Growing up I remember clearly my mother saying, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all". That maxim along with her belief that you don't talk politics or religion at the dinner table was the core of her life philosophy. My mother was a nice person who was gracious and kind to all her friends but she was not open to sharing much about herself with others. Her philosophy, while workable at dinner parties and bridge parties, didn't leave much room to discuss the struggles that touch us all at some point during life on this planet.
I don't hold to Mom's hard and fast rules about not sharing with others the events that shape life but I do worry about joining the TMI (Too Much Information) Camp. I am not that person whose life dream is to spill all on the Jerry Springer show or weep affectionately with Oprah on TV. Nope that's not me but I have learned that as human beings we share common experiences in life and that we can learn from one another. I'm not ready to discuss religion or politics but I will chat about what drove me to take a sabbatical.
I was burned out. I was burned out on life. It wasn't just my work; it was everything. Why did I think I was experiencing burnout? I had several of the ten classic symptoms. They are:
Lack of Motivation
Frustration, Cynicism and Other Negative Emotions
Slipping Job Performance
Personal Problems at Home and at Work
Not Taking Care of Yourself
Being Preoccupied with Work...When You Are Not at Work
Generally Decreased Satisfaction
The most concerning symptom was the negative emotion I was feeling. I was angry. It is uncomfortable even now to admit but I was. I had been diagnosed with and treated for cancer, hit by a car, watched my mother's health fade as she walked her end of life journey and sat by helplessly as my ex-daughter-in-law walked out on her marriage to my son. And all this happened in a 5-year time frame. I was tired and I was just plain pissed off. As a 5-year old I might have packed up my favorite stuffed animal and run away but adults aren't allow to do that so I went on sabbatical.
Giving myself permission to reorder the priorities in life allowed me to regain the balance needed to recharge and energize. I am blessed that I was able to take the time to rest, create and spend time with people that I love but it was necessary. I didn't want to become some bitter old woman chasing kids and dogs off her lawn because they were getting too near her gnome collection. (I don't really have a gnome collection but I might one day.)
What do you do when you feel the symptoms of burnout and can't take a year off for a sabbatical? Start by making sure you are taking these actions. First, get enough sleep. Sleep helps you replenish your energy and allows you to manage the stress in your life effectively. Next, unplug. Set boundaries for yourself and your family. As a teenager, I was bummed that we weren't allowed to take phone calls during dinner. As an adult I understand. Third, get serious about relaxing. You must relax during periods of high stress. Illness, caring for aging parents and work all require your attention but without periods of down time, life becomes burdensome and burnout may result.
Have you experienced burnout? If so, how did you handle it? I would love to hear you solutions to managing burnout.