Burnout is real. And it doesn’t feel good. We spend our lives pondering which career will give us the most abundant and fulfilling lives. For many, this cost-benefit analysis does not come without some consideration to burden of entry. How other friendly is our chosen field, and exactly how deeply do we intend to penetrate the status quo? Will that penetration prove to change the scales on our cost-benefit? For many of us, this is exactly what happens– the mere act of daring to be true to who we are is enough to cause questions of burnout to be real and ominous in the professional equation. So what are the things you can do to prevent burnout and, if you end up in the bad place anyway, what are your options? Let’s explore some of these options:
- In school, in the workplace, and in your personal life, know your worth and understand your value. This means that, regardless of what may be around you or how anyone else may be viewing you, you have to understand that you are valuable, and so is your time and energy.
- Learn to schedule things to avoid being overwhelmed. Seriously, before you put anything else on your schedule, set up regular “me” time where no one (and I mean no one) has access to you but you and whomever you choose, doing whatever you choose. Set aside time to recharge and stimulate your mind, and set aside time (and money) to stimulate your social needs.
- Learn to say no and set your own boundaries to obligations of your time, space and emotional investment without your predetermined (and premeditated) permission. No can be an honest and complete response.
- Learn to turn your phone off, and get comfortable in being strategically unavailable. Seriously. Settle in and snuggle up to the idea that you don’t have to jump just because you received an email or heard your phone ping from the other room. As one of the most powerful 100-year old authors of one of my favorite books says, just because someone wanted to talk to me doesn’t mean I wanted to answer for them. Ultimately, seek to be whole by and for yourself, as your own advocate.
- Side hustles have become a thing that everyone talks about nowadays– everyone’s got multiple streams of income, and it’s like these secondary jobs have taken over the nation. But frankly, you’ll really begin to win when you start to think of your side hustle as a tool to try new things, pursue your passions, express yourself and meet fiscal goals. In the end, before you opt to trade your time for money, establish your goals and ensure that you are moving towards them with each and every choice you make.
But what happens if you actually reach that dreaded place, when the panic attacks creep up on you with increasing frequency? What happens when the air leaves the room in the middle of one too many meetings, when you’re just unable to pull yourself from underneath your desk, or you can’t find your filter when that one nasty-mouthed, undermining colleague (or student) just tries you on the wrong day, in front of the wrong people? When you’ve hit you wall and you’ve reached the tipping point at which burnout becomes tangible and doing something about it is no longer an option.
Consider what you really need: is it the work, work people, personal issues, or health that are bothering you? Can you seek help to resolve this without leaving your job? Are there free or local resources that can assist you in getting to your peace place? If it is your work or your boss, can you change your workplace or career trajectory without detailing your progress? F so, look aggressively. This will allow you to retain your benefits until you transition. Finally, if you do just need a break from everything, is it possible that your needs could be met through a sabbatical or mini-retirement?
- Once you’ve decided that a sabbatical is what you want to do (fiscally, that you can afford it and that it makes sense for you and your family), plan out what you want to do on your sabbatical.
- Think about how it can be fulfilling for your career– do you want to shift directions or develop new skills during this time? Are there gaps in your network? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, or is this a time in which you can build and grow your side hustle (ie, learn soap making or real estate and build a business, for example)?
- Take time to rejuvenate your body, fill your spirit, and ultimately, heal. Learn to fortify your boundaries, turn your phone off and breathe deeply. If you need help, get it. If you need care, get it. Be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Document your journey, take photos, create a journal and think about creating something that you can look back on to remember how your time was spent.
- Have fun. Listen to music, spend time with family, get a license or develop a new skill and ultimately, be curious.
Ultimately, the lesson I learned from all of this was and continues to be that internalizing the stress that the world will continue to pile on top of me is never the answer. It will kill me slowly, and as science continues to demonstrate, it will kill the next generation, too. Life is too short to die from someone else’s fear. Shine brighter in your difference.
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