Some of the best advice I received when planning my transition into my second career was to give myself some time to recover from my current state of burnout. I was lucky to have the support of a spouse and severance to aid in my recovery process. By giving myself time to heal, I gained perspective, built back up my confidence and had the energy to invest in my next stage. If you are feeling the effects of burnout, try some of these techniques:
1) See if you have options to slow down at work. Typically, burnout happens to those who are carrying a lot and have a lot of value to their organization. Your company does not want to lose you, nor do they want to see your value diminished by the lack of focus and enthusiasm that comes with burnout. Ask about a sabbatical, outside of your PTO, see if they can give you a few weeks or months to recharge. If you are an employee in good standing, who is highly regarded, be candid with your employer. They may be more willing to work with you if they understand that you want to continue to invest in the company’s success.
2) Set some boundaries. Sit down and list the duties of your job, both explicit and implicit. Now list your current workload. Do they match up? If you are taking on more than your role requires, why? If you are driving for that next promotion, or feel the need to be the “yes person”, weigh that against what you are feeling right now. Ask yourself what happens if you slow down, if the answer is something you can reasonably deal with, then you need to stop taking on extra. Sit down with your manager and have a frank discussion about the expectations for your role and your performance. Let them know that you plan to stay within the scope of your role for a while and prioritize your own mental health over the drive to be the best.
3) Shut down and sleep. Set a schedule at night that gets you 8 hours of sleep, every night, for a 1-month period. Make sleep a priority in your life, just like exercise and eating healthy. Put electronics away, turn off notifications, don’t use your phone, laptop or tablet in bed, don’t watch TV in bed, don’t eat in bed. Unless you have literal life or death job, you don’t need to be looking at emails before you go to bed. Wait until morning. Draw yourself the hottest bath or shower you can handle, add some lavender (which aids in relaxation) and soak for 20 minutes, right before bed. You’ll be surprised at how well sleep aids with healing both the mind and body.
4) Do something completely self-indulgent. Spend a weekend binging a favorite show, reading a book or playing some pick up basketball games. Tell your spouse that you are taking a weekend off and work with them to plan your recovery time, or do something with them that makes YOU happy. Don’t talk or think about anything work related, do think about the things that make you happy and give you fulfillment. I went as far as uninstalling my work email from my phone, and not reinstalling until I was back on duty. Make time for just you.
5) If all else fails…and you can’t break out of it, and can’t make your current situation a healthy place for you, ask for a severance. See if you can make some time for yourself to recover as you look for a job. Just don’t make any rash decisions, or accept a job right away. The purpose of this is to give you time to RECOVER. If you don’t do this, you will go into your next gig already in a state of burnout.
Now, go forth and find your fulfillment.
"When you love what you do, it's easy to do it well"