As you are no doubt aware, I’m someone who’s expended a lot of effort trying to help people who experience stress and burnout at work stay sane when they are stuck in the same job. That drove them around the bend in the first place. Ironically I have finally done the thing that I was trying not to do – i.e. leave.
However, here we are, and I will be leaving my job at the end of the month.
I’ll be honest, since making the decision, I have not felt a moments’ regret or doubt and soldiering on towards the end to finish work off and hand it over is giving me a good insight into how toxic this is for me, and how I’ve been doing a pretty crappy job of making this situation work. In the sphere of my professional confidence, I currently no longer have any.
I know it’ll return when I’m doing something I genuinely want to do, but at the moment, my primary focus is getting through to the end without swearing at anyone. (And you know I love a good swear!).
Wish me luck!
Let’s face it, work sometimes sucks. If you find you’re surrendering to creeping panic, here’s a few things I’ve found useful to stifle the screaming ab-dabs.
I’ve tried to encompass things that have helped when I’ve been in jobs where I’ve had little control over my time as well as the jobs where I have so treat this as pick ‘n mix according to your circumstances.
- Do everything slowly for a while, describing everything that you do silently in your head. It helps ground you in the present moment and you can do it while you’re moving around. Concentrate on what you are doing with your body, rather than “I’m going to shove this bread roll up the nose of the bloke on table 4”.
- Divide your tasks down to very small chunks – the advantage here is you’ll still probably achieve what you need to, without being overwhelmed by the vastness of the whole process of the thing that you’re trying to achieve.
- Tell an understanding someone that you are struggling. Even a text.
- Set boundaries and plan if that’s an option for you.
- (if you can) do the thing that will bring you the most joy at that given moment. (Within reason – getting someone to cover you so you can go to your child’s sports day, rather than slipping laxatives into your co-workers’ tea.)
- Lock yourself in the staff toilet and watch a Kitten/Panda/Puppy video so you can regroup.
- Go for a walk and look at trees.
- Pop over to Pinterest and find a quote that resonates and that you can use as a mantra that you can read silently to yourself until you feel calmer. This has the added advantage of you can be doing this while doing something else – even while being customer facing.
- Remember everyone is winging it.
- Remember that unfortunately some people are assholes and this is not your problem.
- Remember that other people can’t see what’s going on in your head so they probably aren’t judging you, and if they are see point 9.
After taking some time out with work related stress, you’d be forgiven for hoping that you might be able to pick up from a better place. As oppose to just going back to the place where you fell off.
Ultimately, the burned out person has a variety of possible options (in theory) but, as real life has a nasty habit requiring one to do things like pay for accommodation, heat, food and transport, a lot of people go back to where they were before, in a distinctly different shape to the one where they started, i.e. bright-eyed, keen and motivated.
So easing yourself back in (and it’s do-able if you plan…)
- If you’ve got Occupational health involvement, if possible, go back on a phased return, as is your right when returning from illness. It’ll mean that you can rest, test your boundaries, and possibly feedback that what is and isn’t working for you.
- Taking a more “back office” role for a little while.
- Remember that you are free to set boundaries. One of the reasons that people do burnout in a work context is by trying to be everything to all people.
- Self care, self care, self care. If you feel stressed, have 5 minutes, breath, drink tea, go outside and look at a tree.
- If it’s someone who’s bugging you, imagine them in dressed as the hind quarters of a pantomime horse, or something else, with a bread roll up their hooter, depending on how vindictive you’re feeling. Just make sure it’s ludicrous.
- Take your annual leave/vacation entitlement when you feel the need. If it’s beginning to get gnarly, take a day off – your mental health is more important.
- If it’s still craptacular, find a friend to look your CV over, and start looking for something else.
- Don’t laminate anyone’s tie – especially when they are still wearing it.