Do what you love; starting with your job.
by Tessa Bender
Burn out: A result of overworking that happens even when you love what you do. Have you experienced it before? Feeling exhausted physically and emotionally, stretched too thin, barely keeping up, always behind, and overwhelmed? First of all, know that you are not alone if you have experienced this with almost half of workers in the US reporting high stress as an almost daily experience. Feeling burn out will not only affect your performance at work, but it can interrupt all other areas of your life as well. If you identify that you are experiencing burn out in the form of exhaustion, lack of motivation, inability to focus, or general unhappiness, there are a few routes you can take to help you appreciate your job more.
Take Advantage of Work Wellness Perks
A growing trend in offices in the US is providing in-house benefits for their employees mental wellbeing, as the benefits (and the ROI) are proven. Check out or ask the wellness lead (usually someone in HR) what events are coming up. Attend that mindfulness seminar or course offered, or say yes if a massage therapist is hired for the day. These benefits can give you a reboot and help remind you why you joined your organization in the first place. If your office does not offer any in-house wellness perks, start a committee or suggest it to HR.
Take a mental health day
Why are we only allowed “sick days” when our body is sick and tired? What about when our mind feels overwhelmed, overtaxed, and just plain spent? Sometimes we need to get out of our environment in order to take time to heal with self-care and rejuvenation. You may be thinking “I can just push through this”, and this is a common belief, however the more you ignore the signals from your body and mind, the more likely you are to experience the negative effects from burn out, including physical illness. Take a day off, maybe Friday so you can have a long weekend, that is just for you. Do what nourishes you; sleep in an extra hour, get a massage, meditate, go to yoga, hike, see your therapist. This day is for you to fill your cup, get your mind off work and rejuvenate. If you find your mind wrapped up in work, try to let those thoughts float by and focus on how you can care for yourself today. When you return to work, ease your way in and try not to go back into the state of stress you were in before you took your personal day.
Get involved in a new project
Feeling unmotivated by the project you’re currently working on? Make the bold decision to ask your boss to be switched to a project that better suits your skills and interests. If your boss is smart, they will heed your request, as employees work much harder on projects that align with their passion than those that do not. A friend of mine made a similar request at her company once and was rejected. This led to a spiral of frustration and lack of motivation at work and trust with her boss. She simply wanted to leave. However, she decided to stay and continue to express her desire to follow her passion within the organization and eventually, her transfer was approved! Sometimes it takes a little elbow grease but it’s worth every ounce of effort. Make sure the project is what you want before you ask as you don’t want to be surprised once you get there. Speak with those who are already on the project or sit in on a meeting to make sure it’s the right fit.
Work with a mentor
When you’re feeling burn out or lack of motivation, one of the best things to do is seek mentorship from someone who inspires you. Choose a person in your organization or line of work who you look up to either for the role they play, or for the attitude they bring to the projects they engage in. Ask if you can take them to coffee and pick their brain about the work they do. If it feels like a match, ask them to become your mentor more formally. May organizations have structures in place to support mentorship. If yours doesn’t, create some guidelines with your mentor such as a bi-monthly phone call or check in. Finding a mentor can help to reignite your flame at work and give you goals to work towards a motivational mindset.
If you’ve tried all of these steps and you’re still left with a feeling of burn out, consider a job or career change. Not feeling so radical? Look for open positions within your organization so you can stay within the structure you know, but have a new lens to view it from. It’s important to identify some of the reasons you are experiencing burn out. If it comes from a toxic work culture, or working within an organization that doesn’t align with your values, these are signs that you may want to look elsewhere. Do your research into organizations mission statements and see if they connect to your “why” for work. Reach out to any contacts you have in these orgs and see if you can get a meeting with them to feel out whether the mission is aligned to the work-life of the company. Leaving a job can be challenging and scary, but it also opens doors you may have not envisioned before. If you do decide to leave, take time to appreciate the good aspects of the role you are leaving. Perhaps that means thanking certain friends or mentors, or simply feeling gratitude for the opportunity, or even just the paycheck that it has provided you. Every job has some lesson we can learn from it. Even if the lesson is “I don’t like _____” or “I value _____”. Appreciate this and leave with gratitude.