10 Surefire Tips to Help You Avoid Burnout

by Lolly Daskal -

Stress can get on top of the best of us, but there are things you can do to fight back against burnout. Try these 10 simple steps to reclaim your mojo.

First, the good news.

Burnout typically affects people who are highly committed to their work and effective in their job. I don't have to tell you the bad news about burnout--it's common knowledge.

Burnout may show up as exhaustion, annoyance, and irritation, or as a lack of focus, inability to work for extended periods of time, and a tendency to question and cancel everything in sight. You may notice that you're not eating or sleeping well and that your relationships and effectiveness are suffering.

If a short-term situation is the cause, don't worry.

The negative effects can be minimal and you will you will be happy of the work you achieved. But if you find yourself sustaining a stressful routine for a long time without much relief, you're at risk of burning out. 

1. Rest and relax. 
Rest is the best single way to let stress subside. It can come in many forms: reading, walking, or simply tuning out. Find something you enjoy amid the negativity. 
2. Change up the view. 
Changing your scenery may mean taking a vacation. But if that's out of reach, you can always take a mental break by mediating. Or shut it all down for a while and take a walk, go to the park, listen to music--do something that makes you happy and gives you energy. 
3. Sleep. 
On average, people really do need eight hours of sleep a night. Without enough sleep, your effectiveness and energy will suffer. Make sure you're getting the rest you need to stay on top of your game. 
4. Move. 
Take time to walk after work, or go to the gym or play a sport . The benefits--mental and physical--are great. 
5. Rewind, reflect, remember. 
Take time to remember why you're doing what you do. What is your purpose? Why is this work so important to you? What do you hope to achieve? 
6. Create a daily ritual. 
Start a new morning or evening ritual. It can be reading, exercising, or just not doing anything. Add it to your daily schedule as a must-do. Giving time for yourself to your day is a good form of self-care. 
7. Device detox. 
This item may well be the hardest on the list. It means no cellphone, computer, TV, video games, or anything that puts you in front of a screen for at least 24 hours. At first it will feel physically uncomfortable, but if you can make it through it's quite refreshing. 
8. Give up on excuses. 
When everything's a burden and you find yourself being dragged down and feeling others are at fault, it's time for a reality check. If there's a problem, take responsibility that you might own a share of it. Start working on how you can make things better. 
9. Don't go it alone. 
This is a tough one, especially if you're a resourceful do-it-on-your-own type. When you are burned out, it may be because you think you have to do everything yourself. When you're stressed and overwhelmed, ask for help. It's not so hard. 
10. Remember, you count. 
Whatever is going on in your life, remember that you're not a bystander. Get in there. If you don't make yourself a priority, then who will? Be responsible for yourself; show others how a busy person can find balance and accountability.

The bottom line: 

The best way to recover from burnout--or, better yet, to avoid it--is to be good to yourself. It takes constant awareness and reflection and managing and maintenance but when you do you will reap the reward of a better life.

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From Collaboration to Co-Creation

by Justine Huxley -

What’s the most exciting experience you’ve had collaborating across differences in faith, culture, and ideology? Have you ever entered into collaborative relationships and been truly surprised by the result? What enabled those experiences to happen?

In a group I facilitate at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, in London, someone recently asked, 
“What’s the difference between collaboration and co-creation?”
Here is the answer I liked the most:

In collaboration, you and your associates work together. You start off with an idea of what you want to achieve and the result is not too dissimilar from your original idea.

In co-creation, you and your collaborators are inviting in an extra element – the ‘field,’ the interrelated system around and within us, the web of life or perhaps God (insert whatever language you use for That which is beyond yourself) – and the result is something new, something none of you could have predicted.

That description echoes my experience of working with what is called Emergent Design.

Emergent Design

There is a quality of aliveness, of being in new territory, of holding a space for something beyond ourselves to bring itself into existence, of reorganizing us and our relationships, bestowing results according to a deeper wisdom that we cannot access on our own.

It is a much more exciting way to work. As my fellow co-creator at St Ethelburga, Debbie Warrener says,
“It invites more humility and less attachment to particular outcomes. It's a way of listening to a wider deeper dimension in the creative process.  
Consciously bringing this in can be a powerful way to bridge differences and gently sidestep egos, competition, and more personal triggers that can come up when working closely together with others.”

The sanctuary in London, built in the 15th century, hosts a workshop.

Here is a simple story of co-creation. Last year in London, we brought together a vibrant group of around 40 sincere and committed young adults from eight different faith communities in a project called Friends for Change. 

