This article refers to the Remen Q̅ Method as a starting place and ‘a way’ in transmuting burnout from a place of non-peace to peace. The Remen Q̅ Method is a quick do-it-yourself method of achieving inner peace. Remen Q̅ works in the moment, but if you intend to transmute your non-peace, I have found, you must do the work. That means giving yourself the space to delve into the wounding that brought you to a state of burnout. ‘Space’ can be 5-10 minute interludes in the bathroom, laundry room or before you go to sleep. Meditation recordings are readily available on YouTube.com, Calm.com, and many other websites. There are recordings on this website that walk you through the Remen Q̅ Method. The Remen Q̅ Method book can be purchased from Amazon or your bookstore.
The foundation was set early in my life for repeated bouts of burnout. By the time I was 11 years old, I was doing the bulk of the household chores for seven other people, childcare for five younger siblings, year-round farm work, and school work. I would spend my weekends doing mountains of laundry and 8-12 hours of ironing once a week. After arriving home from school, I would tend to children, clean the house, prepare meals, work on the farm, and clean a mountain of dirty dishes at the end of the day (there were no dishwashers – only me). Finally, my day would end with an attempt to do my homework late at night. Instead, I sat at the kitchen table crying. I was too tired to think, and I would sit and cry while doing my homework. There was nothing left in me for me. By age 11, I was experiencing burnout.
At age 16, my mother placed me in a physically demanding night and weekend job as I continued the same household chores and school work. Additionally, I was entering my senior year in high school, and I was suicidal. Secretly, I cried often and thought of killing myself. There were no options and I was powerless to change my life. I functioned in a state of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion.
My role in this family dynamic was peacemaker and giver. My young mind believed I could make my mother happy, despite her intense and relentless criticism, by doing. But, instead, there was continual anger which created this overwhelming stress in our household due to the violence, infidelity, alcohol, and financial difficulties that resulted from my father’s behavior.
My only respite was to get sick. At age 10, I was bedridden with an illness that went undiagnosed (my mother sought no medical care) and untreated for three months. I had frequent viral infections, severe stomach pain, bronchitis, and headaches from early childhood that provided a good excuse for getting much-needed rest.
Once I left home, that continual illness became an onslaught of migraines. Except, as an adult, I could not take a day off. I had two children, a demanding more-than-full-time job, a partner with very high expectations of my duties, community and school demands, and a house full of chores. When there was nothing left to give, I continued to give; I repeated the cycles of burnout and doing-to-the-point of exhaustion.
There were no dreams; there were no hopes. Nothing would ever change. In the 1970’s I started meditation as a tool for controlling my migraines. Persistent meditation diminished the migraines so I would not lose time from my responsibilities. However, suicide was still my constant companion. Suicide was an option I kept close to me and I did not allow myself to show outward signs of depression. I would give the depression a few hours, then turn it off; I would force myself to put on a happy face. Nobody wanted to see me depressed or crying. The peacemaker and giver identity could never be seen to be depressed. In other words, I was only safe if I was giving and making people happy.
I felt like I had no choices. Juggling an overload of different responsibilities kept me in a constant state of overwhelm and exhaustion. The only escape from this self-imposed cage of servitude and punishment, in my mind, was death. The stomach pain and frequent migraines were symptoms of anxiety; I was afraid of doing something wrong. The bronchitis was a symptom of the festering grief I felt from not connecting to a life of flow.
Playing the giving peacemaker and then burning out was my life pattern into my forties. I did not have the personal skills or the knowledge to stop this pattern. I was committing socially acceptable suicide. I was creating the only thing I had control over, dying. Then I started breaking the cycle by quitting the things that controlled my time and me. The meditation was creating a new foundation from which I would begin rebuilding myself. Little by little, I removed myself from the structures that I had allowed control over my life.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is not an official disorder listed in the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The World Health Organization (WHO) considers it a phenomenon of work. Christina Maslach informs the WHO about burnout. Per an article written by Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter, burnout is a psychological syndrome emerging as a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job. The three key dimensions of this response are overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.1
Burnout only became recognized as a societal issue when it became a commonplace problem in healthcare settings. Clinics and hospitals were seeing healthcare providers experiencing increased illness and injuries. The healthcare providers were low on energy and could not cope with their environments. The term “burnout” was used in the 1970s by the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. Herbert Freudenberger was one of the founders of the free clinic movement in the 1970s. He used it to describe the consequences of severe stress and high ideals in “helping” professions.2
Who Gets Burnout?
Burnout happens to caregivers, healthcare providers, teachers, first responders, parents, students, people in poverty, white-collar workers, children in abusive environments and many other roles. Burnout happens to anyone in an environment of constant stress and no hope of the situation improving. Those experiences create the wound of feeling powerless to make changes; no choices.
The feeling of no choice is the wound of feeling trapped and frozen. Feeling trapped and frozen is connected to a sense of safety. A person on a path to burnout feels they will never be good enough; they can do nothing to improve their lives. The internal stress and fatigue build until they reach a place of inner and outer exhaustion. A person with burnout feels like they have nothing left to give, a painful emptiness. A person with burnout has underlying anger at those they blame for their situation. Cynicism becomes a way of expressing their anger without confrontation and violating the role of peacemaker.
