After working 80-hour weeks at my day job since March, I realized it was time for me to take a step back. I’m not a coffee drinker, so I run on pure stress adrenaline. This post is going to focus on the things that I really need to change so that I can be successful in my day job and my gold.
I come from a workaholic family on my mother’s side. My mom was an accountant, and my grandmother did autopsies. Both women can easily be described as intelligent and insanely hard workers. Their downfall though is that they worked a lot of their lives away putting in insane hours at work. This trait snuck into my DNA as well. I feel like I can’t stop working until everything is complete, there is no it will be there tomorrow everything must be done. This has led to me burning out on multiple occasions. My friends know this about me, and I’ve had employers exploit this trait about me.
For me, I used to do it because I thought if I performed above and beyond I would be recognized for it. I would benefit from my hard work and be promoted, I would get raises. That didn’t happen. I was always just given more work. I would then just get frustrated and burn out. I don’t think I actually ever realized it was burnout until now. People would always say that word to me and I would always just tell them I was fine, I could do it.
There were nights that I wouldn’t sleep for three days straight to make a deadline. No one at my work cared about me or that it definitely wasn’t safe for me to be driving home on no sleep. If you’re a nice enough person that is concerned about that last statement, don’t worry, I would sleep in my car for a bit so I could safely drive home.
I wanted to write this blog in case any of you are feeling how I felt but might not be realizing that you’re in full burnout mode.
What are the Signs of Burnout?
Burnout is a sneaky little booger. As I said above, I had no idea that I was burnt out, I was just a functioning workaholic. Here are the signs of burnout.
Loss of interest in your job or work
Low energy levels or always tired
Not caring about your personal relationships
A decrease in your productivity
Easily getting sick
A negative attitude you can’t shake
Dreaming about time away from work
There were a lot of these that I was starting to feel. I am grateful to have a strong leadership team at my day job. They focus on the longterm not just churn and burn as some companies do. I was able to take some time to recharge my batteries and have some time to do the things I need to do as a fully functioning adult.
A company that focuses on mental health for entrepreneurs and freelancers has a great blog on the Five Stages of Burnout. That weekend I had a Friday off, I fully realized I had been in stage four of burnout. I was getting migraines almost daily from the screen even though I was wearing my blue light glasses. I was tired, falling asleep in weird places around the house. My brain was not functioning, and I was putting shit in the freezer that didn’t belong in the freezer.
I think back to that time, which was only a few weeks ago, I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that I allowed myself to get to that point.
How to Stop Burnout Before it Begins
It’s not easy and if you’re not good at it right from the git, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just keep practicing good self-care and before long it will start to become your norm. It will start to become inexcusable to not do.
1. Track your time and live in your calendar.
How many times do you get lost in your work and look up only to realize it’s 8 pm and you’ve not gotten out of your chair since you sat down at 8:30 this morning. Lunch, what’s that? Is my headache hunger or sleep deprivation? Yea gross. Tracking your time allows you to know how much time (and money) you’re spending working on something specific.
Living in your calendar allows you to have hard stops. Let your calendar boss you around and it also gives you a good way to bow out of meetings that are too long for their own good. When you’re at home be at home, stop bringing the work computer home, or if you have to have it for emergencies, leave it closed in your work bag.
2. Have a vent session with your friends.
Sometimes I need to just verbalize all of my feelings in the foulest language possible and my friends understand that about me. It’s probably one of the things I love most about them, they let me vent, I let them vent. Nothing is personal or interpreted, there is no advice given, they just sit there and listen. Sometimes they make surprised, gasped faces to show that they are listening, agreeing with me and can’t believe someone would do that! It’s basically a dog and pony show to help get every last ounce of negativity out of the person who’s venting’s body. When you’re 15 minutes are up you have to move on so you better talk fast and get it out, because we are on to the next person.
This has really helped me a lot because I don’t mean any of the mean things I say when I’m venting, but if I don’t get it out all that negativity will eat me from the inside and that is not healthy. So, get it out and move on.
3. Incorporate Self Care
I know, I know it’s the hippy stuff. Well, that’s what I used to think. Now I work out, meditate, nap, and plan ahead. It’s made such a difference in my life for reducing stress, allowing me to head off problems that come down the pipe and just reset my mind.
But Ashley, I don’t have time to do all those things. Yes, you do. Flip your perspective, put these things in your calendar that you’re going to live by and now you don’t have time to do other things. Other things that stress you out or are really not necessary… like that 3 hours you spent watching TikTok videos last night… yea I know that’s what you were doing.
A New Society
We have an opportunity to change the way we work right now. Coronavirus has been a horrible thing to hit the world but there are good things that can come of it. This always-on 24/7 lifestyle we’ve been living isn’t healthy or sustainable. We only have the power to change ourselves, but in doing so we have the opportunity to be a role model and inspire someone else to change.