A Japanese Buddhist organization initiated the project, wanting to build interreligious relationships and understanding within their younger generation.

We had only the simple idea of creating a container of relationships and trust, then invited the next step to reveal itself. So we held the space in a very flexible, responsive way.

We took care to include everyone deeply as equals, inviting authenticity, mixing in prayer and silence, making it clear that the facilitators were not ‘leading’ the results, just helping to create the space within which the young people could discover what was possible.

Typically with emergent design, once the container is formed, there is a period of chaos while diverse ideas abound but no decisions are made. The group reacts to the apparent lack of hierarchy and decisive leadership, and gradually gains a sense of its own self-responsibility.

As facilitators, it takes trust and patience at this point to let things disintegrate slightly without stepping in and imposing or forcing a decision.

We had one meeting early on which required absorbing a fair amount of frustration and confusion from within the group. 

Eventually, two beautiful ideas for interfaith action projects emerged and were taken forward with a sense of shared ownership and deepened relationship. The ideas were definitely different from anything I would have steered the group towards, but we were better for it, more vital and alive.

Contrast that with a story of another interfaith project we were involved with last year. This program was funded by a government department with an interest in improving the governance of minority faith groups and supporting them to better integrate into their local community fabric. 

The desired outputs were decided by the government department, who then engaged a key partner, a Muslim-led charity, who designed the program in some depth.

They were then encouraged to locate and engage interfaith collaborators and facilitators. At that point, St Ethelburga was invited into a diverse planning group of truly lovely people with great experience. The Muslim charity guided the process very well, under the guidance of the government department. 

Each partner organization contributed its skills and expertise to what seemed like a very valuable 6-month training program. Then we began recruiting participants.

St Ethelburga's also supports new models of peace and encourages peaceful economic and social change. Recruitment was difficult. Despite its apparent value, not many communities came forward to participate. It was uphill work. Eventually the project folded, generating no results at all.

Reflecting on the end game, we clearly saw that a lack of life-force or enthusiasm for the project had made recruitment tough. Just as clearly, this lack on contagiousness was a result of a top-down process which aimed for a fixed output, thus missing a creative opportunity.

I’m convinced that if the same partners had come together in a way that built equal and inclusive relationships, and encouraged authenticity, developed trust, and asked “What is wanting to emerge from within the field at this time?” – the results could have been very different.

How can we engage creative emergence and how can we co-create rather than simply collaborate as we do our interfaith work?

Here are some principles our community arrived at:
  • Come together as equals and take plenty of time to build a solid container of trust, using storytelling to invite in everyone’s highest aspirations and authentic selves.
  • Consciously invite in a dimension beyond yourselves through a shared intention to do so.
  • Welcome diverse voices, include the marginalized; engage the body and heart, not just the mind; welcome disruption and listen for its message.
  • Be generous with time. Weave empty space, silence, reflective periods, time in nature, music, imagery, and prayer into the process.
  • Don’t be an expert. Adopt an attitude of ‘not knowing,’ don’t over-structure, don’t predefine, stay open and humble, listen deeply.
  • Dissolve hierarchies, don’t ‘over-lead’ tolerate chaos when it comes and wait patiently for the process to disintegrate and reorganize relationships and results around the unexpected.
  • Nurture the new patterns that emerge gently. Let them breathe, try out new ideas freely but keep an open mind, and don’t be too fast to pin anything down – it may disintegrate and reorganize a second or third time before becoming coherent.
  • Share information and results freely. Honour the human dimension and community. Prioritise relationships and meaning over concrete outcomes.

Let go of expectations, follow what is alive, have fun and celebrate.

So … what is the real importance of co-creation and emergence? Surely it must be that it enables us to create from the new now.

We are at a time in human history where we cannot afford to keep endlessly damaging life. We need a new perspective, a new paradigm, rather than recreating the same problems by thinking and acting in the same way.

Emergence takes us into new, co-creative space.

When we connect to the non-hiearchical patterns we find in nature, when we step outside our habitual human hubris and acknowledge what we don’t know, and when we listen deeply to the interrelated ‘field’ we live in, subtle, important change can happen.

It can take us beyond our fixed and limited ideas and allow a life-force into the space that can reorganize our reality in new, sustainable ways.

Fundamentalism and barren secularism sometimes seem to trap us a world where meaning is being eroded and we are fast becoming spiritually bankrupt. The world of faith and practice needs to find ways out of the trap.

As spiritual people, these new tools ask us to surrender into the deeper trust of ‘interbeing,’ that is, supporting people to collaborate across our differences for the good of the whole. My hope for the interfaith world is that we allow ourselves to open up more deeply, be reorganised according to a greater will, and be shepherds of the new.

