Burnout is Not Your Birthright

Winnie Man
Written by Winnie Man

Living a Sustainable Life

Hustle.  Strive.  Push.  Drive.  Demand.  Attain.  Deliver.  Exceed!  Sleep is for the weak!  More, more, more! 

Relentless pushing.  It’s exhausting isn’t it?

We keep going when we feel under par.  We go to the gym to get fit, we have massages to free up the toll of muscles tense from stress.  We consume the latest superfoods and diets to stay “healthy”.  So many seek the secret elixir of enough good sleep.  And we are all becoming less well, as we gradually reach burnout…exhausted, drained, depleted and just tired…

Our culture prizes the art of self-sacrifice in the name of success…whatever it takes to be successful.  We can all name someone who prizes success based on little sleep, crazy diets, and unimaginable lifestyles. 

Is this our norm? 

What if we pursued happiness and joy with the same fervour as we strive with material earnings?  Now I am a realist, and work is important too, so bear with me.

1. Comfort and Ease

There is a phrase in the Yoga Sutras that has resonated with me for some time: sthirasukham asanam.  “A stable and comfortable posture is asana[1]”.  This sutra speaks of how the point of asana (poses we practice in yoga) is simply to be able to sit comfortably to meditate. 

Photo by Carl Newton

Think about it.  We move in asana to be able to rest, to be still.  There is a pulsation in life – a time to move, and a time to be still.  Consider how you bring more comfort and ease into your life.  Ease and effortlessness. 

Are you always on the move, or do you allow yourself to rest?

2. Assess the Energy Container

Consider each of us as a being of finite energy.  Assess the energy you are expending, and the energy you are receiving to replenish your container, your well. 

What do you notice? Is your container balanced and vibrant? 

Are there parts that need tending? 

3. Finding Sustainable Balance, Managing the Container

What do you need to adjust to find comfort and ease?  What do you need to come into balance?  Life is for living, and a 100 year life is not beyond imagining for many of us – how do you wish to live life? 

Photo by Jill Wellington

Paradoxically, introducing more comfort and ease into your life, finding flow, can help us perform more creatively and with more inspiration. 

What does your container need to maintain balance?

4. Easing the Pressure Valve

When the pressure cooker comes the boil, the pressure valve flips to releasing steam.  In the same way, we also need to release the pressure, the stress, and the steam of pent up emotions we hold within us. 

  • A simple method is to simply allow yourself a long exhale
  • Roll your shoulders back and ensure your neck is in neutral
  • Breathe in comfortably through the nostrils into the belly
  • Then, drop your jaw open and sigh out an “ah” breath
  • The more adventurous of you might want to try sticking your tongue out at the same time! 
  • Repeat until you feel more ease

Anytime you feel the pressure building, and you want to find some ease, just breathe out a long ah.

5. Finding Stability and Calm

And there are times when we need to find our centre to be able to perform at our best, even when we don’t feel it.   Breath is the most powerful tool we have to shift our state.  A simple method is to equalise your breath:

  • Stand up with your legs hip-width apart so that the spine is straight, and your spine is an arrow to the sky, from the base of your spine to the crown of your head
  • Place your hands on your hips, roll your shoulders back, with your chest slightly forward and neck in neutral
  • Check that you feel comfortable and make any adjustments you need to
  • Gazing gently forward, defocusing your eyes, inhale and exhale through your nostrils
  • As you inhale, follow your breath, with awareness of where it completes, and where the exhale begins
  • Have the intent of keeping an even inhale and even exhale
  • Keep each inhale gentle
  • Allow yourself to soften into each exhale
  • If it helps, keep your concentration on the tip of your nose as you continue to inhale and exhale
  • Repeat until you find your centre.

In the relentless pursuit of success, we often sacrifice our well-being, leading to exhaustion and burnout.  If we allow ourselves to prioritise balance and self-care, embrace breathwork, and find moments of ease, we can perform better and live more fulfilling lives. Let’s shift from relentless striving to being – a more sustainable life of happiness, joy and wellness.


[1] The Practice of the Yoga Sutra: Sadhana Pada, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

Main – Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich