Lately I’ve been channeling my inner Britney spears. Not the Britney who danced with a snake. My Britney’s been, you know, the Britney spears who shaved her head. The one who melted in a big way in front of the world to see. And I say this in all honesty, for haters out there, it was nothing to make fun of. She was in crisis and needed help.
Thank God, I haven’t gotten to that state (although my team may disagree). But, I have started getting to that point where getting in my car and just driving in any direction, for a long time, and not stopping till the gas runs out and just staying there for the next 6 months seems reasonable.
Well, it’s not. Hence, my inner Britney Spears needs to have a talking to. An intervention.
Now gang, let’s get something out there, because this is real life. My burnout isn’t due to not setting boundaries, or “delegation” problems. It’s due to a real cycle in my work-life that is just overloaded with work. We all have these periods where we just have a shit-ton to do, that no amount of “delegating” is going to fix right now. Also, this is not a “just quit your job!” post. Although that is a solve in some cases, most don’t want to quit their job, nor is it an option.
What have been the signs of my burnout?
- Memory shot: Leaving coffee on top of the car, asking my husband the same question three times, walking to a meeting and forgetting what is was for, are becoming the norm. It used to be cute. Now it’s not.
- Ponytails are becoming high-fashion. I want to bury my flat iron and products in a vault – too time consuming.
- Watching binge-worthy TV, my typical escape, has become a stress inducing over-commitment! What-the?
- I look like shit. Hard to believe, I know. But I’m making H.R. Pufnstuf look good. (OMG – I just noticed the HR in that. My new name! Hahaha!)
- I don’t care I look like shit! (Maybe that’s a good thing.)
- I snap answers at people I really like and am interested in. Not ’cause I’m angry at them, but because my brain is moving too fast to listen. So, I snap an answer.
- I’m apologizing a lot – for snapping answers.
- The Elvis Effect is starting: I need help to sleep at night and need coffee all day to stay focused. Dear lord > nothing good is going to come of this! (Now singing Elvis tunes all day — that is something I can get behind…)
- I want to be left alone. Being my normal self is exhausting, and after being “on” all day, I just want to sit. I haven’t called my mom in 2 weeks.
- Outside of work, I am missing commitments, promises, deadlines.
Sound familiar? I share because I am you! GOOD NEWS: I know this cycle will end – so all is not lost. But it is up to the burnout-ee to get in front of the burnout.
This is normal, and predictable. The Burnout continuum:
- Physical/Emotional Exhaustion: That project exhausted me – but I’ll bounce back tomorrow.
- Shame and Doubt: Why can’t I stop this? I suck at my job!
- Cynicism and Callousness: Why won’t someone else stop this. No one is listening to me.
I’ll let you figure out where I am at….
Tips to help get in front of burnout:
So here is what must happen, pronto. Here are some tips to at least mitigate burnout.
- Remember what your purpose is. Why are you working? What motivates you? This will at least help you try to prioritize those purposeful items and put some positive levity into your current situation.
- Admit to those around you that you are burned out. I don’t mean in the whiny way. I mean, sit down those who are most affected and tell them sincerely you are burned out. That you recognize it, understand what it is affecting, and thank them for their patience as you work through it.
- Sleep. Just do it. Even if that does mean you need a “little” help to get to sleep. Of course, see your Doc about this….
- Connect with friends outside of work (or your burnout source). This will stop the work mind spin for a while because, even if you want to talk about work, they won’t know what or who the hell you are talking about.
- TV is great, but reading calms the head and soul. Read.
- Give yourself a break and embrace something unhealthy. If you have a double chin for a while—it’s OK.
- Have courage. It takes courage to get out of the burnout. It takes courage to let some things go. It takes courage to admit to your co-workers you may be struggling.
- Laugh. Put down the Sophie’s Choice and watch Al Madrigal, or Eddie Murphy Delirious, or Jim Gaffigan, or the new Dave Chappelle special.
So, there you have it. Probably one last tip is to have a little faith as well. Faith in yourself and others. Faith that this really is just a phase. Faith that once you’ve ID’d the problem, with the help of some others, you’ll get through it. Faith that your Britney Spear will grow her hair back, get a better agent, and play a standing gig in Vegas. Stranger things have happened.
Dawn Burke, VP of Talent Consulting at Kinetix and founder/advisor for Dawn Burke HR, is an HR leader, speaker, and writer specializing in new HR practices, engagement and workplace culture. Her HR/recruiting/leadership career has spanned the last 20 years, with past gigs including a foundational role as VP of People for Birmingham, AL’s award-winning technology company, Daxko (And yes, Kris Dunn and Dawn are making Bham the HR capital of the world! Who knew?). You can also check her out at DawnHBurke.com and a variety of other interesting places. Google her, it’ll keep you posted on what she is up to.
Most importantly: She is addicted to TV, knows most of the lyrics to Hamilton and West Side Story, loves to cry at movies (check out Cinema Paradiso for a cry fest!), thinks wine, a wheel of Brie and Milk Duds make a well-balanced dinner, and sings in her car daily. Her husband and cat are the Yin to her Yang.