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Three Sly Energy Swipers Leading to Burnout

When my niece was young, one of her favorite shows was Dora the Explorer, a cartoon about a seven year-old Latina girl who loved to adventure. Each episode, Dora would go off on a quest, encountering challenges and problems to solve along the way. Unfailingly, she would encounter the sly fox, Swiper, that would attempt to steal an essential tool she needed to succeed in her journey. “Swiper, no swiping!” (shouted three times!) was the secret way to fend him off.

When I work with clients and trainees on building a career of passion and purpose, a key manifestation strategy and essential tool for their adventure is robust energy. You must protect your oomph with intentional self-care practices because there are many sly Energy Swipers on the loose:

Energy Swiper #1: Judgement
Judging your needs as good or bad.

Common phrases I hear in coaching:

  • “I shouldn't be exhausted, I'm only...”

  • “This other person is doing so much more than me, I can't be tired.”

  • “All I did this week was ______, it's stupid how drained I am.”

I often pause clients on these phrases and ask:

“If you were to not judge your feelings and needs as good or bad, what would you give yourself?”

When we feel cold or flu symptoms, our automatic response is: “What medicine will make me feel better?” Yet, when we feel self-care symptoms, we often begin to judge and lean into shame. When we judge feelings or needs as bad, we don't give ourselves permission to pursue appropriate relief and leave our needs unaddressed. Leaving needs unaddressed is a residual energy drain leading to chronic burnout.

Three steps to protect from the judgement energy swiper:

  • Name: Identify your feelings. Check out this emotion wheel.

  • Reflect: What is this feeling trying to tell me about what I need?

  • Act: What tangible action can I take to remedy my need?

Energy Swiper #2: Mindset
Believing your needs are selfish.

Your self-care is a force for the greater good. Working, working, working without resting and refueling will lead to burnout. Burnout doesn't create impact. Your work needs you to be your most energized self, not your most depleted self. To achieve this, you must have the mindset that your self-care is not extra, it is essential. Yet, what I observe in clients and trainees is this quiet undertone or small voice in their heads that says self-care is selfish.

You are your life's most valuable asset. You are your work's most valuable resource. It is not selfish to take care of YOU.

Three steps to protect from the mindset energy swiper:

  • Write a new mantra for yourself: self-care is not selfish, self-care is _____ (fill in the blank).

  • Reflect daily: What would feel like a luxury today?

  • Act: Give yourself that luxury.

Energy Swiper #3: Attachment
Tethering self-worth to productivity and achievement.

What this looks like:

  1. You never break because it's not "productive."

  2. You turn self-care into a form of achievement.

For example, if you can't attend a cycling class without being first place on the leader board (guilty 😬), or you can't go to bed without completing every last item on your to-do list, I'd challenge you to look at your self-compassion practices. Maybe that is one root cause of feeling chronically drained and fatigued.

True self-care requires self-kindness, self-acceptance and a sense of non-attachment. You are only human. Which means, it may benefit your energy to be okay with second (or 10th) place every now and again. Constantly berating yourself to win or be perfect at everything you do stems from a deep-seated inner critic. When misplaced, this constant attachment to achievement and productivity leaks valuable energy that would be best used elsewhere.

What if “winning” at times meant choosing self-acceptance and trusting your worthiness without the external validation?

Don't get me wrong: competition and productivity goals can be amazing motivators a lot of the time. But, when you're cranky, exhausted, walking like you just rode a horse and still insist on doing your seventh workout this week to “win” your workout tracker's approval (guilty again 😬)… it gets in the way of true self-care and creates a residual energy drain. Letting go of attachments not serving you is a powerful energy conservation strategy.

Three reflections to protect from the attachment energy swiper:

  • When/where appropriate, do I have the courage to let go of “winning” for the sake of using my energy more mindfully?

  • When/where does a competitive approach serve me/not serve me?

  • What on my to-do list can sincerely wait (or be discarded entirely)?

In summary:

The people in your life need you to be your best self. You are worthy of the care, kindness and personal luxuries to get yourself there. The world needs you to be your most energized self, not your most depleted self.

Rooting for you, always.


P.S. I have a new workshop for teams entitled “Navigating Burnout: Resilience Through Community, Connection and Care.” I would love to bring this training to your company in order to share essential support strategies for others and yourself. Book your free consult to learn more here:

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