Dealing With Professional Burnout
How to prevent professional burnout and deal with it at work, relationships, and life in general.
If you have found yourself dreading going to the office, if you might describe yourself as "having a short fuse", if you feel an exhaustion that defies description, if you feel bored to tears, if you find that one day is so much like another that they all seem blurry...you might be suffering from burnout.
Burnout has been described in more recent years as "compassion fatigue." This is a somewhat fancy phrase for feeling that you don't care, that life is too much, that you don't have the energy to confront your next task.
When you are approaching the state of burnout, you might find that you are exhibiting the above and the following symptoms:
**Nothing seems to matter very much.
**You are bored.
**You don't want to listen to another person, attend another meeting, fly off to yet another conference. Things seem stale, so what is the point of more discussion, you may ask yourself.
**It feels as if you are in an endless tunnel, performing the same tasks over and over, that there is no reason for what you do nor no end in sight.
**It feels hard to care about anything or anyone.
**You have low energy or headaches or trouble sleeping or find yourself sleeping too much or suffering from stomach upsets.
**You feel listless, apathetic, worn out, lifeless.
**Your mind wanders from the task at hand.
**You do a lot of daydreaming, always seeing yourself in a setting different from reality.
**You have a "short fuse", i.e. are easily irritated.
**You feel angry.
**You feel resentful.
**You feel unappreciated.
**You are restless.
**You dread each new day.
**You don't want to see your friends or go to work or even get out of bed.
**In your head a little voice constantly asks questions like: "does this matter?....who cares?...what is the meaning of this?...why am I here?...will anything ever change?
You've probably gotten the idea by now that these are the signs and symptoms of a person suffering from burnout. And suffering is the right word. You don't want to be in this state, you feel miserable, but you don't seem to have either the knowledge or the energy to pull yourself out of the state you find yourself in.
How did this happen? Some of the reasons for burnout occurring are:
**You give more to others than to yourself.
**Your life is out-of-balance.
**You don't play enough.
**You don't know yourself well enough to know what "recharges your batteries" or you do know yourself, but you don't do the good things that will provide emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical refreshing and renewal.
**You tell yourself that you'll make time for pleasure, but keep putting it off.
**You let things keep building up inside you, rather than "nipping it in the bud." In other words, you see the signs of total exhaustion appearing, but you do nothing to pull back and give yourself the care you need.
**You may have a boss, a friend, or a mate who doesn't express appreciation and you don't know how to give yourself the "strokes" we all need.
**You have an addiction to work or to another person.
**You feel that you are indispensable.
**You have trouble delegating to others; rather, you are fixated on the motto, "If you want something done right, do it yourself."
**You are a person who is overly-responsible.
**You have difficulty relaxing and having fun.
**You have inordinate loyalty, even in the face of evidence that says that loyalty is undeserved.
These are some of the reasons we find ourselves in that pitiable state called "burnout" or "compassion fatigue." If you are "burned out", what can be done about it?
First, try to prevent it from happening or becoming full-blown. To do this, learn who you are, what makes you tick, what your needs are, and accept responsibility for meeting those needs.
If you see any of the above signs occurring, stop, take stock, do something about it. Take a mental health day, use a vacation day, do something for you that you know will provide renewal, refreshment for body and soul. Learn to delegate. Challenge yourself as to just how indispensable you are. Learn to live in the day and the moment. Anticipate disaster and do what you can to prevent it happening. If you are not in a situation or relationship in which there is reciprocity, ask yourself why you tolerate this.
Talk to yourself in your mind and tell yourself that you are worth taking care of. Remind yourself that a dry well has no nourishment for self and others. Learn what works for you, which may be very different from what works for the person in the next cubicle or your best friend. If you need more sleep, need to walk on the beach, need to read a novel, make it happen. Challenge yourself by taking a good look at your job and your relationships. Are you playing the martyr? If so, why? What is your reward for doing so? Do you want to keep on doing this?
Ask yourself if you've been on the same job too long? Are there still challenging goals ahead of you, ones that interest you and provide a zestful energy to tackle? Could you need to move on to another career or job? Do you need to make new friends, try something fun that you've never done before?
If you are in a full-blown state of burnout, you probably need to take some concentrated period of time off from work and possibly create a change of scenery for yourself. If you're tired at the mere thought of playing bridge with the same people, try canasta. If you and your mate are stuck in predictable ruts, get creative about what you can do to liven things up. Take a ballroom dancing class, make a trip down the Nile, do some volunteer work, learn a new skill, discuss a different topic.
Remember that it is your life, your one and only life, and you must accept responsibility for it.
There are always at least three options in any given situation, so make yourself think of what your options are, consider them carefully, then take some action. Spice up your life. Create a new way of being. Make taking care of yourself a top priority. Don't accept the status quo out of apathy.
There is no reason to burnout on life, work, relationships. The key is to be in tune with who you are and what your needs are and accept responsibility for the meeting of those needs.