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Evolutionary Activism

by Terry Patten -

At the Integral Theory Conference a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel on Integral Politics.

During the discussion, I found myself outlining a 3-part strategy for evolutionary activism—using the metaphor of Bodhidharma, the bushy-eyebrowed sage who is said to have brought Buddhism to China from India and to have founded Chinese martial arts at the Shaolin Temple.

The question I was addressing was: 
How can conscious citizens effectively help bring about a positive future in the face of our current crises and stuckness? Do we have a workable strategy?
According to ancient legends, certain Emperors of China ruled wisely and well, guided by the advice of great sages—including Lao Tzu, Confucius and perhaps also Bodhidharma.

A Bodhidharma Strategy

Such stories suggest a broad approach that evolutionaries can adopt:

  • Become Bodhidharma.
  • Help create enlightened sustainable solutions— ‘spare parts’ for 4-quadrant systems redesign.
  • Gain the ear of the Emperor.

Okay, let’s unpack that a little. First, some meta-context:

Evolutionary Urgency, “Pre” and “Trans”

One of the problems with conventional political activism is that it can be so painfully egoic. Egos commonly experience anxiety, and on that basis they feel an urgency to take action. But anxiety-based activism tends to recreate the disharmony that motivates it. 

If you’ve ever volunteered in a political campaign or for a political cause, you’ve probably come across the incredible narrowing of vision—and often the incredible lack of understanding or compassion for the “other side”—that accompanies these efforts, even if the candidate or cause is otherwise just. 

That anxious urgency frequently leads to unnecessary conflict, emotional burnout and even a disaffected cynicism that gives up on the very possibility of meaningful change.

Spiritual development awakens people beyond such urgency, conferring a great sense of relief as we recognize, deeply and truly, that everything, in a real sense, is perfect just as it is. 

Since ultimately, everything is Spirit or God, nothing really needs be done. “Non-effort,” or simply practicing a peaceful attitude in everyday life, is held up as the ideal. And this is a valuable and legitimate way of being, as far as it goes.

But the process of spiritual development doesn’t end there. 

It then awakens us beyond mere contentment and freedom from dilemma. It liberates us into a profound enlightened commitment to serve, a passionate participation in life that is capable of great urgency—a trans-enlightened urgency altogether different from the ­pre-­enlightened egocentric, dilemma-based urgency with which we began.

Our Evolutionary Dilemma

The very idea of a strategy for evolutionary activism may appear naïve, grandiose—or even dangerous, considering how frequently such grand idealistic aspirations have fed totalitarianism. 

Nonetheless, the continued survival and evolution of human culture may now depend upon us making a critical transition to sustainability—one that’s not spontaneously emerging via the market’s invisible hand, nor the wise decision-making of our economic and political elites. 

 The hardwired motivations of “the selfish gene” aren’t designed to meet threats like the depletion of fresh water aquifers, the resolution of culture wars or global warming. And the transition before us requires evolved leadership and an organizing rationale.

Therefore, responsible citizens need a credible strategy for enlightened action. 

In most of the world, and egregiously in the United States, vested interests and political parties are locked in zero-sum power struggles between traditional, modern and postmodern value structures. To resist the abuses of one inadequate approach often seems impossible except by contributing to another.

During the George W. Bush presidency, for example, I repeatedly found myself stirred to political action only to the déjà vu experience of my voice being drowned out by the roar of disappointing “progressive” (postmodern leftist) rhetoric. Resistance often seemed futile.

Efforts to enact enlightened reforms are necessary and laudable—but often extremely frustrating. 

To enact an integral evolutionary commitment we need a vision of how we can get past (or around) the current political and cultural stuckness that seems to make adequate responses to escalating crises impossible.

A “Soft Landing” for our Overheated Global Culture.

What’s the evolutionary objective for our activism? 

I suggest that THE political issue of our time is doing what we can to create a path to sustainability with minimal catastrophic disruptions. 

We should focus on optimizing global human culture’s passage through an epochal adaptive transition.

Since our current social patterns and habits are overheated and unsustainable, the goal is to transition as quickly as possible to more sustainable modes of living, while minimizing traumatic disruptions—it’s especially important not to trigger cultural regression (small or large “dark ages”).

Preparation is everything. 

Realistically, most well-informed observers believe that big disruptions are probably inevitable — huge shocks, disasters, and crises seem not only likely but maybe even necessary to catalyze the political will for us to change human choices and behavior. 

