Despite my recent attempts to make Mondays better, I still find that I’ve become that person. You know, the one that is constantly counting down the hours until the end of the day, and absolutely counting down the days and hours until Friday.
I hate being that person.
So, how did this happen? I’ve been at my job for 10 months now; is it possible I’m already reached the breaking point? That can’t be… can it?
I’ve been hearing a lot about burnout lately – as in, “Don’t get burnout”, “Churn and burn”, in reference to typical agency life, which makes me feel like this is how it’s supposed to be.
I can say the past few months have been crazy at the office – we’re short on people and high on clients. It’s a tough balance to juggle, especially during the summer months when we all want a vacation.
My friends have asked me if I’m going to start looking for a new job. No, I say, what’s the point? I’ll end up at another office, doing the same thing, and still barely able to drag my ass to the coffee pot each morning. Is this something everyone goes through or am I just someone who really just hates work? Am I Peter Gibbons right now?
Regardless, I could totally go for some shrimp poppers right now, and there’s definitely no “Chotchkie’s” or other TGIFriday’s equivalent nearby.
So, what the hell is burnout – and is that what I’m feeling? I did some Googling to find out how to spot burnout and possibly…how to fix it.
The Mayo Clinic defines burnout as, “a special type of job stress — a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work.” They also offer a survey to determine if you’re suffering from burnout:
- Have you become cynical or critical at work?
- Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
- Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
- Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
- Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
- Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
- Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
- Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
- Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?
The Mayo Clinic says if you answered “yes” to one of those, there’s a chance you’re suffering from burnout. I answered yes to seven. Whoops.
Okay, so I may be suffering from burnout… How do I get over it? Forbes magazine offers some advice:
- Take Relaxation Seriously – Whether you take up meditation, listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk or visiting with friends and family, truly think about what you’ll do to relax, and designate time for it.
- Cultivate a Rich Non-Work Life – Find something outside of work that you are passionate about that’s challenging, engaging and really gets you going—whether a hobby, sports or fitness activities or volunteering in the community.
- Unplug – While communication technology can promote productivity, it can also allow work stressors seep into family time, vacation and social activities. Set boundaries by turning off cell phones at dinner and delegating certain times to check email.
- Get Enough Sleep – Research suggests that having fewer than six hours of sleep per night is a major risk factor for burnout, not least because poor sleep can have negative effects on your job performance and productivity. It can lead to fatigue, decrease your motivation, make you more sensitive to stressful events, impair your mental function, leave you more susceptible to errors and make it harder to juggle competing demands.
- Get Organized – Often, when people are burnt out, they spend a lot of time worrying that they’ll forget to do something or that something important is going to slip through the cracks. Get organized, clear your head, put together a to-do list (or an electronic task list) then prioritize. That way, you don’t have to keep thinking about those things because you’ll have systems in place to remind you.
- Stay Attuned – It’s important to tune into the precursors of those conditions, physical signs that you might be under too much stress: more headaches, tight shoulders, a stiff neck or more frequent stomach upset. In terms of mental health, burnout affects depression, and if you’re depressed, that can also affect your level of burnout—it goes both ways. So, if the issues you’re struggling with are really serious and getting worse, you may need to seek professional help.
- Know When It’s You, and When It’s Them – Burnout is sometimes motivated by internal factors and sometimes it really is a symptom of external ones. In the first case, you’ll need to ask yourself, “Where is this coming from?” so you can figure out what’s stressing you out, and how to maintain your internal resources to keep yourself motivated, doing your best work and functioning well. Some burnout really is the fault of work. To find out whether it’s time to move on, figure out whether your position is a “mismatch between your needs and what you’re getting working for that particular organization.”
I really like the first suggestion on this list about taking relaxation seriously. About two months ago, I vowed to not take work home, whether after hours during the week or on the weekends (provided I was not on any type of deadline with a client).
It was time I take weekends seriously, and get back to doing the things I love, like reading while laying out at the pool, cooking, sleeping in, and binging on tacky TV. And, pestering Blanche, of course.
And since then, I’ve kept true to my word. Honestly, it makes the weekends way better. I still get really sad on Sunday nights, but at least I feel like I’ve got a few days of freedom to do what I want and not worry about things at the office.
The second suggestion, I’ve always been pretty good about getting involved in things that are non-work related. But, recently my motivation has been drained on that front. I still go to dance classes after work, but I never have that stay-up-late drive like I once had.
And I don’t mean stay up to work; I mean stay up to read a great book or to paint my nails, or write fiction stories that no one will ever see… and that’s the thing that’s worrying me the most. Did I lose my hunger?
I’m starting to wonder if any “day job” out there is the one for me, or if I’m just not cut out for it. I’ve tried the freelance thing, and the stress of the constant hustle, sans-insurance, is not my thing either. But is it possible I could get the job I dreamed of – one where I do have steady work, but it’s at home, or in an office that has way less bullshit?
There’s a few projects I’ve been wanting to start regarding this blog, and just writing in general, and I sit in front of the TV every night and thing, “Damn, wish I had the energy to get THAT done…” Well, it’s time to stop thinking and start actually doing – because right now, the only way I’m going to find a lick of happiness in my life is to make small moves, outside the hours of 9-5, like this guy:
It’s a tough juggle, I know. But I don’t know how else I’ll find my way – and get to do what I have always dreamed of doing. So, if you see a bunch of new stuff around these parts, I hope you’ll participate – all we’ve got is each other, and one life to get everything we’ve dreamed of, done.