For the last few months, I’ve been struggling with work burnout. Many people who ask me about what I do might be surprised by this. I am a Youth Services Librarian in a public library. On the surface, my job might sound like it wouldn’t be stressful. I get to work with books and kids. I get to do storytimes and put together fun craft programs. I get to choose what children’s books to add to the collection, and hire performers to run events for the kids and teens at the library. I put together a summer reading program, and help kids find a book they can connect with and enjoy. There’s a lot of fun in my job.
So why am I feeling burnt out? Firstly, working with the public is draining. I’ve had some great interactions with people, but at the same time, I’ve had several negative ones. I’ve been critiqued on things like my storytimes. Storytime is not something easy to do. It isn’t simply reading a book. It’s reading in a way that is engaging to kids of all ages. It is a skill. Everyone has their own style. Some people, though, have not liked my style, and let it be known. It is hard to appeal to everyone. As a result of the critiques, though, my self-esteem has suffered. Feelings of unappreciation also come up a lot when working with the public. It makes such a difference when you help someone and they say thank you. It shows you appreciate the time and effort they put into helping you. These reasons all have piled up and led to my feelings of being burned out. So how can we all relieve feelings of burnout?
Let’s start with what is burnout. According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout is “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” It continues to list the symptoms of burnout.
Have you become cynical or critical at work?
Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
Do you find it hard to concentrate?
Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
Have your sleep habits changed?
Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, the Mayo Clinic suggests you might be experiencing burnout. I know I answered yes to quite a few of these. So then, now that we know we are experiencing burnout, what can we do to help alleviate it? Here are some tips.
Remember and Write Down Why You Went into this Job
What made you enter this career to begin with? Think back to when you first started out in the field. Maybe you were an intern or assistant. What made you decide this is the career path you want to follow? Journaling about these questions will, hopefully, help you rediscover that passion you once had for your career. It will remind you what you love about your job, or if not love, at least like. This could help change your mindset a little so that you approach work with a more positive outlook.
Engaging in constant learning can help get you excited about your job again. When we learn new information, methods, and ways of doing things, this can make our job feel novel again, like it did when we first started. Novelty is always great for engagement. It is fresh, and opens the door to new possibilities. This can help spark new ways of doing things, which can make you look forward to work and trying out these new techniques.
Keep Your Expectations Realistic
Keeping your expectations realistic is important in combating burnout. That is to say, not everyone is going to love their job. Work is a commitment. We don’t have much control at work. We can’t control when we come in or leave. Our hours are set for us. We can’t control the assignments we’re given. We answer to a boss. All of this means work might not be our favorite thing because we don’t often choose it. We need it to survive in this world and have an income. So it is possible you won’t ever feel this intense passion or calling, and that’s okay. You can still be happy and not love work every single day. So don’t expect this huge wave of passion to suddenly overtake you. Be realistic and try to find a happy medium between loving and hating work.
Have Things that Make You Happy Outside of Work
Find hobbies that excite you, and make your life outside work fun. Learn a new skill or take a class. Expand your social circle, or strengthen the one you currently have. Plan outings with family and friends. Make sure you have things to look forward to so that your life doesn’t feel like work. If you have a good work-life balance, burnout will be less likely to occur.
Burnout is tough to deal with when you’re going through it, but don’t lose heart. There are ways to help relieve burnout, and help you develop a healthier relationship with work again. Be patient with yourself, give it time, and your perspective will change before you know it.