The “silver lining” is that these crises will punctuate our current deadlock and stuckness. Each will present “windows of opportunity” for more fundamental systems redesign.

In October 2008, Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke, facing a liquidity crisis that threatened a meltdown of the world financial system, had an opportunity to consider heretofore unthinkable policy moves — even nationalizing the nation’s biggest banks. But they had to act fast.

That’s the way it is when a crisis hits. 

All of a sudden, huge changes are possible but urgency and fear are off-the-charts and there’s little time or bandwidth for deliberation.

What if, among Paulson’s and Bernanke’s circles of respected advisers, there had been a network of enlightened thinkers who had already thought long and hard about these issues? 

What if they had written white papers describing the kinds of solutions that could be considered, and what if they had thought deeply not just about how to successfully address the short-term crisis — but how to do it wisely, with a view toward long-term transformation?

What if, using grounded, well-informed, complex, nuanced, higher vision-logic, they had looked for solutions based on the following key criteria?


  • Seek policy solutions that would gradually move the US and world financial systems—at least incrementally—toward sustainability, increasing the likelihood of smoother transitions.
  • Avoid approaches that would merely delay key moments-of-reckoning, increasing the likelihood or inevitability of more disruptive adjustments.
  • Do so in a way that’s politically feasible given the current climate, but also pushes the body politic (and media) to grow in its capacity for more profoundly sustainable approaches to our most challenging problems.

With all that context and meta-context on the table now, let’s unpack the simple 3-part summary of the strategy outlined at the beginning of this post.


1. Become “Bodhidharma”. 
Practice, grow, evolve, mature into the deepest, clearest, most powerful, authentically wise, trustworthy, skillful and persuasive human being you can be. 
This is the essential foundation and it will last all of our lifetimes. 
Part of that life of practice take place in relationship to others. Help to co-create a wiser integral evolutionary culture—a conscious community of practice and civic responsibility. To paraphrase Thich Nhat Hanh, the next Buddha—or Bodhidharma—may be a Sangha. This, too, is an essential foundation. 
Notice, it is not necessary to be Bodhidharma or “radically enlightened” but only to be authentically aligned with and engaged in the process of becoming that kind of being. 
2. Help create enlightened sustainable solutions— 
‘Spare parts’ for 4-quadrant systems redesign out of which we can gradually build more sustainable societies and that decision makers can draw upon as elements of responses to crises. 
This step includes a diverse array of “spare parts,” projects relating not only to sustainable energy or land and water use but also to financial and monetary policies, organizational governance, political reforms, as well as clarified higher values, culture and spirituality.
A key point here: Many individuals don’t self-identify as “leaders.” A truly integral evolutionary culture (rather than a merely intellectual movement) can contribute directly or indirectly to the process of developing them, including cultivating qualities of leadership even in individuals who may not be in conventional leadership positions. 
3. Gain “the ear of the Emperor". 
By this I mean, become credible, expert, influential, and powerful in the cultures and institutions with the greatest influence over high-impact decisions (or even moderate-impact decisions—we need engagement across all scales). 
If it’s not your dharma to become a decision-maker, become an advisor, a teacher or influencer of them—or an advisor to such advisors—or just serve such people. 
It may be your path to simply be a deeply conscious human being who helps create an integral evolutionary spiritual culture that nurtures and supports others who do this work. 
In any case, you can live a life that expresses a fierce evolutionary commitment to enable sanity and wisdom to guide human affairs. 


This 3-part strategy is simultaneous, not sequential.

You obviously don’t have to get enlightened before you work on sustainable solutions to practical problems, nor do you have to have enlightened solutions in hand before you gain access to power and influence.

If your intentions and behavior are deeply guided by all 3 of these injunctions, you won’t fall into the errors that have tended to thwart enlightened activism.

Activists generally make two errors: They fail to become deep and wise; and they tend to react against the abuses and errors of the powerful rather than guiding them skillfully. 

On the other hand, those who embrace the spiritual path make their own species of errors: They tend to avoid working “in the trenches” to forge detailed practical sustainable solutions; and they cede power to benighted egos for whom it is the only focus.

For enlightened responsibility to awaken in the human system, a new kind of responsibility must awaken in each of us—in me, and in you. 

We can’t delegate it all to elected officials and CEOs. The process will inevitably be messy and imperfect, so no single strategy sums it all up. 

But these 3 injunctions can guide us to good effect. To reprise them:
  • Become Bodhidharma.
  • Help create enlightened sustainable solutions—‘spare parts’ for 4-quadrant systems redesign.
  • Gain the ear of the Emperor.

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