Transmuting burnout is a process, a journey. So be gentle with yourself but be persistent in your move toward consistent inner peace.
How do you start transmuting burnout?
Joan has been her mother’s caretaker for the last five years. Joan’s mother verbally abuses Joan with torrents of demeaning comments. Joan feels trapped in the situation. She has no one to give her a respite and sees no hope of the situation changing. She believes her mother’s state will never improve. Joan’s mother is bedridden and requires constant physical care. Joan gets poor restorative sleep due to having to tend to her mother at all hours. Joan is emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted. She frequently leaves her mother’s room in tears. While she is crying, she will say to herself, ‘I don’t know how I can go on.’ Joan cannot envision possibilities that will change the situation.
Joan has long-established weak boundaries with her mother. As a result, Joan has given her mother power over her. Joan is angry. The anger she feels is so old it has numbed her heart to feeling compassion and caring. Joan is not replenishing her energy with self-care. The amount of physical care her mother requires is overwhelming. All of Joan’s friends have fallen away. She is alone and miserable.
Where to Start?
The following suggestions apply to anyone suffering from burnout.
The most crucial aspect of transmuting burnout and changing your reality is owning your non-peace. In the example above, Joan is not at fault for her mother’s condition, but she is responsible for the reality she has created for herself. The reality of her situation is the relationship she has created. Joan is feeling the non-peace. To begin transmuting burnout, Joan must own the relationship of non-peace she has with her mother and being the caregiver.
Burnout is not a place of peace. To transform any aspect of self that is non-peace, you must set an intention to do so. You must own the relationship of non-peace. We can easily allow ourselves to continue the cycle of burnout by inaction. The wounding connected to deserving peace and empowerment may be stopping you from change.
You are doing this for yourself. If doing something for YOU creates a contraction, then do a Remen Q̅ process(es) until you reach that place of calm and neutral.
To begin, start with what you are feeling right now. Go to the bathroom (or any other space where you can be undisturbed for few moments), shut the door, and do a Remen Q̅ process. You can do this in moments. If you hear your inner voice say, “I’ll do this later, I don’t have time,” start with that thought. That is a thought of non-peace. You have contracted around that mantra of undeserving and powerless.
Short Relaxation Exercises
Once you have reached a place of neutral and calm using the Remen Q̅ process, you will be able to know and feel the possibilities of change. That change may only be changing your non-peace to peace at the moment. Do the Remen Q̅ process as often as necessary. Then as you begin to feel more confident in your ability to achieve inner peace in the now, look at doing five-minute or ten-minute relaxation exercises. These are readily available on Youtube.com or Calm.com. Doing the short relaxation exercises will start building your confidence in caring for yourself. If you find yourself pulling back or hear an inner dialog of ‘I can’t do this,’ then use the Remen Q̅ process on that thought of non-peace until that thought has transmuted into peace and calm.
Once you have started giving to yourself with the Remen Q̅ process and relaxation exercises, begin journaling. Your fatigue level may be so profound that the idea of journaling is too much to ask. You may feel like this is just one more thing. Remen Q̅ that idea. Journaling is a powerful process in the journey of transmuting burnout. Suppose you feel like you have no idea where to start; start by grabbing a spiral notebook* and write anything at all on the page. Start with how you feel right now. If what you write is a place of non-peace, then use the Remen Q̅ process until you feel calm and neutral, at peace. Record that success in your journal. Use your notebook to record the non-peace and the subsequent peace from using the Remen Q̅ process.
Transmuting burnout is a process; a journey. So be gentle with yourself but be persistent in your move toward consistent inner peace.
Little by Little
Little by little we’ll go
No matter how far the distance is we’ll not be shaken.
Little by little we’ll go and reach our destination.
Little by little we’ll go
No matter how bumpy or rocky the road is we’ll not turn back.
But little by little we’ll go and fulfill our dreams.
Little by little we’ll go
No matter how narrow the path is we’ll force ourselves to pass.
And little by little we’ll go and achieve our goals.
Don’t be shaken. Don’t turn back.
Little by little you’ll go and reach your destination.
*I use the suggestion of a spiral notebook because they are readily available at the grocery store. However, I prefer a journal that I buy from Barnes & Noble. A journal is a very personal item. Therefore, the journal you buy should feel good in your hands. My journal is a big part of my life. I start my mornings with writing and typically in my journal. Then, I take it with me on journeys. Finally, I have it in my lap as I sit in the evening.
A journey of transmutation is rarely one approach. We are multi-dimensional beings and as such multiple tools, as I have suggested in the Remen Q book, are part of the journey. My set of tools may not be what works for you, and you will find what fits your journey.
**Note: This essay introduces the topic of burnout and how Remen Q̅ can move you toward the grace of inner peace. In the upcoming workbook, I will explore the wounding that created your journey into burnout. In addition, this workbook will explore the fears, the created patterns, and emotional states of burnout. This exploration will then present exercises using Remen Q̅, journaling, and reflective meditation to continue your journey to inner peace.
- Maslach, Christine and Leiter, Michael P. (2016, Jun 5). Understanding the burnout experience: recent research and its implications for psychiatry. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4911781/. Accessed 2 August 2021.
- The Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (2020, Jun 18). Depression: What is Burnout? www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279286/. Accessed 2 August 2021.