Burnout: Better than Fading Away?

Monday was the second time I’ve missed a blog since I started over a year ago.

I had time to write a post the day before. I decided to play computer games instead.

My brother, in our dad’s old Camaro. Unfortunately, this is not the kind of burnout I’m talking about.

I had a topic lined up. Between a motorcycle I’d ridden only twice all summer, and this post by Kristen Lamb, I knew I needed a “play” break, and I took a nice ride Saturday to do just that. And wound up taking photos to go with a My Town Monday blog post. But honestly, it was a play break.

But when it came down to it, I Just. Didn’t. Want to.

When I am not sitting at my computer at a place where I can write a blog, I have all kinds of great ideas. If it’s something new, I note it on my Blog Ideas document on my phone, which gets backed up to Dropbox and is always available on my computer. But when I’m not at my computer in a place where I can write a blog, I also get great words for said blogs. Then I go home and when I am sitting at my computer, I Just. Don’t. Want to.

So this week I didn’t.

I’ve been having this kind of blah feeling way too often. It’s been bad all summer, and I don’t think it’s a “summertime blues” thing. It’s not just blogging, either. It’s the day job (which I like!), other things around home, and even writing fiction. No motivation to do anything!

A lot of times when I’m trying to figure out what to do in a case like this, I ask myself what would I tell a friend who told me these things.

In this case, I would ask her, could she be depressed?

But I have not been feeling sad. Just unmotivated – to do anything – and tired, both physically and mentally.

One thing I have managed to do this summer is to (mostly) keep up with exercise. I do three interval workouts on the treadmill every week, plus a couple of shorter workouts doing things like pushups, crunches, lunges, etc. The main reason I started was because I hoped it would help me be less tired.

It hasn’t helped noticeably. (I get to read on the treadmill, so that helps keep me motivated.)

Then I read this blog by Louise Behiel and saw myself all over it. I took the quiz linked from the blog, and the results did not surprise me.

I’m heading toward burnout.

It’s not my job – at least, not by itself.

It’s not the writing – I haven’t been doing that much of it.

It’s not the social media – I’ve cut way back on that, feeling this whole burnout thing coming on.

It’s the combination.

At work, I have one project where the client keeps having one problem after another with a web application my team developed (and I am currently the sole developer on). None of these problems appeared during testing, and I haven’t been able to reproduce them outside of his installation. But I’ve seen the issues, and it’s incredibly frustrating on many counts. I take a lot of pride in my day job work, and I take it personally when I can’t meet a client’s expectations, even when it’s no fault of my own. The client’s been great to work with – really, very understanding through all of this – and I hate letting people down, especially people I like. And, I know how frustrating it is to not be able to do my job because of something stupid like computer problems that are out of my control, and I hate it that my product is putting my client into that situation.

At home and with the writing, I have the age-old too much to do, not enough time to do it.

But like Louise’s post said, burnout is not a fun place to be, so I had to do something about it – three things, in fact:

1. At work, I asked for help, something I have a very hard time doing. The areas of the application where the problems occur are areas that aren’t in my main expertise, so hopefully my colleagues will be able to figure out something I wasn’t able, and I can move on to other things that will help my client.

2. At home, I’m making a concerted effort to focus on one thing at a time – and when I’m done, go ahead and play computer games.

I also got a call from my doctor yesterday with some news that surprised me: I have borderline hypo-thyroidism. After further discussion, we decided to just test again in six weeks or so to see if it’s still low, rather than jump into medication right away. It’s not low enough to necessarily have noticeable effects, but then again it could be adding to my tiredness. So #3 is, check to see if there’s a physiological cause.

What about you? Are you, or have you come close to burnout? What did/are you doing about it?

17 Responses to \

  1. Jennette, thanks for the mention. I’m sorry you’re going through all this but am very glad my blog could help. good luck with the thyroid problems. hopefully with some rest and relaxation, it will be back to normal and you as well.

    take care.

