Workplace burnout was just an expression I had read online… till it hit me, couple of years back. Some called it job burnout, some said it was occupational burnout – a direct expression of my stressful job.
I just couldn’t work, office became a chore, health suffered…
It started around two years back
“I am not interested in what I’m supposed to do. I know I should get going. I know there’s a huge amount of work to be done. I know they transferred me here for a reason, but I just can’t seem to get going.”
Eighteen months before making these comments, I was transferred to company headquarters from a subsidiary. My new job was to revamp the company’s control systems, which, because of revamp, were in disarray.
When I reported to headquarters, top management immediately recruited me to serve as a key mediatory. I was not in competition with line executives, I was the only staff person who interviewed and the communication channel between other executives and the chief executive officer. And since the company board representatives trusted me, they gave my recommendations serious attention. My job filled my heart up, and I was honoured to be the captain of that particular vessel.
I did not realise my job had become onerous
Not only did the long working hours and the unrelenting pressure of tightrope walking among conflicting interests tired me out- it made it impossible for me to control problems and be on top of the situations, always.
Furthermore, because my family could not move until my youngest child finished his school, I had to commute on weekends to my family, hundreds of kms away. The commute, neglect of family responsibilities and the pressure of living upto the work expectations, it took a toll on my psyche. I started to feel lonely, stressed, hassled, burdened and always short of time.
I lost almost all of my friends because I had no time for them. The only time I had was for work assigned to me. I was feeling tired, all the times. I lived a life devoid of life.
It stressed me out. I was totally fatigued and felt burnt out…
I was spiraling out of control… The thing about workplace fatigue and burnout is that the person undergoing it is the first and sometimes the only one to even knows that something is happening.
I wanted a career and financial independence, who doesn’t? But in this fast paced race I, unsuccessfully, juggled work, kids, the needs of my spouse and others. I was broke – physically, mentally and emotionally. I put on 10 kg in 18 months because my hormones were so out of alignment.
I took a break from my job; a sabbatical
After completing my immediate assignment I went on vacation to my family house. A week turned into two and two weeks turned into four…
I spent three months in my hometown to work on my roots, my wings and refuel my soul.
The higher management was all very supportive and they allowed me to lean back and regain some of what I lost.
Initial phase of recovery was actually as uncomfortable as what caused my burnout, to begin with. I did not communicate with the outside world other than my family for a month, whenever I could. I sat in the back porch of my childhood home and listened to birds. I tried to take notice of the breeze and the way clouds moved. Time would go by before I moved.
Breaking the relentless work pattern helped
It gave me time to introspect, help me set real term life-work balance guidelines. I, with the help of a consultant friend, devised a health and financial retirement plan for myself. I had to plan this plan, for this made me look at the future with a purpose; a hope to be able to return to a routine life, the life I liked earlier, minus the distresses.
Thankfully, I had been able to save enough to think of reworking my life
I met friends, I learnt to ride a bicycle and in fact I started to take painting classes, again. The inner I, that had been chocked for years, started to emerge.
I lost the need to run against this imaginary ticking time bomb I couldn’t ever beat. I discarded the need to be this always in control individual. I learnt to say ‘NO’ to ‘impossible’ demands, at times. Read on… Adrenal ‘Executive’ Burnout.
I eventually came back to work once I felt I knew this new me
Honestly speaking, it felt like I started over. It took a while but I could see my life patterns changing. I was more relaxed and organised.
I now spend one day a week writing and communicating with others about how I recovered from burn out. I take care of myself again. I’m exercising, eating healthy food, traveling and spending quality time with my family again.
Burn out was by far the most difficult personal and professional lesson I’ve ever experienced. The fire I went through as a result of my burn out helped me to become the person I am today.
My name is ——, and I am a recovering workplace burnout executive.
A writers note: Call it workplace burnout, executive burnout, job burnout, adrenal fatigue. Call it whatever but it is time to get a hold on your life if the work demands are adversely affecting your physical, emotional, mental balance – the doubts about your competence and work value are possessing you.
Take a break, go on a sabbatical. Consult a burnout expert, attend classes, workshops, sessions, retreats, do courses, whatever helps you help heal yourself. Workplace burnout recovery can be a slow and marathon process. Be at it. All the Best!