Burnout! When Giving and Receiving Are Out of Balance


Before I sold my house and belongings and drove from Philadelphia to Phoenix, leaving my old life behind in the rearview mirror, I was a workaholic.

Because I loved my job, I never saw the amount of hours I invested as a detriment…although others certainly did. But that all changed during the four weeks I spent driving across the country.

By the time I arrived in Arizona, I had fallen in love with nature.

Over the next months as I settled in, my muscles relaxed, my mind wandered, and I spent my days exploring my new environment.

I hiked the local desert mountains, photographed the landscape, and joined a yoga class. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do anymore. And the absence of a clear goal felt nurturing rather than alarming.

The catalyst for this 180-degree change in my life was due to my research into the topic of receiving.

Is it better to give than receive? Or are they equally valuable?

I grew up learning “It is better to give than receive,” so of course giving was my default, as it is, I believe, for most women. While giving is important, I gave in a way that did not consider my own needs.

I became overly dependent on other’s approval and became a multitasking pro. I felt good about the amount I was able to accomplish each day.

But I also created relationships in which I gave much more than I got back and that left me feeling exhausted, resentful, and distressed.

I had clients who also were upset about the lack of reciprocity in their relationships. They asked me what they could do to get the people in their lives to be more giving, to help out more. Their questions set me on a search for answers.

The more I thought about receiving, the more I wondered why we are taught to denigrate 50% of every transaction.

Since there is a recipient for every act of giving, a receiver for every giver, why do we have such a dim opinion of receivers?

And, even more, if we have no value for receiving, what do we really think about the person to whom we are giving?

When most of our energy is invested in only the giving side of the give-receive team, doesn’t it make sense that our lives can be thrown out of balance, that we can’t help but end up burned out?

Do you regularly exceed your energy limits to give time and attention to others?

Whether you help those in your workplace, members of your family, or devote time to an organization or cause, you have probably experienced the consequences of taking on too much.

You may be vulnerable to health ailments because of overwork or have an unsatisfactory or nonexistent social life because you are too tired to go anywhere.

Renew, Replenish, Refuel

When you give and give and give and rarely receive from others, it makes sense that you feel depleted.

Like anything in life, you need to fill back up what you have given out. You fill the car with gas when the gauge is on empty. If you don’t, the car won’t run.

When it comes to emotional expenditures, do you ignore the warning signs that you have exceeded your reserves and need to refuel? What are these warning signs? You feel unappreciated and exhausted.

When you receive what people and the world have to give, you open up pathways you couldn’t see before, stimulate your imagination in ways that could not happen before, and have energy that was not previously available to you.

Once you get used to a balanced life, you will not consider sacrificing your health and emotional well being; you will not put yourself last on your list. Why? This is what you would think:

  • I want to get good night’s sleep so I will be alert during work tomorrow.
  • I want to make sure I get enough protein today so I will have energy.
  • I want to go to my yoga class so I will feel relaxed and centered.
  • I want to leave work on time so I can enjoy time with my children.

Make a commitment today to bring more balance into your life—to receive as much as you give. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Take These Six Steps

  1. Ask family members to do their share: put breakfast dishes in the dishwasher or sink, walk the dog, or take books back to the library.
  2. Create a place where you can be alone even if it is your bedroom with a Do Not Disturb sign on the door.
  3. Cultivate a social life. Get together with a friend. Go to the movies or meet for a meal.
  4. Practice and become comfortable with saying the word “no.”
  5. Invest in your spiritual life, whether you read inspiring books, go to church, or spend time in nature’s cathedral.
  6. Accept, with gratitude, compliments, gifts and offers of help.

If you include you as an integral and important part of your vision for your relationships, family, and the world, not only will you become healthier and more energized, but your giving will no longer drain you—it will strengthen you.

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