Thought for the Day:
“Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long.”
Question for the Day:
Are you burned out?
Hello everyone, long time no post!…….. (okay, that was awkward) So, if you happen to follow this blog, then you may have noticed that it’s been a minute since you’ve heard from me. Well, more like a few hundred thousand minutes cause I haven’t posted anything since April. I thought about sneaking back online much like one sneaks back into work after taking a two hour lunch break. If I just slide in, get busy right away, and don’t say anything, maybe no one will notice. But, I respect the fact that some of you may have actually noticed and if you were disappointed, I apologize. Yet, I’m not going to try to make excuses though truthfully a lot has happened. I was studying for and eventually passed my clinical licensure exam in May. That’s right, your girl is officially an LCSW now. (Whatever the heck that is, right?) And I was also blessed to move into a new home. Both of these events were stressful and time consuming, but if I’m being completely honest, the reason for my hiatus was a lot less praiseworthy. Keeping it one hundred, I was just burnt out y’all, plain and simple. Though that wouldn’t be an acceptable reason for a two hour lunch break, I hope it’ll explain neglecting the blog for four months. And if not, I hired myself for this gig, so I guess I’ll let myself off with a warning.
You know how when your cell phone is about to die, the battery symbol turns red and begins to flash with a clear warning, “15% battery life, attach charger now.” But instead of taking a minute to actually hunt down an available charger, we keep scrolling. “Oh snap, so and so just got married, let me see what her husband looks like…” Then the warning light returns, “10% battery life, attach charger now,” but surely I can do a lot with ten percent so, let me go on and check my email real quick. “5% battery life, attach charger now.” The warning is getting obnoxious now, so I figure I’d better at least start thinking about connecting to a power source. “But wait, that’s my jam, let me post that before I forget.” “2% battery life, attach charger now,” but I just need to check my account balance first. “Kids, who has my charger?” Now I’m frustrated with everyone else for not knowing my battery was dying. “That’s why my charger’s off limits from now on!,” I scream as I finally get off my behind and try to find one. But hold up, mom is texting so let me text her back. It’ll only take a second. “1% battery life, attach charger now.” Alright already, dang! I’m annoyed, but on a mission to locate a charger immediately cause now it’s serious. I’m panicked because I’m expecting an important phone call any minute! But of course, just as I’ve found one and prepare to plug up, I receive one last and final message, “Powering down.” Like all the other times my phone died, I thought I could beat it. But now, all I can do is watch helplessly as my phone shuts down and becomes useless, at least for a little while. Usually, I’ll go ahead and plug it in although I might be too impatient to let it charge all the way to 100%. Instead, I tend to charge just enough to enable my phone to turn on again so I can get right back to burning it out. I’m sure many of you do this too right? Oh, y’all gonna leave me hanging?
Well, it’s clear to me now that I live my life much like I use my cellphone. Like a lot of women, I have a lot on my plate. I work a difficult full-time job and have a husband and kids with needs, some more than others (clears throat). Plus, trying to squeeze in pursuit of my writing dreams, career development, exercise and self-care, spiritual development, community service, church, and a morsel of a social life, can make an already full plate look like something the Klumps would take pride in during a trip to the country buffet. It’s just too much! I’m only one person, and I only have so many hours in a day but I was trying to make the most of every second. Of course, there’s no sin in that, but I am learning that sometimes you have to take the time to recharge to 100% which means that you must put some things down and not revisit them again until your battery is fully charged and for me, I guess Get Lifted Girl! was one of those things.
In the mental health field, the term “burnout” can be defined as ‘the consequences of severe stress and high ideals in helping professions.’ But you don’t have to be a helping professional to know what it’s like to have people counting on you. The single mother or father who works while carrying the burden of a family solo can relate. Those caring for aging parents can relate. Social activists and community organizers can relate. Business owners with employees who are dependent upon them for their jobs can relate. In fact, if anyone looks to you at all for hope and support in these crazy times, then you might understand trying to save face and remain positive despite constant threats of war, terrorism, injustice and for us Americans, a Trump administration.