  2. I just took the test. Um…

    Part of it may be stress from school and a change at work.

    I do find myself working on a thing I’m writing to get a character out of my head and to keep writing prose when all I’m doing is outlining. The problem is, sometimes, I do that instead of blogging. I wanna go play in the sandbox.

    And worse, I think I may have forgotten how to be lazy and do nothing but watch a movie. I’ve got the first Sherlock Holmes movie (with Robert Downey) and J Edgar DVR’d. Haven’t watched them.

    I think we all get into workaholic mode and forget how to stop and relax.

  3. I just posted on Louise’s blog today about my issues with work as well. I love being able to help people, but the clients are never happy. (I am a family law paralegal.) The pay is really good and I need the money, but sometimes I wonder why I even bother when all i get for my hard work is unhappy people. I guess it’s just the nature of the beast. No one wins in a family law situation. It’s not like other law where there’s a winner and a loser or a good guy and a bad guy. It sucks!

    But I try to take several vacations every year to get away from it, but as I get older it’s getting harder and harder to come back.

    I was also diagnosed with thyroid issues about 4 years ago. It’s amazing what havoc one little gland can play on your entire body. I’m still fighting that battle, but the medicne is helping. I hate having to take a pill every day, but that’s just how it goes some times.

    Good luck with your health issues. Exercise and diet help a lot so keep with a good regime.

    And if you need to play hooky again – just do it!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  4. I’ve been feeling the same way too. I’ve cut back and focused on priorities, but I know a big part of being on the edge of burnout is also health for me and starting a new medication that makes me loopy and crazy tired. So yea, have to just ride it out.
    And good for you for taking a play day!! 🙂

  5. I think we’re all feeling this, Jennette! The physiological part is so important. I recently read a book on sugar addiction — it mentioned a host of symptoms associated with it, tiredness, lethargy, and of all things, low self-esteem and over-sensitivity. It explained the brain chemistry. I was amazed, gave up sugar about 2 weeks ago, and everything looks different now! Congrats on taking care of yourself.

  6. I feel you Jennette. I took that test too and it said I was definitely at risk. Yes, I have to make changes. But we all support each other through it all! I’m here for you no matter what. Step back and figure out what works for you and definitely find out if there are health issues involved. Take care of you first.

  7. Louise, thanks so much – and thanks for the great post that pointed me in the right direction!

    Jim, I do the same things – both the writing, and forgetting how to just watch a movie. Thanks for the reminder – and good luck to you in avoiding burnout!

    Patricia, I really feel for you at work! I’m truly blessed in that my clients are wonderful and have been totally understanding about all the problems. Thanks for sharing!

    Coleen – medication certainly makes a difference. I know when my headaches are bad, the medication makes the malaise and fatigue that much worse – but so do the headaches, if I don’t take anything. Thanks for your support!

    Debra E. – sugar is something I hadn’t thought of, good point. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m sugar addicted – I know I looooove my Mtn Dew and desserts! I might have to look into that. Thanks!

    Debra K. – thanks for the reminder that I am not alone – and good luck keeping your burnout at bay!

  8. Jennette, keep in mind that depression is not always a mental thing. When you overwork, or are so overly active that your body doesn’t really have a chance to recharge it’s batteries, you can become physically depressed. This has nothing to do with your mood unless you allow the physical depression to go unchecked for long enough that you start beating yourself up about things that you just don’t have the energy to do. Your body is telling you to let it relax. Do stuff just for the fun of it. Leave the phone at home, disconnect from the high pace of this technological world, and recharge. If the world will continue to spin without you doing your fifty million things for a few weeks, let it. Put up a “I’ll see you in a few weeks” blog and tune it all out for a while. Trust me, I have worked myself to this point at least once every other year for the last 20 years. Step back, do what must be done to maintain your physical health, your sanity, and that lovely creative mind. When you are rested, your fingers will fly across the keyboard. Yes, we will miss you, but I would rather miss you now for a little while than later for far too long. You can always pop into Facebook and let us know that you are alive and well and still resting.
    Rest, my hard working friend.

