a look at burn out through the lens of traditional chinese medicine

preserving the vital energy stored up inside of us

I’ve spent the last two years working 11-hour work days in a high stress, highly emotional work environment. Last week I left my job and finally adhered to my body’s pleads to make room for rejuvenation. It was in burn out.

Ever heard of Jing? Right. Me neither.

From my readings, my favorite description regarding the relevance of Jing in our lives, comes from The Well Life written by Briana and Dr. Peter Borton. This is what they say:

Traditional Chinese Medicine describes Jing as the life potential stored up inside each of us. When we live our life in a way that creates a deficit of Jing, we begin to see the effects of aging. We begin to lose the vitality that makes us feel fully alive.

Each person has two types of Jing they are pulling from  Acquired Jing and Inherited Jing. Acquired Jing is what you accumulate on a daily basis through proper nutrition, quality sleep, loving relationships, etc. Inherited Jing is the Jing you are born with. This Jing is finite. You only have a certain amount and when it runs out (if you’re not sleeping, eating, interacting in a way that supports the necessary energy needed to live your life) it’s gone. 

So what happens if you burn through your Acquired Jing ? Your body will pull from your Inherited Jing reserve. And this reserve is precious. 

The best way I can describe what it feels like to dip into that Inherited Jing reserve, is that foggy, shaky feeling you have after a night of no sleep, aided by an espresso coffee. Over the last two years, I allowed myself to reach a state where no matter how much sleep I got, I never felt refreshed. I was burning energy (due to stress) faster than I was creating a reserve to pull from. I felt exhausted. I felt unsuccessful. I felt disconnected. I felt unhappy and unfulfilled — which one might describe as a result of my body coping with a loss of precious Inherited Jing. 

Many of us make it a habit of extending ourselves beyond our bodies’ capacity. In a world with frequent high demands, we’ve allowed this to become the status quo, with a great number of individuals becoming chronically ill and overwhelmingly under-fulfilled because of it. But what if we were to pay close attention to the energy we’re giving away (and burning through). This energy is crucial to a full and vital life.

Burn out is detrimental to our wellbeing, but perhaps it’s our body telling us we’re in the precious Jing reserve.

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