I just finished a huge writing project. My last edit was done in my pajamas, with unwashed hair and sweaty armpits. When I got in the shower after hitting the big SEND, I began to wonder why I didn’t feel relieved. Then I remembered what I read in Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle:
Remember, your body has no idea what “filing your taxes” or “resolving an interpersonal conflict through rational problem-solving” means. It knows, though, what jumping up and down means. Speak its language- and its language is body language.” (15)
Completing my writing project told my brain that I had just cleared a huge hurdle, but all the rest of my body knew was that we had been staying up late, pacing, stressing about wording, and panicking as a deadline came and went. I need to complete my stress cycle, expending energy and telling my body systems that we were no longer on high alert.
The failure to complete the stress cycle causes our bodies to hold onto the hormones and internal stressors that cause significant difficulties to our bodies, especially over the course of our lives. Burnout is not just another book, selling self-care. It is actually a book talking about the science of what it means to be chronically stressed and how that affects us and shortens our lives.
I appreciate that the authors noted the commodification of self-care. They also make an effort to offered modified options for completing the stress cycle. Not everyone is capable of going for a long run, but most of us can practice tensing and releasing muscles, laughing, having a good cry, or spending time with positive companions.
The other reality of this book is that it acknowledges the systems of (mostly Western) patriarchal dominance and oppression that cause our burnout cycles. Rarely do we desire to be exhausted. It is, instead, a systemic stripping of self and community healing capacity of women and femme-identified people that drains us as we are crammed into an alleged One-Size-Fits-All “Human Giver Synodrome” suit that pinches in all the wrong places.
It pinches everywhere.
Human Giver Syndrome is so deeply ingrained, it takes being confronted with statistics and dates to reveal the imbalances and injustice to us. Without large-scale, objective measurement and historical perspective, it’s all too easy to feel comfortable with the familiar inequalities: Human givers don’t own or control anything, not even their bodies… Accusers get death threats, and the accused is put on the Supreme Court. (88)
By acknowledging the reality of patriarchal oppression, including how it influences women to treat one another negatively, Burnout provides serious food for thought. This isn’t a book about more life balance or taking a spa day, it’s a book about how to live in a world that makes a daily attempt to kill your spirit. It is only by acknowledging the threat that we can acknowledge the stress and then begin to deal with it, one cycle at a time.
I listened to this audiobook and I bought the hardcover edition. I have so many friends for whom I would like to buy this book, but I don’t have unlimited resources. So I will settle for giving it a high recommendation. Even if you only like 80% of the book, that will be enough to encourage you to make some helpful changes in your own life, which may get longer and better as a result.
The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Big Timber Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Big Timber, MT. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit and is President of the board of RevGalBlogPals, Inc.
RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back to the specific post. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.