Burnout, part 2: Fighting Back
There’s very little information out there for people who are feeling that “Yes, that’s me. I’m dead inside. I literally could not care any less than I do about my job right now.” I know this because I was there. Fully burned out. I was like the tiny French fry who gets left in the oil too long and both hollows out and turns to charcoal. And I kept looking for any tips on how to save myself. I’m a social worker, so you’d think I would have been able to find anything about how to help once you realize you’ve reached burnout. But I couldn’t, and I felt tired, alone, angry, and bitter. Thankfully, I’ve moved forward. I’m still putting a few of the pieces together as far as creating a life that nourishes me as well as pays my bills, but I’m getting closer. Here are my takeaways and things I learned that can help while you’re in the middle of burnout.
For the love of all things good and holy, go to therapy. Even if you don’t have any big scary trauma in your past, a therapist can help you to just find ways to feel better in areas you didn’t even realize you didn’t feel good about in the first place. They can help you manage the stress, build more positive emotions, and find healthier thought processes than what you may have going on now. Our corporate sponsor, Forward Counseling, has some amazing options that are accessible whether you have insurance or not. If you’re not ready for therapy but still want to talk through job and career stress with an expert, that’s what we’re here for! Contact us to get started.
Identify your core values and how you are or aren’t honoring them. There are tons of different ways to identify your core values, and none of them are the “right” way to do that. Our personal favorite here at YCSWU is the Barrett Values Centre’s Personal Values Assessment, which you can take here. It even gives you questions to think through and steps to take once you get your results. Our core values are what guide us, inspire us, and help us make decisions in life. If we aren’t honoring the things we value, we are less fulfilled and more at risk of burnout. This type of values self-analysis helps us to identify the areas in our life that we may need to make changes.
Find friends and a support system that both support you and let you vent, but also hold you accountable to taking time for yourself and doing what you need to do to be happier. These friends are the ones who let you cry but then get you off the couch and make you take a shower when you’ve started to just melt into the sofa. These friends are likely already around you, but you may have to start some conversations that you aren’t used to having. It takes vulnerability and openness, and that can be scary for some of us who aren’t naturally open and vulnerable people. If you’re not sure how to do this, or just want to learn more about the importance of vulnerability, check out the guru of shame and vulnerability Brene Brown. Here is her TEDTalk about vulnerability and why we need it.
Make time for yourself. If you forgot what I said about this earlier, go to last week’s post and read those words again, and then make a plan to carve out some time for yourself!
Finally, a last-ditch effort. I say this one with the understanding that this option just isn’t realistic for everyone, and that’s okay. You can still find ways to be happier and more fulfilled without doing this. However, if it is an option for you, consider changing your job. Even if you’re with the same company, but can transfer to a new area or department, that might help provide enough of a change to help you get out of the burnout rut. However, changing jobs is not going to fix everything. You are still bringing the same level of fatigue to the new job that you had before. It is important that you use the other tips from this week and last week to lay a good foundation to prevent burnout. If you have some flexibility in your life, you may also consider taking a short-term leave, or taking some real time off to focus on yourself, rather than changing jobs. If this is a realistic option for you, first take a moment to recognize how insanely lucky and privileged you are, but then go for it! Take some time to actively work on being healthier and happier in life. It will not happen on its own—it will take work.
The last thing I want you to know is that burnout doesn’t have to be your reality forever. It can get better. Sometimes it’s pretty easy to break through, but sometimes it really has sticking power. But you are not alone in this. If you ever feel like you can’t get out of the burnout rut, reach out to us. We not only have all the education and knowledge to help you turn a new page, we’ve been in that very place before and know how it feels. Don’t feel like you have to do this alone. You can sit with us—we saved you a seat.