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The Tiger Is Always Coming

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Sun May 19 2024

The Tiger Is Always Coming
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Your body must differentiate between a tiger and a printer.

Living a stress-free life is not only physiologically impossible, as Kristen Donnelly points out, stress can protect you from tigers.

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“You want stress in your life because your body needs to tell you if there’s a tiger coming because that’s part of stress,” Donnelly says, referring to human biology. “Now, our bodies don’t know the difference between a tiger and a jammed printer, so we’ve got to work on this a little bit.”

But there’s a difference between stress and burnout. Burnout, Donnelly says, is your mind’s and body’s response to being stuck in a state of high stress.

“Essentially, the tiger is always coming,” she notes, “whether the tiger is there or not.”

Donnelly, a trained sociologist and founder and president of Abbey Research, began her ATD24 session with a brief history lesson on the Puritans and how, somehow, people in the US largely continue to live by these Puritanical philosophies: working hard means you’re a good person; hard work means doing it by yourself; and sleep is for when you die.

“America is a culture of burnout,” Donnelly explains. “And by that, we mean a culture that values burnout.”

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Despite the culture the US has cultivated in the centuries since the Puritans began establishing that mindset, every individual has a personal responsibility not to give in to burnout.

To do that, Donnelly and Abbey Research Vice President Erin Hinson established the four Rs of burnout mitigation:

  • Rest is a traditional method of trying to get more sleep.

  • Rejuvenation means embracing the fun and joyous things in life.

  • Realignment means remembering who you are and that you are important.

  • Reconnection is about knowing who in your life keeps you centered.

“There’s more parts to us than just our bodies,” Donnelly states. “And there’s more answers to burnout than, ‘Take a vacation.’ You need to be happy. Joy is a non-negotiable part of the human existence. I promise.”

Donnelly concludes the session by reminding everyone in the room that they do a great job, regardless of how overwhelmed they may feel.

“You’re showing up every day at work to make people better people,” Donnelly says. “That’s a rare and special instinct that you all have.”

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