Inspiring Conversations

Burn Out, Baby

  • SumoMe

If you’re constantly fatigued and ill, have lost interest in a job you used to love and feel stressed and frustrated, you’re probably overworked and experiencing burnout. How can you get over it?

An article by Penny V

OverworkedYou’re only in your mid-twenties and yet, you already look and feel like you are 35 with your dark eye rings, haggard appearance and constant fatigue. It’s all due to the fact that you’re constantly putting in 12-hour days (or more) and see no appreciation or reward, you’re starting to hate what you do and the repetition is starting to drive you crazy.

Waking up in the mornings never used to be this difficult. You my friend are on the road to burnout. I was in that exact position a year ago, working 7-days a week for a company that was taking advantage of my skill sets and paying me a salary that was laughable. I still wonder why I put myself through that misery and I remember that it was because I liked what I did.

I liked working with young people and being surrounded by performing arts. Also there was some level of flexibility and as I was an island in my own department (read: only me) I got to make a lot of the decisions. While I have no regrets, burnout did eventually come to hunt me down.

I was tired all the time, as I would stay in the office past midnight and fell sick often. Even being sick didn’t stop me from going back to finish up more work. It felt very much like I was backed into a corner and could not find a way out of that particular hell-hole. You might be feeling the same way too. That if I can’t keep up with the work, I might lose my job. Especially in this economy, everybody is working even much harder to keep jobs that are not worth fighting for any longer. It’s even worse when you see someone working less and still moving up the career ladder with fat bonuses in tow.

Where I once enjoyed my work, I began to despise it and found that my fatigue and frustration was replacing my drive and ambition.

Then again there’s another side of the coin. Some of us work because we love what we do, or we have that inner drive to just finish that last bit, even if we have to stay back a little later in the office. Cheryl W.* is only 23-years old was an advertising executive. She loved what she did so much that she was willing to put in the extra hours to get things done.

OverworkedUnfortunately, a year of unhealthy diets, being on call 24/7 and the perpetual late nights caught up to her and she was soon losing her passion; the perpetual basket of ideas she used to have hit rock-bottom. She stopped picking up calls, let her work spill over and soon couldn’t even find the energy to get out of bed.

Cheryl had hit a definitive wall that she couldn’t break through – much like how runners in a marathon who can’t seem to break through that last stretch to get to the finish line. She did what she only knew she could do: Quit. Much like what I did, after 2 years of slaving away.

Change seemed like the only possible solution. I didn’t want to wait for a new job to come in and subsisted on my small pile of savings and freelance work. I wanted to be free and took a break from the world of bosses and deadlines. It was the best thing I could do.

My body knowing I could finally rest decided to purge whatever internal viruses I had and I was sick for 2 straight weeks. Once I cleared my sleep debt, got sufficient rest and recuperated I felt like a new person. I was refreshed and I could think freely without feeling anxiety.

The time off benefitted me exponentially. My passion was re-instilled, I had fresh ideas and perspectives and I took on freelance work to further stimulate it – within my own time frame of course. It was stimulating and absolutely free-ing. I’m now back on my feet and refusing to work the way I used to, because I was neglecting myself, friends, family and most of all – life.

Cheryl on the other hand, could not afford that same luxury as she had definitive plans and goals. Taking a long break wasn’t one of them. 2 weeks was more than sufficient. With the economy the way it is, that might not be a good option either.

So she set herself some good ground rules that might be helpful to you as well

–       Don’t check your e-mail before or after office hours. If it was urgent they would have called and not bothered with an e-mail. That means get to it only while at the office.

–       That also means don’t take work home with you!

–       Being on call 24/7 is NOT an option – unless you’re working for the government, then I can’t help you there. But if it is entirely necessary, set limits to when you are available and when you are not. After 9pm it’s your choice whether to pick up that call or not and on the weekends, the office does not exist. If work is a little bit more sensitive, talk to your boss about when you are always available and times when you aren’t.

–       At the end of the day, putting in the extra hours is also your choice. Your choice in the matter to say that this is enough, work can wait till tomorrow. If not, once that project ends, escape the office for a getaway to some tranquil resort.

–       Leave work on time, if you have to work late, keep it to a 2-day minimum. If this doesn’t apply, then working late must have already been in the job description and you just might have to re-think what industry you’re in or find a different company to work in.

–       Delegate your work or if you don’t have a team and it’s only you, prioritise your work and don’t sweat the small stuff.

–       If all else fails and you’re working for a company like France Telecom, where there were 24 suicides that happened at work and because of work, you know it’s time to hightail it out of there.

My advice? Take some time off. One of my favourite artists, Stefan Sagmeister recently gave a talk on the benefits of taking time off. View the clip here:

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