Stress is one hell of a drug isn’t it? It can manifest itself in so many ways, including physically. Have you ever had a sore back or a headache after a long day at work? Probably stress. Burnout is a special kind of stress that comes from work or school. When you get so stressed out and overwhelmed with work, that you just can’t.
In the 1970’s this term was coined to describe immense
stress brought on by “helping professions”, however, I don’t believe it’s
limited to jobs where you are spending all of your time on someone else.
If you are a student, you can experience burnout. If you work in an office, you can experience burnout.
Let me tell you my personal story with burnout, and then we will talk about what I did to get past it.
I’ve talked a lot about my mental breakdown in October of 2017, but I don’t know if I’ve talked about the fact that burnout at my job was probably the biggest factor in why I had a breakdown in the first place. I am a youth care worker. I work with youth and… care for them. This can look like making dinner and playing board games and cleaning house, but more times than not, it looks like things flying down the hall, being assaulted, being called names nobody wants to be called, and crying in the staff bathroom. Yeah, I think everyone I work with has cried in our staff bathroom, it’s the designated crying spot at this point.
I have worked there for over 3 years and I was full time when October came. I was in one of the worst headspaces I’ve ever been in and every day I had to go into work, I would spend the morning crying and having panic attacks. I was at the point where I was taking Ativan from a co-worker because the thought of having to work was making me shake and hyperventilate so badly that I couldn’t even leave the staff office. I woke up one day that I was supposed to go to work and I had been having an anxiety nightmare and crying in my sleep. I texted my mom to take me to the hospital that morning and by the time I left later that day I had 7 days off work. I felt good leaving the hospital and the second the car door shut the only thought that went across my mind was panic for having to go back in a week. A week came and passed, and I found myself in the hospital again asking for more time off. I got a note for 30 days off and I felt so much weight fall off my shoulders. I started seeing a therapist (very briefly but that’s another story, check out this blog post) and I was starting to feel better, until I had to go back.
I felt all of that anxiety come back and I literally couldn’t handle going in there every day. So, I quit.
Well, I didn’t quit. I went down to relief which means I work when I can. And guess what?
I felt so much better. That’s how I knew the biggest part of my problem was burnout. So, I focused more on a work/life balance, and I decided to do something bigger with my life.
As my shifts became few and far between I realized the only thing I do outside of work is, well, think about work. I decided I needed to find something else to occupy my time. I started spending more time with my friends, actually keeping up with housework (which was always left for my boyfriend when I was working), I got back into my youtube channel which I have sense abandoned, and I was finally feeling less like my life revolved around my job. I also started this blog! I was feeling the best I’ve felt in a long time.
Doing Something Bigger
One of my biggest problems was I felt so stuck in my job. I felt like my life just consisted of waking up, going to a job that no longer felt rewarding, and coming home to do nothing. I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere, and I was desperate for some kind of purpose. So, I sat down and decided what it was that I really wanted in my life. I remembered what my plan was before I started my job and decided to bite the bullet and apply to university. I’ve been in school for eight months now and I finally feel like there’s something to wake up for. The same goes for this blog. I am excited to wake up early and plan blog posts, write, take photos. Unlike before when I would sleep until noon only to wake up and have panic attacks for the rest of the day, I’m waking up early because I’m actually excited for the day. I’m excited to be alive again.
Small things I did
Leaving work at work is easier said than done. But it’s something I needed to master because spending my home time obsessing over my job was ruining me. I made an effort to answer my boyfriend’s “how was your day?” and leave it at that. No describing what happened that day, no dwelling over the goods and the bads, no more spending valuable time still mentally at work. It was hard because I actually met my boyfriend at my job, and he knows the ins and outs. Some days if I looked upset, he would ask what happened, and I had to learn to tell him quickly and be over it.
Stop taking my job so seriously
*DISCLAIMER* You need to take your job seriously, it’s your job. But in my particular job, you can have fun. I wasn’t, though. I remember when I started my job I was still getting assaulted and yelled at, sure, but when I wasn’t, I was having fun with the kids. When I started to burn out at my job, I remember I stopped enjoying everything. I wouldn’t go outside and play with the kids, I wouldn’t smile, I wouldn’t do anything but wait for shit to hit the fan, and then dwell on it. When I realized I was sabotaging myself, I started to enjoy my time at work again. I’m not working as much anymore, so why spend the time I’m there freaking out.
Take a break when I need it
Clearly, not everyone has the ability to just not take shifts when they need a break, but if you accrue sick hours or vacation hours, USE THEM. That is what they are there for. As a relief, I don’t get sick or vacation time anymore, I just don’t get paid if I can’t go to work. But if you have the option to have a paid mental health day, take advantage. When you need a break, take a break, because nothing causes burnout more than pushing yourself too hard.
Burnout is a serious problem and sometimes it’s hard to realize that your job is not your life. Your job position is not your name. And you are not stuck, no matter how much you feel like you are. I mean, I would know, my job ran me into the ground. I felt at my absolute lowest when I felt like my job was my entire identity. If I could find a way out, you can too.
Take care of yourself