I had never believed in the term workplace “executive” burnout, till it hit me, couple of years back.
I just can’t seem to get going… “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.”
It started around two years back
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 reorganization, were in disarray.
When I reported to headquarters, top management immediately recruited me to serve as a key staff figure. Because I was not in competition with line executives, I was the only staff person who interviewed with both the other executives and the chief executive officer. And because the top managers trusted me, they gave my recommendations serious attention. My job filled my heart up, and I was honored 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; made it impossible for me to control problems that needed attention.
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 km away. As I tried to perform the job that had been thrust on me and to support the CEO, who was counting heavily on my competence, I felt lonely, hassled, and burdened.
I had totally lost myself in my job
I had 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.
I was stressed. I was totally fatigued and 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 the rat race I juggled work, kids, the needs of my spouse and others.
I was broke – physically, mentally and emotionally. Physically I put on 10 kg in 18 months because my hormones were so out of alignment due to stress.
I took a break from my job; a sabbatical
After completing my work I went on vacation to my family house. A week turned into two and two weeks turned into four.
I spent four weeks 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 burn out to begin with. I did not communicate with the outside world other than my family for a month. 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, set real term life-work balance guidelines. I, with the help of a consultant friend, devised a health and retirement plan for myself.
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.
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 organized.
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 fatigue and Burnout Executive.