A burned out individual will eventually begin to feel as if everything is a chore. There’s no longer enough energy and enthusiasm to go around and even normal day to day activities start to feel like Survivor challenges. I mean when you start asking God for the strength to get through a load of laundry, something has gone awry. For me, I found myself preoccupied with the desire for a break. If life had a pause button, I promise you I would wear that sucker out! Husband needs quality time? Okay, let me hit pause, sleep for ten hours and then take some vitamins before I hit play again. Being assigned yet another difficult client at work? Okay, let me hit pause, take a two week vacation, get a massage, and resign real quick before I hit play again….if only right? But alas, life just keeps barreling forward and without any time-outs to practice reasonable self-care, you’ll be as useless as a dead cell phone in no time.
Here are some signs that burnout may be zapping your energy and derailing your progress. If you recognize any or all of the following, life may be pleading with you to “attach charger now.”
- Poor Focus – If you’re mind is always somewhere else and you find it increasingly difficult to be intellectually or emotionally present at work or at home, you could be at low battery life. I know for me, I began finding it very difficult to focus on my job and as a therapist that can get awkward. A client might have just finished telling me about how horribly they were bullied as a child, and when asked for feedback all I can remember is that I decided on Taco Sombrero for lunch.
- Easily Overwhelmed – When women, in particular, are at our best, we can multi-task like nobody’s business. It’s nothing to manage projects at work, juggle your entire family’s schedule, balance the checkbook, pay bills, shop, facilitate a prayer meeting, and still get to the gym….on a Tuesday. But when you find that even a minor unexpected event can derail your entire day and send you spiraling into a meltdown, something could be wrong. I remember getting caught by a train on the way to work one morning. Something that small had me rethinking my entire existence. Had that train been about ten cars longer, I may be out of a job today because my frustration had me ready to call my supervisor and quit.
- Increasing Use of Unhealthy Coping Skills – When we get overly stressed it’s natural to look for an escape. Smoking cigarettes, drinking, gambling, over-spending at the mall, partying too hard, and of course over-eating are some of the more common ways we seek to take the edge off. As convincing as they are, ice cream cones never live up to their promise to make it all better. For me, I began spending way to much time vegging out on social media at work cause it was (and at times still is) a way to distract myself from some of the painful stories I hear everyday. Yet in the end, I just fell way behind on paperwork which only exaggerated my stress.
- Complacency – When you just stop caring about your progress and sort of resign yourself to a life of mediocrity you may be burning out. If you’re already overwhelmed, the thought of going for that promotion or returning to school can feel like a waste of the little energy you have left. Just like your phone won’t let you install an update at 1% battery life, neither can we get to the next level with little to no fuel in the tank. When we find ourselves settling for the status quo just because it’s the path of least resistance, it may be time to charge up.
- Depression – Burnout feels like a total depletion of all the energy, enthusiasm, and optimism that got us to where we are in the first place. It may not be that anything is even actually wrong, but still you feel hopeless, angry, and too fatigued to even live your life. I’ve literally had days where I woke up and felt like there was no way I would survive even one more day. I’ve even decided that there should be a new DSM diagnosis much like SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I suggest that someone develop criteria for MAD (Monday Affective Disorder) cause I’d sometimes be angry enough to take a sledgehammer to my alarm clock on Monday morning, real talk!
The bottom line is this ladies, most of us are at risk for burnout because we as women are trained to take care of everybody else before we take care of ourselves. But just like a cell phone battery, we only have a limitless amount of power if we stay connected to our power source, which is our Heavenly Father. For me, my metaphorical “chargers” are prayer, scripture, meditation and journaling because they all keep me connected to Him. But I now recognize that using these chargers just enough to get by, is not sufficient. There will be times when you’ll need to stay plugged in, and take a step back from some of your responsibilities until your battery has recharged to 100%. No, it’s not selfish. It’s ensuring that you’re running at optimal efficiency which means you’ll have more power and a longer life in the end. I’m feeling like I’m getting there now, so hopefully I can rededicate myself to Get Lifted Girl! I hope this site can continue to be one of the “chargers” in your life. If there was even one person who waited on this post, I sincerely thank you. If it boosts your battery life even 1%, then I’m cool with that. Stay tuned everyone and be blessed!
“Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me. For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”