Monday, April 15, 2013

Burnout

My day job has been going through an awkward growing phase. Our department is merging with another department; and in a bid for more efficiency, they're streamlining jobs. Don't worry. No one is losing a job. It's that in the other department, people who had been doing three different things now gets to lob it off onto my department. Specifically me and my co-worker. That's fine. Whatever.

Meanwhile for the last nine months or so, I've been a part of a staff council, and we meet for about an hour or an hour and a half every other week. It's a good thing we're doing on the council, but the time requirements do take away from what I need to be doing at my desk. And my co-worker's, because I said she should sign up for the council too. I'm not a meeting person--and because the Universe knows this, there have been about three other groups I'm required to go to meetings now. I usually have one or two hour-long meetings a week now, when in the old days I had the luxury of zero meetings.

Good times.

Never mind this is the time of year when 2/3 of the applications I need to process come through the door and every other email is "You've had my application for MONTHS. When will I get a decision?" It's honestly all I can do not to start setting things on fire. My co-worker is dealing with the same type of headaches, plus doing a lion's share of the committee work. We're both going through burnout, each competing for the window to jump out of so we don't have to return to work tomorrow.

Then you've got the Spring that won't make up its mind to arrive, overcast days that remind you of Seattle, and a cold wind that says Winter isn't leaving ever. (Don't you hate it when houseguests refuse to leave?) We're wore out. We spend 10 p.m. Sunday nights looking forward to FRIDAY when we have another 2 day weekend and we haven't even arrived at Monday yet.

So I did something odd--with the blessing of my co-worker--I took a day off. Friday. Because weekends should really be comprised of three days at the minimum. Now the key to having an extra day to recover from burnout is NOT to sleep the whole time. And I'm a notorious sleeper. Instead I got up on Friday with plans...my plans, happy plans. To do things I'm normally too exhausted on my weekends to normally do.

I did dishes. I decluttered. I wrote some pages. I took a nap. I went to the store and acquired items to complete a Spring project I've half started. I made soup--good soup! I kept mostly off the computer and did not watch TV most of the day. I finished reading a book.

It. Was. Heavenly.

I woke up Saturday later but still boggled THIS was Saturday. I dawdled more, as in keeping with my typical Saturdays, but by mid-afternoon, I worked on the Spring project. I put my hands in the dirt; I was outside in the warm breeze and the Spring sun. I pulled weeds and dug up a little plot to turn into my Little Garden. I filled the area with heavy, black dirt; then I planted two of the goofiest tiniest sticks that are supposed to be lilac bushes into a pot. My muscles were already screaming at me, but damnit, this feels good. This is creative and productive and healthy. Now if my little garden will produce at least one thing I can eat this Spring/Summer, this will be a success.

Then again, it's already a success. I feel good. I feel hopeful. I'm looking forward to Monday instead of Friday. I'm already planning my next Burnout Day--next Friday, where I'll venture out to meet with a cousin and do all sorts of cousin things.

Do you suffer from burnout? What do you do to counter it? What do you wish you could do? How do you keep balance in your everyday life?

34 comments:

Maureen said...

When I had a job outside of doing what I wanted, yeah...burn out hit often. Now? Well, I don't know if I'd call it burn out. I know when I feel tired, just plain old tired, for no reason. Or blank. I suffer from blank out fairly regularly.

Anti-depressants help me deal with it. Physical exercise helps...but mostly, just doing. Just keep doing. Writing, editing, just keep doing and hope I shake out of it.

Marnee Bailey said...

I do get burnout. When I do, Mommy takes a day off. Usually it means burying my nose in a book and pretending nothing is going on. (Okay, I'm not negligent, I just disengage.) It helps return sanity. It doesn't happen often, for sure. But it does happen. Usually at the end I have a very messy house and two very messy children. But, it's usually worth it.

Your day sounds wonderful, though. I'm glad it revived you! :)

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

*standing ovation* Way to go!!!!!

As you all know I'm totally burned out - I'm crispy!

The day you took for you and your plans sounds like the perfect idea for anyone looking to get their spark for life back. I love it!

MsHellion said...

Mo, I *know* I need to do more physical exercise. (Flopping around sacks of dirt and feeling the effects about an hour later was proof of that.) I already take anti-depressants, but I'm sure they would work better if I did some natural anti-depressants as well: go outside AND get some exercise.

I think my Dad suffers from blank out. The sameness of every day. You don't HAVE to be anywhere, so you don't do anything. I've done that too, but this Friday, I was rather cognizant of: "I want something different."

MsHellion said...

Marn, I had wondered how you take a day off with little ones under your feet. Glad to know you have a strategy even if you can't implement it often--though I suspect your occasional foray into a writer's conference is also your way of "dealing with burnout" by spending time with your other tribe and getting the writing mojo going.

Terri Osburn said...

I love Sabrina's description. Crispy. That's me exactly. LOL! I need a month off at this point, but that is not going to happen. I got a ton of stuff done this weekend, though there's more laundry to do.

