from Solutions Counseling & EAP
by Keri Forbess-McCorquodale, MS, LPC, LMFT, CEAP
I’m in a funk, and I thought you might be too. Many of my clients feel the same. We are all tired, apathetic, and wondering if things will ever “get back to normal.” Some people are referring to the pandemic. Others are thinking about the political climate. Then there are those referencing hurricane recovery. And, for many of us, it’s the combination of all of the above.
Folks, welcome to the world of burnout; where it is getting harder and harder to make yourself get up and tackle your To Do list. Where your “To Do” list seems to keep the same things on it, even though you know you already did some of those things. Where it all seems both overwhelming and futile.
How do you know if you are becoming a crispy critter of job burnout? Here are three signs:
Overcompensation. One of the beginning stages of burnout is working longer hours, with no regard to evenings or weekends. Every hour you are awake, you are trying to get things done. You believe, “If I can just get caught up, everything will be fine.” Sometimes that works, things settle down and the cycle begins again. However, if no amount of invested time seems to be helping you tame the task monster, it’s time to re-evaluate. Also, if the cycle occurs faster and faster, with less “normal” time in between “crisis” time, it is time to re-evaluate. For many of us, we haven’t seen “normal” in so long, we’ve forgotten what it looks like.
Confusion. Why didn’t putting more hours in solve the problem? How are you ever going to get caught up? You begin to feel powerless. You begin to lose self-confidence. Now you are working long hours but being unproductive. You truly are the hamster on the wheel to nowhere, running as fast as you can. Well then, forget it. Might as well find an escape. After all, your stress level is so high and all you want to do is leave your problems behind. Gambling, alcohol and drug abuse, compulsive shopping – surely one of those will help you feel better, right?
Body Messages. At some point, your body will start trying to rescue you from yourself. Those migraines you’ve been having? That back you keep throwing out? That stomach of yours that is always upset? That is your body telling you to “stop the madness!” Did you know that 80% of all visits to the doctor are related to stress? That’s because we don’t take action to bring balance back into our lives until our bodies start to give out on us. Listen to your body!
So, we have established that you are on your way to some serious burnout. Now what? Take a look at what needs to happen next:
Focus. It’s time to home in on what is going on here: what you are doing is not working. It’s time to focus on options so you can get your life back. Do you need to set better boundaries with your To Do list, like stopping at a certain time (no matter what), or hiring someone to help with some of the things on your list? Is it time to consider moving away from this project altogether? For many, the idea of rebuilding after the hurricanes was too much, and they elected to sell “as is” and find a new place to live. Whatever you choose, realizing you have options very often helps you feel more in control.
Depersonalize. This isn’t a “what’s wrong with me that I can’t handle it” situation. I keep telling people that no one could go through all of this and be just fine. Each area (pandemic, hurricanes, political climate) is big on its own. We are dealing with combined forces here. It’s time to get focused on other areas of your life, areas that are grossly unbalanced at this point. Remember those people you live with? Spend some time with them. Remember that gym membership you’ve been paying for? Go. Put down the fried comfort food and put something in your body that will actually give it fuel. Focus on getting yourself healthier, stronger and more balanced.
Reintegrate. What have you learned from this experience? Do you need some new skills (financial planning, boundary setting, conflict resolution, balance achievement)? Is it time to remove yourself from the situation? Is it time to recommit to your current situation, but with some new understanding about yourself and your needs? Remember we are doomed to keep repeating lessons until we have learned the lesson and changed as a result. If you go back into the same situation with the same approaches, you will get the same results – burnout.
As I leave you today, I want to encourage you to take a break and get out of town. I have prescribed that for myself and basically all of my clients. Even if it is only for a few hours, seeing fully operating places with lush trees and no blue tarps is helpful. It reminds us that the day will come when our wonderful city looks similar. The change of scenery resets us and gives us a boost. So, get outta here for a bit. Then, come back rejuvenated and ready to tackle your To Do list, but with some boundaries this time!