It is becoming increasingly recognized that Western culture tends to parade and esteem those who are busy. Come on, let’s be real. Don’t you want an extra badge of honor when you talk about working 60 hours a week on your job and then going home to run your kids to activities and events all over creation, clean your entire house, make homemade treats for the potluck, listen to your best friend’s woes, and still have that perfectly filtered “#Iwokeuplikethis” picture on social media? It’s no wonder we are burned out!
You may assume that because of the type of work you do, you can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t get burned out. You may also assume you were trained or built to go at breakneck speed. These are myths. When your job gifts you with so much responsibility and influence, there may be seasons in life when that approach works or is even necessary. However, if you examine your life over the past several months/years and realize you have consistently had a chaotic schedule, unexplained moods, and poor quality relationships, then perhaps this is more than just a season…it’s become a lifestyle.
Burnout is a term coined by psychologist, Herbert J. Freudenberger in the 1970s. He defined it as the "extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.” If you are unsure whether you are burned out, reflect on these questions:
- Have you felt unmotivated or disinterested in your work for more than a short span of time?
- Do you notice you are not as satisfied with doing the tasks you once enjoyed?
- Do you lack empathy or the drive to go the extra mile?
- Are you isolating yourself more and more from your employees or coworkers?
- Do you seem more irritated and angry on the job?
- Have others noticed the change in your attitude or quality of your work?
If these questions are consistently true for you over a period of time, then maybe you are experiencing burnout. Feeling burned out means it is time to address your unmet needs. Consider the following tips:
- Go back to the drawing board and recall your passion and reason for doing the work you love.
- Make a list of all your commitments.
- Examine whether you are genuinely passionate about the tasks on your lists or whether you have agreed to take on some tasks because you’re afraid to say ‘no’, want validation from others, or pursuing some other short-lived, unfulfilling outcome.
- Are you engaged in the tasks on your list because you want to avoid dealing with the real issue (e.g. loneliness, disappointment, grief, depression, failed marriage etc.)?
- Nurture your personal relationships. You may have to sacrifice some time on the job to maintain or restore the quality of your personal relationships.
- Fully refresh yourself. Your career is only one aspect of your life. Take some time to care for your body, mind, and spirit, too. Here are some ideas to get your thoughts flowing:
- Pray, meditate, exercise, go to therapy, listen to music, read a non-required book, listen to an uplifting podcast, visit a museum, plan a vacation/staycation, watch a movie, get a massage, take a long drive, prepare a meal, visit your favorite restaurant, go to the lake…
I hope you rekindle your fire soon!
~Dr. Q. Perry