Book Notes: Burnout

Burnout by Emily Nagoski, Amelia Nagoski
Read Apr 10, 2021 - Aug 21, 2021

Burnout focuses on providing practical tools to deal with, well, burnout. It is written by two sisters (one of them a health educator), and is addressed to women and the specific pressures they face, such as “the bikini industrial complex” or “human giver syndrome”.

The most useful thing that I learned from this book is the idea of “completing the stress cycle”. This is the idea of intentionally moving through the stress and out the other side, as a physiological shift, not an intellectual or emotional one. You don’t need to “figure it out” or “process” in order to complete the stress cycle, and it will help protect you from burnout.

Book Highlights

Herbert Freudenberger in 1975, “burnout” was defined by three components: 1. emotional exhaustion—the fatigue that comes from caring too much, for too long; 2. depersonalization—the depletion of empathy, caring, and compassion; and 3. decreased sense of accomplishment—an unconquerable sense of futility: feeling that nothing you do makes any difference.

research has found it’s the first element in burnout, emotional exhaustion, that’s most strongly linked to negative impacts on our health, relationships, and work—especially for women.

In short, emotions are tunnels. If you go all the way through them, you get to the light at the end. Exhaustion happens when we get stuck in an emotion.

Science, in a sense, is not an exact science.

Dealing with your stress is a separate process from dealing with the things that cause your stress. To deal with your stress, you have to complete the cycle.

Awareness and insight are not required in order for the Feels to move through you and out of you. Crying for no apparent reason? Great! Just notice any apparently causeless emotions or sensations or trembling and say, “Ah. There’s some Feels.”

Completing the cycle isn’t an intellectual decision; it’s a physiological shift.

Because you experience stress every day, you have to build completing the cycle into every day.

To be “well” is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure, or excitement, back to safety and calm, and out again. Stress is not bad for you; being stuck is bad for you.

Mental energy, like stress, has a cycle it runs through, an oscillation from task focus to processing and back to task focus.

Boredom is the discomfort you experience when your brain is in active-attention mode, but can’t latch on to anything to attend to.

Exercising one part of you strengthens all of you; exercising the strongest parts of you strengthens the rest of you most efficiently.

We know that with greater personal power would come greater personal responsibility, and we’re afraid when we have the greater power, we won’t be able to deal with those greater responsibilities.

Know what’s true. And, if you can, love what’s true.

A Short-Term Quick-Fix Gratitude Boost is gratitude-for-who-you-have.

A Long-Term Gratitude Lifter is gratitude-for-how-things-happen.

Wellness, once again, is not a state of mind, but a state of action; it is the freedom to move through the cycles of being human, and this ongoing, mutual exchange of support is the essential action of wellness.

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