Having a burn-out has consequences for you and your environment. The lives of others go on. Your life largely comes to a standstill.
You will no longer participate for the time being.
It is good to think about how you want to deal with your environment. Do you choose to:
Although I felt a lot for option 2 (I’m a bit more introverted in nature), I started working with option 3. I started looking for a form of contact that was good for my recovery.
You could call that tailor-made contact. Contact as I wanted it and that fits at the beginning of a burn-out.
Being a pleaser (was.), I had put myself quite at the service of others. I was very concerned with what others did or did not think. In retrospect, this turned sometimes out to contain unhealthy patterns. Where it was often the case that the contact was mainly initiated from me. Much less from the other.
Adjusting my environment to the new situation, I found that quite difficult. I had to stop my old familiar (please) behavior in one go and start choosing for myself. That was new, and I took a while before I got used to it. But either way, this unhealthy behavior had to stop. My energy level no longer allowed me to take others into account so much.
The realization that I was no longer self-evident for everyone was strange, even a bit frightening. Being there for everyone, that felt good and safe somewhere. Being there for others is fine, but it was at the expense of myself.
With trial and error, I started to rearrange my contacts. So that I got a better picture of my needs. I found myself minimizing or stopping some contacts. Especially if it bothered me. Other contacts got better because they gave me energy. I also gained new contacts and some contacts that were on a lower level suddenly became more important.
How that went, I have described below.
As I described I am an introvert. I can be alone very well; I don’t like parties very much and often find visitors tiring. So, for me, I could have lived with it to really stop all contacts, except for family, work, and friends.
Unfortunately, the society in which I live, works differently. I had to somehow get a different way of dealing with my environment. I had to avoid repulsing people, but I also had to make sure that the running and pleasing for others stopped.
Here I have had a lot of help from my wife, my children and especially my psychologist. Especially the last one was for me a weekly mirror for my behavior. Together we started looking at how certain contacts affected me and how we could convert them into a healthier contact.
To achieve this, I started to make an inventory of the contacts. What contacts did I have? Think of:
After that, I started to refine every contact. For example, that could be a brother, sister, brother-in-law, father, niece etc. That was a way for me to try to look at my contacts more objectively.
Then I went to see what people evoked in me. People can be noisy, they stay too long, the road to them is long, they gossip, tell nonsense, talk about themselves, contact comes from my side, etc. So, irritation, fatigue, anger you name it.
But contacts can also be comforting, understanding, funny, relativizing, thinking along, etc.
In short: did it make me happy and gave it energy to me, or did it bother me and was the contact mainly to please the other person. In the first case I tried to improve the contact but in the second case, I would reduce or stop that contact.
Below I have made 3 diagrams that have helped me to get a picture of my contacts and to become aware of the effect on me.
SCHEDULE 1 Contacts that cost energy
These were the real energy guzzlers. On the advice of my psychologist, I started to minimize these contacts or stop them altogether. Kind of reset button press.
Description of the contact
Why does this cost energy?
What should be different
I started muting my apps /facebook/email messages etc. After that I often deleted them. With the message: “I am overworked, so now think about myself by leaving this group” I stopped a lot of traffic. In the end, I only had contact with people very close by and that is still the case today.
In my “real” environment, I also used this argument: “I’m overworked, so now think about myself by: – not coming to the birthday, – not celebrating the holidays, – not going along with …. etc. It only took 3 weeks before my environment was aware and knew that I was no longer participating (for a while).
Sometimes I really had to turn away (puberty) to get these contacts to change. That sometimes went quite bluntly and abruptly. But I couldn’t prevent that
SCHEDULE 2 Contacts that generate energy
I liked this. People who give energy during a burnout is like a glass of water in the desert. You really need this sometimes.
I have quoted these people and indicated that I get energy from that. They were really involved with my burnout and wanted me to be okay. For me, these were mainly the contacts that were a bit closer.
Description of the contact
Why does this generate energy?
How can I improve this
In short, I could visit these people quite a bit more often. Most of the time they were also quite able to come to me.
I also looked at what it was that gave me energy and I tried to preserve that and to stimulate it in other contacts.
SCHEDULE 3 Contacts that do not cost energy but also do not yield anything
These people are tricky. It didn’t bother them much that I was burned out. So, these contacts are rather neutral/
Nevertheless, I started trying to separate these people. In energy givers and energy takers.
Description of the contact
Why do you have them
Can you turn them into energy givers?
That worked out well. I often met these people at work or during the children’s sports. I was trying to get these people into schedule 2. For some, it worked. If they came in schedule 1 for me, I avoided contact.
I hope you’re still here. It’s quite a lot to read!
During the recovery the contacts shifted. People I didn’t see at the beginning suddenly became important and vice versa. So, it was not a fixed group of people, but a group that changed composition and intensity.
Also, people shifted, from schedule 1 to 2 and otherwise. Depending on my energy level.
In addition to this classification, I also started looking at the type of contact. Physically or online. Remotely or by mail. The Corona period has helped me a lot with that.
I was introduced to: Teams and zooming. I started texting, calling, or sending a card more often. I could also send stuff or have it come by delivery. Have books delivered if it was someone’s birthday or flowers if someone passed. Meeting in busy cramped living rooms was replaced by a fresh walk in the woods. Etc.
In the end, I spent quite a long time with these changes. In fact, now 3 years later I am sometimes still working on it.
How easily you fall into your old behavior, you only notice that when you must change it.
Although I have been working on it for 3 years, I still occasionally fall into the old (please) behavior. But it is already a lot less than before the burn-out.
Some contacts continued to have trouble moving towards me, which I have reduced and sometimes unfortunately broken. Apparently, I wasn’t worth bothering. I see that as 100% profit. It is clear.
I think that I have now started to have a healthier and more equal contact with my environment and that I deal with this in a more mature way.
Although I’m still not quite there, I’ve experienced a growth.
During this process I started to build in several touchstones. In addition to my family and children, I also have several colleagues with whom I regularly discuss this.
People who warn me if I fall back into please behavior. I notice that they like to do that for me, and that gives me confidence.
It sometimes happens that they whistle me back before I even notice it. That feels good, familiar.
So, I’m growing, and my confidence is just increasing.
What is positive?
Because I retuned my environment, I noticed that I was distinguishing between what worked and what didn’t. I was cleaning up and that was desperately needed.
Which contacts: do I want to keep, do I have to change, do I want to stop and with which people would I like to have a better contact.
I also started to make new contacts. People who understood my recovery. Sometimes I bump into these contacts in places where I had never thought had before. Then that quiet colleague suddenly turned out to be super nice, had the woman of the mailroom also had a burn-out and appear the screamers within the organization not so nice or interested at all.
In short, by mapping I got an adjustment of my contacts, an environment that fitted better with me.
Don’t give up!!
Tuning the environment was quite difficult for me in the beginning. As an accomplished pleaser, I was mainly concerned with others.
By trying it any way, I noticed that it was rather easy. Supported by family, friends, and colleagues, I started to get a healthier environment. Which is still developing.
Hopefully you will also be able to reschedule your contacts. More adjusted to your needs