Beat Burnout Today
When I was in my early twenties, I accepted a position at a group home for teenagers who were wards of the state. I enjoyed the work and saw promise and potential in the kids immediately. They had been dealt a most rotten hand in life and their behavior only reflected the traumatic early start they’d endured.
After a few weeks, I had bonded with the children and felt welcome by the team, but was constantly reminded that I had not finished college. I had no chance of promotion or other work that would help me make a decent wage or offer me professional challenge.
A few months in and we became so short staffed, I was constantly called in to work on my days off. I began to feel like life was somewhere far away. All I knew was night shifts followed by awkward sleep and back to another shift where kids sometimes attacked staff and each other. I had to be on guard constantly and run a tight unit to prevent trouble. Staying alert to threats nonstop had begun to wear on me to the point that I had developed a tightness in my chest and headaches. Drained of energy, I faced each day wondering how I could manage to go on like that. After nine months, I snapped. I gave my notice and left town to go back to college.
Burnout is described as emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion due to ongoing stress. The extenuating factors that draw a person into burnout are the ones I remember experiencing first hand. That trapped sensation can feel like the life is being squeezed right out of you. I couldn’t work my way up or escape the thought of work everywhere I turned.
It was hard to see progress in the kids and I felt as if I didn’t have a say in my schedule or our working conditions. That constant worry of having to protect the kids from one another and myself held me captive in a constant state of worry.
I’m the first to admit that job is not for the sensitive or anxious type and I know a different type of person would thrive in that position. But it did teach me a great deal and fueled my ambition to return to school.
Burnout is an experience that can seep into our lives temporarily or can be our companion long-term.
During the past year or so, working conditions have divided into two camps. Many individuals have worked to that point of exhaustion under the cloud of worry and anxiety while others have been underemployed or unemployed.
The medical field, educators, and hundreds of us deemed as essential workers (we are all essential as humans) have soldered on somehow, keeping us afloat. It takes all of us in communities giving our best every day to make this world work.
If you have experienced that choke of dread going to work or feel that you are not in control of your future, you may need to examine your circumstances.
Knowing something is temporary is a way we can cope with bleak situations for a while. But when it grinds on and on or you feel trapped indefinitely, you need to rethink circumstances for your own sake.
Some possible avenues of dealing with burnout may save your health and contribute to your level of fulfillment in life. Although no job is going to be perfectly balanced in terms of challenge and workload at all times, if you unable to adjust to the demands and see a mismatch in your demeanor and work expectations, you may want to consider how to find a more suitable position. That’s exactly what I did and love my work today.
Other methods of coping include setting boundaries. You may be allowing yourself to be trampled on and simply need to stand up for yourself as I should have done back then.
Making sure you have breaks you can look forward to and other interests to lift your spirits and most importantly, define who you really are. Developing a passion for something like a sport or creative pursuit helps balance the demands for our energy. If you have a physically demanding job, try cultivating a more relaxed set of interests such as gardening, joining a book club, or writing.
If you feel discouraged at work try speaking to someone you trust about how you could gain more control of your environment or manage your tasks in chunks that are more manageable. If you are working your way to a more desirable position, keep your goal visible and employ stress relief strategies to keep your mind and body healthy. Journaling, speaking to a therapist, treating yourself to a spa or bouquet of flowers, or spending time in nature are a few ideas.
Burnout is a real thing that can threaten your livelihood. Don’t let it steal your joy. I encourage you to seek a solution today.