I recovered from a burn out

Dear Bloggers,

It may be too late for you to talk about avoiding burnout. Maybe you've already reached the stage where you are thoroughly disillusioned with your job and where you no longer get anything of emotional value from it. You may feel let down or betrayed by your organization, and may be "going through the motions" just for the money your job brings in.

While you can deal with exhaustion by taking a good break, rest may not cure this sense of disillusionment. The passion and commitment that you previously brought to your job may now have completely burned out. Without this, your career may not progress much further.
People deal with this situation in a number of different ways. Some are effective, while others are not so good:

First of all most of us start with doing nothing: Often, one of the worst ways of dealing with burnout is to accept it and do nothing about it. By remaining in place, you risk becoming bitter and angry as opportunities pass you by. Your organization may come to regard you as “dead wood” and if things do not change, you may be doomed to a gradual or sudden decline. You need to change the situation in some way. 

A better option is changing your career: If you have lost all interest in the values that led you into your profession in the first place, then career change may be the best option open to you. If possible even in total different job and another company.

The first downside of this, however, is that you lose the benefit of the precious experience you have already gained within the profession. In entering a new profession, you will be competing equally with people much younger than you, and these people are willing to accept much lower salaries. I speak about my own experience.

A second downside is that you risk a strong sense of failure in the way how you handled things, whereas burnout will only have been a temporary setback if you succeed in turning the situation around. 

Changing jobs: Job change within the same profession is usually less of an issue than a full-scale career change, in that many of your skills and much of your experience will be transferrable. Job change gives you the opportunity to rededicate yourself to your original goals. It also provides a fresh start in a new environment, without the painful reminders that come with staying in the same job. 

Changing jobs is an appropriate response where you are disillusioned with your organization more than you are with your career. What you risk, however, is ending up in the same situation again: In changing your job, you must make sure that you understand what lead you to burn out, and ensure that history does not repeat itself. Looking at this positively, you should know what to look for, and have a good idea of how to avoid it!
Using your burnout as a trigger for personal growth: This is probably one the most positive ways that people manage burnout: By using it as a wakeup call to re-evaluate the way they want to live their lives and what they want to achieve. 


Understanding why you burned out
An important first step in managing burnout is to deal with the sense of failure that you may experience following it. A starting point for this is to take a long, rational, dispassionate look at the circumstances leading up to it.

A good way of doing this is by talking to someone who you trust and who is experienced in similar situations in similar organizations (you may find a personal coach helpful here). Avoid people within your own organization, as these people will be tainted with its assumptions and thinking habits: These may contribute to the problem. Take the time to talk the situation through in detail, looking at the circumstances before your involvement, your workload, your actions and the actions of other people, and the situations that evolved.

If you are the sort of person who has been committed enough to your work to burn out, it is more than likely that you will have already done everything in your power to resolve the situation.
In reflecting, you will probably find that you made some mistakes, but you will most likely see that these are excusable under the circumstances. You will almost certainly see that a great deal of blame should be attributed externally to the situation, to people around you, or to the people who set up the situation in the first place. In your mind, make sure you place this blame where it fairly belongs.

Lessons that people typically learn through this process are that they are not superhuman, that hard work does not cure all ills, and that major achievements need the commitment and support of other people: In many circumstances, the intense commitment of only one person simply is not enough. They also learn to look at situations with skepticism as they go into them, and to trust their own judgment in spotting and communicating problems early on.

Learn the lessons of your mistakes so that you do not repeat them.
Moving On… Finding a “new” direction

Having come to terms with the situation, the next step is to re-evaluate your goals and think about what you want to achieve with your life. I touched on this briefly in a avoiding burnout article; however in recovering from burnout, it is worth doing this in detail together with your coachl.
There are many articles on the mind to guide you through the processes of thinking. About for example what you want to achieve with your life and of reviewing and setting life goals.

Implanting these processes with the increased wisdom and self-understanding you will have gained by understanding why you burned out. Ensure that you give due weight to the relaxation, quality of life issues and social activities that will help to protect you against burnout in the future. Make sure that your goals are set in a balanced manner so that they do not conflict with one-another, and that they are not so challenging that they become a source of excessive stress in their own right.

Next, use SWOT Analysis to more fully understand your current position with respect to these goals. Use it to identify where you need to develop new skills and capabilities, and to understand where you need the help of other people.

Make an action plan for achieving these goals and start work on it. While part of this Action Plan may include changing job or (not very easy in these times), you will be doing this as part of an active plan for the future, not as an escape from one job into another one that is equally bad.
As well as taking these active steps to put your burnout behind you, make sure that you adopt the steps towards a healthy lifestyle we looked at in our defences against stress section. These will help you to avoid exhaustion and long-term stress in the future.

The Old Sailor,


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