This weekend we'll be on the road, headed to Pittsburgh for a concert and to visit family. The driving will be a pain, but it'll be nice to sit down and have lots of people around to do things. Someone else can entertain the kiddo and take out the dog. (She goes with us.)

Sitting down for a full hour would be a dream. Napping would be even better!

MsHellion said...

Sabrina, yes, I do know. I hope things are starting to come around for you and yours very, very soon!!! Mostly because you're exercising your little hiney off and I don't know if you can kick it up any more notches to deal with stress. :)

I think the reason my day worked for me was because it was "planning for a hopeful future" as well as taking a day for me, you know? It's one thing to get a pedicure in the moment...feels good then but wears off in a week. But if you work on something that will have a long term effect, there is something a little more gratifying in it. Fixing your yard so you can enjoy the flowers all summer...or taking a cooking class so you can make a meal for your friends at the end.

Terri Osburn said...

Don't even talk to me about sore muscles. I mowed the yard Saturday morning and still can't move my arms without pain. It's the weedeater. I need to learn to switch my hands around to evenly distribute the pain. LOL! Had to wear the carpal tunnel brace over the weekend, and could probably use it right now.

It's not easy to be reminded to brutally that you're beyond out of shape.

MsHellion said...

Terri, ah, your music weekend! I know you two will have a blast at that! I think that's a "Burnout Prevention Plan" by signing up for things you know will "fill you up." Things to look forward to, things that recharge you. I'm not keen to be in big groups of people, but I know it doesn't bother you as much and you love the music...it's your thing.

It's like why I love to go to the library at least once a week (and a bookstore if I can). Being around books--the smell, the steady silence, the intellectual buzz...it calms me. No matter how crappy the day was, if I can spend a little time at a library around books to touch and peruse, I'm good.

Terri Osburn said...

Yep, I feed off crowds. This is general admission so we're hoping to get in line really early and maybe get up front. If I'm on the barrier then I have something to lean on/hold onto when the crowd surges all over the place. The last time we were three rows from the barrier and it was like being thrown by coastal tides!

MsHellion said...

I'm so glad I don't have to mow my area. SO SO GLAD. *LOL* The Guy weedeated on Sunday as well, but I was napping and didn't figure it out until he was up by my window, presumably scowling at my plot of dirt. I turned over and went back to napping.

Now it's raining all week--and though I'm glad for rain when last year there was like NO RAIN, I'm staring at my barrel of lilac sticks and thinking "Those damned things better not rot!" Because apparently on the directions they don't like too much water. *sighs*

MsHellion said...

*LOL* I think I'd rather be tossed by coastal tides. But to each their own!!

Terri Osburn said...

Being tossed around in a sea of teenagers is not fun. Feels odd when you can't control your movements and there's nothing to grab hold of. Plus, if they mosh during PTV, we'll be in the clear! Just have to watch for the crowd surfers coming over us.

Can you bring the lilacs in if it rains too hard? Of is that pot too heavy to move with all the dirt in it?

quantum said...

I thought burn-out was what happened to space junk as it re-enters the earth's atmosphere or to creative types who burn candles at both ends.

Having downed a pile of aspirin after coping with my grand for a few hours I can really sympathise with Marnee and Terri. Entertaining youngsters can be fun in short bursts but marathon sessions can definitely burn out neurons.

I was reduced to playing my old rock and roll records and trying to teach the lass to jive. It seems I'm a 'Cool Grandpa' *glows with pride/embarrassment/exhaustion ... my back aches!*

Humph. Don't think I'm much help. Can't really recommend a bottle of aspirin and a large scotch!

I think you've got it about right Hellie. Don't work so hard! LOL

MsHellion said...

Terri, I think the pot is too heavy to move, but I'll see if it rains much more.

MsHellion said...

Q, I always knew you had the moves like Jagger! And I'm the same way about kids. *LOL* After a few hours, I play a version of hide and seek where I barricade myself in my bedroom and shout, "I'm not in here! Keeping looking!" every time the door knob turns. They're cute as hell, but the energy...egads!

Janga said...

School's out here in another month, and that means grand visits multiply. I adore them, but I get tired just thinking about their visits.

I'm always burned out after I make a deadline. I know much of that can be attributed to lost sleep, lack of exercise, and under-hydration, all of which are byproducts of eighteen-hour days at the computer. I usually take a day or two to sleep late, read, and listen to music before I get back on a regular schedule that includes seven hours of sleep, a daily walk, and several bottles of water. Then the next deadline strikes, and the pattern repeats.

MsHellion said...

Janga, HYDRATION--that probably IS another key component, isn't it? I should work on that more. I needed to seriously rehydrate after playing in the dirt on Saturday and I didn't really do that much and it wasn't hot at all outside.

