I could be the poster child for burnout. Every 3-6 months at my job (which is conveniently on a quarter system much like my mood swings) I feel completely and utterly burnt to a crisp.
I think how nice it would be to have a job where you don't have to care about stuff. The receptionist at the Nissan dealership looks so peaceful. The cashier at Target who just does not give a crap. I find myself becoming increasingly jealous of those that simply punch a clock and leave it all behind. Surely I am oversimplifying what these folks do for a living and surely they feel stress or get fed up or envy those that do something that requires passion and not just customer service. But I digress.
Every now and then I feel like I just could not care less. I find myself suddenly at the end of every day thinking, I was just here, on this commute. I just got into bed yesterday and here I am again. What happened to the last 24 hours? Before I know it, it is Friday, and before I know it is Monday. I'm just going through the motions and wishing my life away until my next vacation.
Doing a job like mine, where so much of it is wanting to "change lives" and "make a difference" really grinds you down. Eventually you hit a rut where club members can't seem to get along no matter how many mediations you have, where your staff can't plan a program even though they've done it 50 times, where no one shows up to your dang meetings. And you're like F*CK it! Peace out! I don't CARE. I am all out of f*cks to give! If you don't care, then neither do I!
You find yourself unable to be creative, come up with an inspiring new idea, or simply get through the day without rolling your eyes. You question why you got into this field and what you did to deserve all of this frustration.
It's a sad place to be.
Then, something breaks - you have a great program, people praise you excessively for minimal effort, or you get to go to a sunny island for a week. You come back and you are ready to change the world.
I read this article on EverydayFeminism.com about Burn-Out Prevention and Intervention and it quotes Audre Lorde, who wrote in 1988, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Here is another great article about Self Care for "Type A Productivity Monsters"
The first step to fighting burnout is being aware that it's happening to you. I've learned that admitting when you are in over your head and asking for help is vital. I've learned that not taking things personally, realizing that the work will be there tomorrow, and the importance of stepping away for lunch, a break or leaving on time makes a world of difference. These are all little things you can do to practice self-care on a regular basis to avoid getting back to that place of despair and hopelessness.
I actually find that I care a little less than I used to - I still care a great deal, but not to the point where the caring and worrying and anxiety consume me. The perfectionism has waned. It is more important to focus on the process of the work vs. the product or outcome (although they are important as well). I'm not getting paid in commission, I'm getting paid in relationships (and money too obviously, but who works for the money when they work in education anyway?). A relationship that leads to a student learning a new skill, a student taking a risk and testing himself, a student graduating. Looking at the big picture vs. the day to day helps ground and focus me. Instead of fretting about my 50 to-do list items I think about how these little tasks fit in to my overall goal. If one of them is not meeting the overall purpose, I put it to the side for later. Setting priorities and sticking to them is helpful.
Burning out can also stem from a feeling of powerlessness, like I described earlier. Like no matter how much you do it won't make a difference. Guess what: it will. The work will never stop coming, and the only reward for a job well done is more work. But you can focus on the positive and what you are ultimately working towards. And that makes all the difference.
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I am a tech pro, blogger, DIY'er, reader, TV binger, music lover, nerd and semi-crunchy mom. I write about professional development, being crafty, motherhood and politics. Thanks for joining me and letting me share my thoughts with you!