It’s not a secret that I started writing again, when IT gave me my first burnout. I stopped writing in my early twenties because I needed to “get a real job”. I spent most of my teens being food insecure, and that shit is not romantic. Hell, I’ve spent most of my life since graduating high school trying to make sure that never happens to me again.

I was lucky, in that my job was doing health screenings at the time. Those screenings included both a physical and mental portion and it came out that I was in the early stages of burnout. I was got two weeks of sick leave and went to therapy for a while, focused on making sure that burnout wouldn’t happen again.

I’ve had a couple of brushes with burnout since, the latest about halfway through this month.

I’ve had a couple of brushes with burnout since, the latest about halfway through this month. When you find yourself bawling your eyes out because you have no clean sports bras before heading into dance class is a very good indicator that something is wrong. Luckily I was just about to start a 10 day vacation so I’m a lot better now.

This brush, however reminded me of how surprised I was when I got that first diagnosis. Burnout was something that happened to workaholics who work around the clock and never eat, shower, or take a day off. And I’ve seen that same dynamic play out with a couple of friends as well.

What is Burnout?

I really like Hank Green’s burnout video:

Beyond that, there doesn’t seem to be one definition that actually covers the gamut we like to call burnout. The Mayo Clinic says that some research suggests depression is behind it. All the sources I’ve been able to find do agree that it’s mostly a job-related specific stress syndrome.

How do you recognize it?

For me, I always start getting weepy as I’m approaching burnout. The next thing to go is my sleep. The only time after that first that I’ve gotten close to burnout because of my day job, I started losing sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night for no reason, and couldn’t get back to sleep. I couldn’t fall asleep, because if I went to sleep, then tomorrow would come and I had to go to work again. When I realized what was going on and it was not I was lucky enough to be in a situation where I could just basically quit without another job lined up, but it was still hella scary.

This Forbes list has a really good run down of all the symptoms to be on the lookout for and I gotta say, all of those sound way too familiar.

What can you do about it?

Since my so far only actual burnout I’ve been able to catch it early. And it has mostly been due to writing stuff. Honestly, that diagnosis of burnout was a wake-up call in terms of my day job. These days, when I leave work, I actually leave the work behind, unless I’m getting specifically paid for being on-call. I have a plan for getting either full-time or part-time out of IT, but it’s going to take a decade at least for me to get there, so I’m probably going to be using these coping strategies to get through the next dozen or so years.

  1. Take some time off.
    I know this is probably not feasible in terms of taking time off the job for more than a weekend, but at least take that time off. Give yourself permission to not think about work for at least a little while. Whether that’s your day job or whatever gig you’re working here in the gig economy. After my recent brush with the sports bra, I took a day and a half away from all things that even reminded me of work. I watched bad movies and baked. I’m still not completely over the complete and utter exhaustion, but I’m getting there.
  2. Move your body.
    Yeah, when you’re completely and utterly exhausted, that is the very last time that you feel like doing anything strenuous, but it does help. For me, it’s better to just take a walk or punch the bag but your mileage may vary.
  3. Do something that makes you feel good.
    I know. Self-evident, right? But I honestly can’t tell what makes you feel good. I bake. The more stressed I get, the more likely I’ll be making bread. Or something sweet. Anything, as long as at the end of it, I have something edible that smells great. The converse doesn’t necessarily hold true. In case it’s not clear by now, I just really fucking love bread.
  4. Consider getting medical care.
    Yes, it’s like that. When you get to the stage that you’re good for a medical diagnosis, it’s time to consider a sick leave where available, therapy, and/or medication.