As I near the end of another assignment, I anticipate a sense of monumental relief. I also feel that I deserve to give myself a reward of some sort to avoid moving too quickly on to the next project without taking a moment to celebrate. Suddenly, I realize not paying enough attention to my accomplishments has silently, yet furiously contributed to my feelings of burnout.
Somehow, checking this project off my to-do list doesn't feel like enough of an acknowledgement that I have just finished editing an entire book! The fact that it’s someone else’s book means my job ends here and there are no residual rewards to look forward to. Still, another big thing is finished and I can move on to the next big thing. But I know what should be a celebration of completion will be little more than a breath of relief and a momentary lapse in the anxiety that goes with having a deadline of unfinished work looming large.
But then I have to ask myself; does a hair stylist celebrate every haircut? Does a mechanic rejoice after every successful oil change? I know it may not be practical, but perhaps they should, if only to rejuvenate and avoid resenting the next head of hair or malfunctioning vehicle that cross their paths.
But it doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with books, cars or hair---burnout syndrome, at some point, is inevitable. It’s just a matter of time before you experience it and must attack it stop it from attacking you.
Psychological Science.org confirms that stress is an inevitable part of every work experience. For instance, the hair stylist may have to deal with difficult people. She stands on her feet all day and works long hours. Her own hair may need doing and the time never seems to come. The mechanic is physically challenged, fatigued and overworked as well. The trouble with machines isn’t always transparent. The bottom line is working for a living isn’t easy. No matter what your profession looks like from a distance, it is likely the same on a molecular level.
PsychCentral.com cites The Power of Slow; 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World by Christine Louise Hohlbaum, who says, “Burnout is a ‘silent condition’ induced by chronic stress that is characterized by emotional (or) physical exhaustion, cynicism and lack of professional efficacy.”
And sometimes it’s not silent at all. Have you called yourself lazy? Have you felt that you must lack direction? Or that you’re choosing to be unproductive out of some sort of self-destruction? It’s important to acknowledge the problem without self-blame. You’re human. You’ve been working hard and need a break. It can be that simple. The trouble is, there’s often no break in sight. You might even have returned from a long weekend or vacation feeling the same as when you left: Uninspired! Here are some ways to address these very natural feelings that you have my permission to stop hating yourself for right now.
- Change either your mind or your situation. Perhaps there are adjustments that can be made, either major or minor, that have the potential to change your mind about your work. There’s a reason you’ve arrived at these feelings. What is it? What about it can be avoided in the future? Maybe you’ve taken too much on. Maybe you’ve steered away from your passion in a direction that’s not setting you on fire and creating that burning need to get to work. Whatever it is, take a hard look at it and either change your mind about it, or change your situation.
- Make time for yourself. Sometimes it’s a simple fix that can make all the difference. If your hard work doesn’t inspire the same sense of satisfaction it once did, perhaps the reward of payment or accomplishment isn’t enough. Rather than waiting for someone else to pat you on the back, figure out how to do it for yourself. Set time aside to do things that will help you refuel, recharge, and refocus. Only you know what that might be.
- Get help. There’s a time for a self-fix and there’s a time to ask for help. Counseling may be just the thing to get you out of the rut you’re in and into a position of empowerment. Mindfulness is a necessary coping mechanism. If you don’t know it, make it your business to get to know the art of living in the moment. Only then can you understand the trouble and pinpoint the solution. Sometimes you have the solution but feel unsure about how to make it come alive. Either way, an experienced professional can help sort out the details. Be open, honest and ready to admit that some level of change could be a life-saver.