Burnout is real. This is my story and I survived.
Ten years I ago I didn’t believe burnout was real. In fact, I didn’t even think about burnout. Sure, I heard people use it, but it was just another business buzzword that got tossed around ever so often. It was something I was taught to fear, but I never learned how to protect myself from it. Now, let’s talk about how it happened and how to avoid burnout.
Here’s My Story
For 14 years I worked for a boutique advertising firm. My first job out of college. I was the fifth employee hired and part of an entrepreneurial dream. For much of that time it was motivating and inspiring to know our little firm was breaking the mold. It was a great place to work. We were doing great work. My co-workers had become my family.
And then over time, my life shifted. My priorities changed. I got married, had kids. Some of the highest points in my life I will ever experience. I also experienced great loss. In the time-span of two years I lost both my brother and my Dad. This was a confusing and emotional time personally and there’s no doubt that these changes and experiences had an impact on my professional life as well. I felt devoted to my company and stuck all at once. Work became less fun and more of a burden as family responsibilities quickly took over. Tasks I used to find interesting and challenging soon became something I loathed.
I stayed too long. I loved my work family. I was comfortable. That’s when burnout crept in. When I packed up my office when I finally left, I went through stacks and stacks of paper that essentially became the historical time tracker of when my burnout began. Two years. That’s how long I suffered. It was all consuming and felt like a weight I carried around all of the time. Towards the end I thought burnout was going to get the best of me. I found myself making small, careless mistakes no matter how careful I was. Though I tried to hide it, and I think I did pretty well, I was miserable.
One thing I am thankful for is the support of my bosses through it all. We had very honest conversations. They knew where I stood and they were patient and kind even when it was messy. Over the two years of burnout I slowly began applying for jobs. It was grueling and frustrating. But there is one thing I did right. I only applied for jobs that I really wanted and that would truly benefit me and my family. I wasn’t interested in a lateral move. And sure enough, the right job finally came around.
I’m a big believer in God’s timing so I can’t imagine my professional story playing out any other way. But, now I know: burnout is real. I think short bouts of burnout are a normal part of life, but when it’s all consuming something has got to give. Moving forward, here is how I am protecting myself from the BIG burnout.
How to Avoid Burnout
- Making new habits. Out with the old, in with the new. Old rhythms and patterns that weren’t serving me are being replaced with new one. This is definitely a process. As they say, bad habits die hard.
- Slowing down. I find myself breathing a little more. I am trying to soak in the time I have at my new position as a newbie. This is hard for me because I am easily excited, especially by new things and new opportunities, but it’s needed.
- Finding joy again. In the burnout I forgot the things I loved about my job. I started to believe I was losing my touch. This new path is giving me a chance to reinvent myself and at the same time find joy in my work.
- Building boundaries. This one is tough. I am a people pleaser by nature. But it has to be done.
- Scheduling myself into my calendar. This is a dream. Why did I wait so long? I am giving myself the time to do the work that needs to be done and it feels so good.
- Continuing my passion projects. I love writing. It’s this blog that pulled me through much of this year. It reignited a fire in me, or perhaps added fuel to a fire that was burning out.