I'm tired thinking of your grandkid visits...is that wrong? *LOL*

P. Kirby said...

Lilacs are usually pretty f-in hard to kill. Last week, I dug up a sucker (offshoot from main plant) that had popped up in the middle of a flower bed. And I wasn't at all kind to the root, brutal in fact. Stuck it outside the yard, gave it a little water and forgot about it. A week later, it's still happy.

Anyway, stress. Well, hubby and I are doing art studio tour this year which means the yard -- where a lot of the art will be displayed -- needs to look extra spiffy this year by the first weekend of May. So I've been spending about 10-hours each weekend, trimming, planting, etc., in the yard.

And...I still haven't made any art. House is filthy. Just a couple of weekends to go. Pant.

For me, meditation and exercise have been the key to managing my depression and anxiety. Can't say it'll work for everyone, but it's been close to a miracle for me. Sane for the first time in decades, maybe, ever.

MsHellion said...

Pat, that is reassuring about lilacs. Though I'm sure if anyone could accomplish it, it'll be me. *LOL* And then Deerhunter won't let me forget it for the rest of my life.

I love your art work--how awesome it would be to be a part of a 'tour'--wonderful! I hope you post pictures!!

I've been trying to do meditation more, but it's just not cutting it at once a week, you know? Same with the exercise. I need to pick up the pace from 'sloth' to 'crawl'.

Maureen said...

The exercise is a must. Last week I bailed on good long dog walks and I need to get that back on the schedule. (Long suffering dog sigh from the peanut gallery.)

The elliptic is great for sweat and sweat is fabulous, but the walks with Bonnie, letting her look for gophers and just digging the outside is important to my sanity. I realized that this week after, as I said, taking only token walks.

I love the art in the yard, Pat. I was thinking this weekend that Steph and I need to get out and enjoy some of the spring festivals this year. The art in the park stuff. We used to love them. Just got out of the habit.

My lilacs seem to thrive on being ignored...but that is a prerequisite for anything that wants to flourish in my jungle.

P. Kirby said...

Maureen. That's why indoor exercise doesn't work for me. Emphasis on "me." Other than some yoga/pilates stuff, everything I do, walking, running, biking is outside, rain or shine. Something about being outdoors, even when the weather is foul, gets the good brain chemistry working.

Meditation: I do little 1-2 minutes stints all day, at work, while exercising or driving. It's not about zoning out, but instead dropping in a calm, oddly hyper-aware, in-the-moment state. Practice makes perfect; I'm getting to where I can tap into that when I'm about to melt down.

And yeah, I think lilacs are goof-proof. Too bad they only flower once a year.

MsHellion said...

Mo, I think I must read an article a day about the importance of connecting back to nature. It's not the walk itself; it's being outside, seeing trees and grass and feeling fresh air.

Maureen said...

Yeah, the elliptic is my key to guilt free tv. But it's also supposed to set me free to walk with the dog and just enjoy the experiences the way she does. No pushing her to move faster so that I get an aerobic workout, because I already did that! We were doing good, just got out of the habit when I was out of town.

Pat, I like the drop in meditation. I think I could do that...

Terri Osburn said...

I was standing outside yesterday morning and could not get over how perfect the sky was. Solid blue, an amazing deep shade, and not a cloud as far as I could see. It was glorious.

This is one of the reasons I got the dog, so I'd be forced to walk. Love taking her down to the beach and walking along the water. Looking forward to when we can do that every weekend.

MsHellion said...

Pat, I think the frequent mini-meditations throughout the day would be MUCH MORE beneficial, since it's about recentering yourself back to the present moment rather than freaking out about the past and future, et al. Living presently.

MsHellion said...

Mo, so your walks with Bonnie are your meditation; and your exercise on the elliptical is your cardio!

Terri Osburn said...

I've never been able to get the gist of meditating, but I really want to figure it out.

MsHellion said...

Terri, can you walk to the beach from your house? Or do you drive the pooch somewhere to walk her? Which I'd find hilarious. Just FYI. *LOL*

Terri Osburn said...

We drive to the beach, but not just to walk the dog. I'd go even if I didn't have the dog. There's a park about 3 miles from my house called First Landing State Park right on the water. (You can guess why it's named that.) There are more locals and so many dogs it's like taking her to the dog park. Love watching the Labs fetch balls in the surf.

Maureen said...

Hey, I drive to the best places for walking the dog... Parks are best and I don't have one near enough to walk to!

Sin said...

I suffer burnout every day. I trudge along like a lifeless spirit.

To relax I usually go to the trail and walk. I walk to clear my head and sort out all the creative things vying for attention. But the weather is crap (as you know) so I've been stuck indoors where I don't want to be.

MsHellion said...

Sin, it HAS been rainy. *LOL* I always think it would be good to walk on the trail, but I'm way to chicken to walk by myself on the trail.

Sin said...

I think it's okay to go out there either when it's blazing daylight or right after work when everyone else is there.

Otherwise, it's good to give everyone the look like "I'll f*ck you up if you come near me." Or, "I'm memorizing what you look like to every minute detail so when asked to give a description, you're screwed buddy."