"Toto, I don't think we’re in Kansas anymore...”
Burnout: “a uniquely personal and multi-level reaction that occurs when limits have been exceeded and a person has gone over the top of their “give-ability” threshold…. analogous to a dam that, over time and without sufficient fortification, is finally weakened so extensively by the stress placed upon it that its power to hold collapses, and the water rushes through.” DP
Finding ourselves now fully entrenched in the 21st century, most will agree that life has become increasingly complex. Advances in technology have instigated necessary restructuring within economic, bureaucratic, industrial and organizational arenas. As a result, the majority of the population seems to be working longer and harder just to “get by,” creating less personal time amidst exponentially mounting physical, emotional, familial, financial, and societal pressures.
It takes more time, energy and money to maintain optimum functioning of our cars, our households, our workplaces, and even our health. The concept of the ever-reliable family doctor and corner mechanic, who watched over us and our children, has been relegated to the same dusty shelf as have vinyl recordings and rotary phones. In the face of competitively-based accelerating operating costs, seemingly endless quantities of restrictive legislation, and a labyrinth of defensively-oriented regulatory paperwork, it is not difficult to understand why the “caring little guy” is disappearing. Like many of us who relied on them they too, have succumbed in the face of an attempt to live with the constant change and continual uncertainty subsequent to technological evolution. It is difficult, and in some cases impossible, to care for others while struggling to not lose everything of importance in their own lives.
To this we must add other uncertainties—the ground from which the majority of our food is derived is dangerously de-mineralized, while other food sources contain substances whose names we can’t even pronounce; the purity of the air we breathe and the water we drink is questionable at best and frightening in many cases; viruses and bacteria are mutating at such an extraordinary rate that our medical capabilities often fall short and are unable to provide us with the security of a defense; and we are constantly barraged with electro-pollution, the repercussions of which are not yet clearly known and may not be until irreparable damage has occurred. Included in this scenario must also be the reality of the potential threat of international relationships exploding, surprise terrorist attacks, and nuclear devastation.
On an even grander scale, the earth’s protective atmospheric layers are deteriorating, the magnetic poles are shifting and, as a result of the earthquake that created the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, our planet was set “wobbling” on its axis and its rotational frequency increased. Weather patterns are changing all over the world, often with unanticipated and horrific consequences, while the earth’s crust continues to be closely monitored for signs of increased activity.
Whether we choose to consider these factors as individuals, members of a family or community, employees, employers, or merely as citizens of planet Earth, it is no wonder so many of us feel as though we have no control over our lives. With levels of predictability and feelings of safety at an all time low, it is a natural reaction to feel overwhelmed, stressed, disempowered, and burned out on a daily basis. How can anyone be expected to adequately administer to others when caught in an ever expanding spiral of chaos?
The famed researcher, Dr. Hans Selye, introduced the concept that some stress in life can be a positive motivating factor. However, when the quantity or intensity of stressors exceeds an individual’s coping ability, negative effects will naturally occur. As a Doctor of Oriental Medicine for over 22 years, I have been witness to the variety of ways in which these effects manifest. Currently, within the microcosm of the world that is my office, it has been my observation that these levels of uncertainty and stress, rising steadily since the advent of the 21st century, have resulted not only in greater variability of physical symptoms, but also in increased behavioral reactions that swing from self-protective aggression to fear-based emotional impotency.Participant response from previous workshops has affirmed these findings.