At the beginning of February Richard went to MonkiGras. At the end of the first day, he came home and told me of a talk he’d seen which he thought would be of interest to me. It was about Burnout.

I’d never really heard of burnout before. So Richard showed me the questions that the Mayo clinic list on their site:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?

The site also says

“If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be experiencing job burnout.”

They describe burnout as:

Job burnout is a special type of job stress — a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work

When I thought back to the job I left last October I realised that I’d probably burnt out. I definitely answered Yes to more than one of those questions. Little wonder, then, that November and December both ended up being “Deliberate downtime”. I expected that by December I’d be ready to start researching my ‘What next?’ a bit more. But that took me until January. No big deal but all part of the realisation process. And it felt good and almost a relief to have a label for it. Also, the fact it had a name, meant that I could find out more about it, and start to fix it. So, I started a research journey.

I started with Jessica Rose’s 24 ways article as she was the speaker Richard had heard. She provided a good overview. And I liked the analogy with the frog in the water

“Many impacted don’t notice the water warming around them until it’s been brought to a boil, causing a crisis that can’t be overlooked.”

And it also gave me a timeframe

“Many technologists impacted by burnout have written or spoken on taking months or even years off work to give themselves time to recover.”

And hers was the first of many articles that mentioned self-compassion.

“Recovering from burnout is a process that takes energy, time and compassion for yourself.”

I’d already been looking at that as part of my Being kind to myself research, so it was great to realise that I was already trying to heal myself.

I followed the links she included in her article and found Brandon West’s conference talk to be quite useful. My key takeaway from that was

The signs to look for are personal. We need to learn to spot them.

Having reflected on it, and a good friend having pointed out that I was close to burning out when I left my previous job as well I realise that a need to reduce my hours to regain creativity was a sign for me. Within a year or so of me leaving both positions, I opted to cut my working hours. On both occasions, it was related to a need to balance my life better and have more head space for creative endeavours. Interesting. That is one for me to put on my ‘to watch for’ list.

I found a few relevant TED/TEDx talks. One was Burnout and post-traumatic stress disorder by Dr Geri Puleo. From that I found that she had put together a couple of online courses. So I took a look at them.

An introduction to burnout had a fascinating section about the self-talk of burnout. From the key phrases to watch the ones that resonated with me were

“I just need a few days off and I’ll be fine.” “I feel like I’m going to explode!”

And I then took the Burnout Recovery The key takeaway for me from this was

“Be patient with yourself!”

And that is good advice that I’m trying to heed.

I’m feeling much better and brighter now. My curiosity has returned. I’m able to research topics and pull threads together. I’ve even started making some craft things. These are all positive signs that I’m on the mend.