burnout

9 Sep

I’ve been in a rut for the last several months– I’ve been constantly exhausted, moody, unhappy, etc.  I realized today that it’s not just the cloudy day doldrums.  I’m burned out.

I’m a fifth year associate now.  That means I’ve been in nonstop fight-or-flight mode for the last four years.  I’ve taken a few vacations.  I was lucky enough to take a long, international honeymoon in 2009, but other than that my vacations have been mostly long weekends.  Even when I had Baby Beez, maternity leave wasn’t truly “leave.”  I was responsible for rearranging my own work around my leave time, and even with doing that, I still had to work at home part time during most of my leave. Even with vacations, and small getaways, I have rarely felt truly rested in the last several years.

Associates are workhorses.  I knew that going to law school meant that I’d be working hard and working long hours.  I didn’t like working long hours and on weekends before (no one does), but as Baby Beez has gotten older, it becomes more and more frustrating for me.  I get resentful, because I’d rather spend my weekends with her, or resting, or basically doing anything that’s not working.  But then by Friday afternoon I usually end up with certain big tasks with Monday deadlines, and I have to take care of them over the weekend.  I suppose “burnout” contains connotations of dissatisfaction with the substance of your work– feeling like it’s not meaningful or fulfilling.  That’s not the problem I have.  I’m just having trouble coping with working as much as I have to work right now.

These are the techniques I’ve been using to try and overcome burnout.  It’s been a losing battle so far.  I can use any suggestions you can throw my way.

1.  Cultivate hobbies that give me joy.  I’m in 2 book clubs (and yes, I find time for the reading, because reading books for fun right before bed helps me ward off stress dreams and waking in the night), and with my 30 before 30 project, I’ve identified a number of things I’ve wanted to do, and am carving out time to do them. When I feel like I don’t have any time to do fun things, I look back at my calendar and remind myself of my book club meetings and happy hours and other fun gatherings with friends, and look at my bookshelf to remind myself that regardless of how it feels, my life isn’t “All work, No Play Make Beez Dull Girl”

2. Remind myself of my blessings.  There are so many people in our country right now who have no jobs, and no ways to support their family at all right now.  There are many others who work longer, harder hours than I do, and still don’t earn enough to support their families.  I have a job. I am supporting my family.  My job, while mentally demanding and stressful, is not dangerous and does not put me in physical harm.

3.  Carve out “work time” from my weekend.  I feel like working on the weekend is much easier to deal with when, instead of just saying “I need to do x, y, and z” and getting around to it when I get to it, I instead identify when I will do the work.  99% of the time I do my work on the weekend at home, instead of going into the office (I’m lucky to have very good remote access).  If, for example, I need to write a brief, I might block out Sunday from 7am to noon as work time.  I’ll make sure Mr. Beez is aware that he’s got to mind Baby Beez, and I focus solely on my work during that time. I find that doing this makes it feel less like work is hanging over my head all weekend.

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