  9. Jennette, why do we feel guilty for taking a day off? What is that all about? As you know, I have been sick and suffering from burn-out. But like many people, are we in the position to take a break. Life doesn’t stop and the bills keep coming in and our income can only be stretched only so far. So burn-out seeps in. I so understand how you feel Jennette. We are only one person and there is only so much that we can do. Glad you allowed yourself the time to enjoy a break. And if you do it again this Sunday, I won’t tell anyone. LOL! 🙂

  10. Charis, thanks for a bunch of good ideas! I especially like the “leave the phone at home and disconnect.” When we do that and the malaise doesn’t go away, you’re right, we need to look into it further. Thanks so much for your support!

    Karen, I think the guilt is a cultural thing because we’re women – society tells us we can have it all so we do all we can to get it! Thanks for sharing your perspective – and your support!

  11. Jennette, I haven’t been over to Louise’s blog yet, but i’m heading over there shortly. I do know that we push ourselves because there’s things we want to do for ourselves, plus things we feel we must do for others. Physically and mentally, most of us can withstand a lot of outside pressure, but eventually it catches up. Recognizing it, taking a break, rejuvenating and reevaluating what’s important in life is a good start to overcoming the burnout. The sad part is that we don’t learn the first time … Or the second time … Or the third time. Lol. It’s a repeat thing, which is why it’s so important to recognize the symptoms and nip them in the bud befor things get too serious. Take care of yourself!

  12. Jennette, you’ve been putting out fires (a computer-application version of fires) at work, and, at home, you’ve done all the regular task plus accompanied your daughter’s choir to France and have taken her and a friend to visit colleges, and I don’t know what else. (The college visits mean the stress of applications/getting references/essay writing looms for your daughter, and you already feel it. The trip to France was important and special but NOT a vacation for you) Thank God you’re finaly cutting yourself some slack. I’m glad you asked for help at work and aren’t juggling six things at once at home. Please take care of yourself.

  13. Oh where to start. Jennette, may I suggest you call your doctor back and ask for the medication for the low thyroid. What you are describing is definitely depression (no motivation is a major symptom and you don’t have to feel ‘down’ to be depressed). And a low thyroid can contribute to that. I am a retired psychologist, so I know what I’m talking about, but I also have thyroid problems and one of the first things I do if I get depressed is have my thyroid levels checked, because even if they are only a little bit off, this can set off or maintain the depression, no matter how hard I try to fight it.

    Which brings me to point #2. I read an article not too long ago that really struck home. It pointed out that somewhere along the line, the message that came out of the women’s lib movement–that women should be allowed to do what they want, to have a career AND a family if that’s what they want (just like men do all the time and nobody questions their right to do both). That message got perverted into we should be CAPABLE of doing it all and doing it perfectly, and if we don’t do it all perfectly, than there is something wrong with us as women.

    Nobody is perfect and we can’t do it all, all of the time. We have to pick and choose our priorities and give ourselves permission to be human. And to repeat every other comment here, we need to make taking care of ourselves one of those priorities.

    Okay, stepping off the soapbox now! Hope this trend we all are having lately to be so burned out turns around for us soon. Let’s all do something special for ourselves this weekend, shall we?

  14. Kassandra, thanks for your insight. I definitely am not going to blow it off, I just don’t want to hop on the medication right away until I make sure I really need it. But I won’t wait too long! After a couple of days of taking it easier, I am already feeling better.

  15. Sometimes I think the demands of our lives are just so overwhelming that we need to step away for a while. Hope you pull out of the burnout very soon. Best wishes!

  16. Jennette, you might be having burnout, but you still seem to get more done than I do!
    I can empathize with you on this, though, having had a bad case all summer.
    We went to San Antonio and all I did (besides admire the new cover you did for me!) was swim and relax. I feel so much better and hope I will get some things done once I get all the suitcases unpacked and the house settled!

    Michele

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