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The Art of Bouncing Back
by Mike McKinley

Occasionally being in the pits comes with living fully. There are all kinds of phrases that we use to describe feeling at a lower level than we're used to or than we want to be at:
  • Feeling low
  • Marking time
  • Blue Monday
  • Subpar
  • Hitting the wall
  • Just not myself
  • On a downer
  • Burned out
But it's not the low times that we need to concentrate on, it's how to bounce back from them. Maybe your first line of defense is to decide you want to do what you are doing in this field. And if you decide you don't, become proactive in changing what is within your control. That's a powerful word, want, rather than have to or must. I've noticed that when people want to be at a job (rather than feeling as though they have to be), being in the pits happens less frequently and not to the depth of those who feel stuck.

Here are 10 tips to help you avoid burnout.
  • Start the day a little earlier. While you might cherish that bit of extra sleep, getting up and doing something that makes you feel good in the morning--whether it's exercising or having a cup of coffee or simply not rushing--starts the day off on a positive note.
  • Have reasons for getting up, and review those reasons the night before. My father was a great believer in having goals set for the next day before he went to sleep. When your goals are strong enough, they not only pull you out of bed on time, but propel you through the day. Plus, when you have people to see, places to go, and projects to complete, you have less time to sit around and think about how bad you feel. Remember that a busy-day plan can still incorporate time for you--time to walk or exercise or play with your children.
  • Be around positive people. I've noticed that people in the pits often want to take others down with them. Don't go there. To learn how to be positive, surround yourself with positive people whenever possible.
  • Watch your diet. It's true that some foods can energize us and others can pull us down. Learn your body and be alert to what you have eaten when you feel the best. Also note how much you have eaten when you feel at your peak. Be honest in your answers.
  • Say you are a good person. If you don't believe it, who will? The messages we run through our own minds have a powerful influence on our emotions.
  • List negative things in your life on one side of a piece of paper, and list positive things on the other side. Aim to have more positives listed than negatives. Figure out which negative items are within your control to change and which ones you need to learn to accept.
  • Aim at doing your best each day. Unlike money, time is not a renewable resource. The more time you feel burned out, the more you rob yourself of good times. And when you do your best at home, and as a professional, you inspire others to do the same.
  • Reward yourself by doing something you enjoy. Think about what helps you feel better, and then go for it. Maybe it's an ice-cream cone on a hot day. Maybe it's a walk along the river. If your reward is to go shopping, tread lightly when using credit cards. At bill time, you may end up even closer to burnout.
  • Accomplish something. Then stand back and admire it. I'm not talking about life-changing accomplishments. Clean a closet. Write to your mother. Do something that's been lingering too long on that list of things you'd like to do. Then enjoy the satisfaction of completing the task.
  • Believe you are in the peaks. Thought precedes action. Focus on peak feelings, not pit feelings. If you're having trouble doing this, go visit people who have it way worse than you do. Maybe that means a trip to a hospice center or to a foreign country that has far fewer privileges than you have. Put your life in perspective. Often what throws us in the pits is minor compared to what other people cope with. And by helping someone else, you can feel better about yourself!


Michael McKinley, CSP, CPAE, is a professional speaker who builds and delivers personalized presentations on business topics for corporations and professional associations. He owns McKinley Companies, Inc., whose Thinking Publications division publishes resources for speech-language pathologists. Mike's Alive! Alive! Associates division markets his speaking and consulting services.

Copyright Michael McKinley. All Rights Reserved.

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