure to grow fully into who we are, and when we are able to make and keep good boundaries, we can give the best of ourselves to the task in hand, because we are well resourced to do so.
My approach to creating good boundaries is to get clear about what we need them for – what is it that resources you and gives you energy? When we understand what we need in order to function well, whether that is appropriate breaks from our desk, regular exercise, switching off in the evening or giving ourselves uninterrupted time to focus, we can start to design our lives in a way that facilitates flow rather than feels like an endless grind. It gives us clarity so that it feels obvious to protect our time for things that re-charge us. We can ‘say no for the bigger yes’ – which is after all, what a good boundary should do.
Often in our lives, we don’t set or keep boundaries because we forget that we are able to. Exhaustion and burnout mean that we don’t even recognise that we can make choices about how we live our lives. We feel compelled to continue at a frantic pace at the same time as knowing that it is unsustainable. When we can learn to say, “I am enough” we can stand strong in who we are, with all our gifts and talents and avoid the trap of having to prove ourselves to anyone, or strive for something that is impossible. We can look at the challenges ahead and rather than getting recruited into believing we have to solve all of them, we can see where we can make our contribution – within the healthy limits of who we are and what resources we can give. Which is enough.
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Becky Hall is an accredited life coach, leadership consultant and is the author of ‘The Art of Enough’, published by Practical Inspiration. The Art of Enough is available now, shop here.
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