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Burned out at work
June 24, 2008 5:12 PM   Subscribe

How can I deal with burnout?

Warning: lots of details! Sorry! I have never really liked my current job but over the last 2 years, the dislike of my job has heightened considerably. I have fallen into depression and started seeing a therapist. It was recommended that I start on medication, and I've been on Lexapro for about a month and a half now. But work has gotten to a point where I can barely get through the day. The mere idea of say, returning a client's phone call just exhausts me. I've had it! Basically, I'm burned out.

It doesn't help that I work in the mortgages, and the industry is collapsing around me. I know that I need to get another job, and I have been making efforts to that end.

But how can I deal with my current awful job now? As much as I hate it, I need to be effective at it. Any ideas for dealing with working with burnout? FYI, I can't afford a real vacation now.
posted by saturn25 to Work & Money (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
You probably have a routine at work. We all do. Figure out what yours is, and try and freshen it up a little, if you can. Make little changes to your daily routine at work that challenge you mentally and perhaps physically.

Physically, you ask? Working in mortgages, it sounds like you have a desk job. I have one of those. I found that after 2 years I was getting a little tired of the same routine, even though I still loved my job. Exercise helped. I started taking the stairs, going for 1/2 hour walk through the park at lunch (when I could). The naturally produced happy chemicals that this physical activity pumped into me woke me up, envigorated me and made me a little happier. You should try and get out to do more physical things on the weekend (even if it's just a trip to the beach or a nap on the grass at the park... it needn't be water skiing or skydiving or anything extreme).
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:24 PM on June 24, 2008


A year ago I was in your exact situation, so you have my sympathy.

I'm sorry but the only real solution is for you to take time off. Do what it takes with your doctor to be approved for at least 2 months of stress-leave. 6 months if possible.

If your request for sick leave is denied, then sell your house and quit your job (assuming you don't have kids). Downsize and take some brainless McJob to cover the bills. Relax, reflect, and find yourself again. If you do have kids, I'm not sure what to suggest.

Anyway, if you continue down this path, you are gonna start sucking very badly at your job and get fired. After which it will be VERY hard for you to get another job. It's better for you to leave your job or take sick-leave NOW while you're still on good terms with everyone.

Whether you realize it now or when it's too late, the fact is that SSRI medication is a stopgap and not a cure. It stabilizes you so you can think clearly to deal with your situation, but dealing with your situation means making REAL changes in your life. At the end of the day, a salary and a house is worthless if you don't have your mental health.
posted by randomstriker at 5:42 PM on June 24, 2008


I would recommend against taking time off if you are at all susceptible to alcohol. Staying at home all day with 16 hours to kill, will likely not do your liver any favors unless you have willpower of steel.

Exercise, start slowly and work your way up, even if it's just a walk around the block, it can do wonders for your mood.

Eat better, unless you consult a dietitian, you should have a good idea of what you need to cut-out, and what you should eat more of.

Log-off. Go outside. If you have a bike, rollerblades, etc, use them.

As a disclaimer I really burnt-out about two years ago. Tried changing jobs, but that didn't help, actually made things worse since I went from having too much to do, to having nothing to do, which is more stressful depending on your work ethics. (and yes, I've complained several times about not having enough to fill the day)
posted by hungrysquirrels at 6:56 PM on June 24, 2008


Start with the basics: get enough sleep, but not too much; eat right, and cut out caffeine. Exercise, especially walking, hiking, and yoga.

Find something you enjoy doing, and make time to do it on a regular basis.
posted by and for no one at 7:02 PM on June 24, 2008


You hate your job. You need to quit. You only have one life - what's the use in torturing yourself? If you cannot quit for financial or other reasons, decide what it will take to get to the point of where you can quit. Set a goal for yourself (like earning a certain amount of money). Once your goal is set change your perspective on your work day. Instead of working for work's sake, think of each day as a necessary step to completing your goal.
posted by b_thinky at 7:05 PM on June 24, 2008


Sometimes large companies do pro bono (for free) work as charity. If you can get yourself on such a project for 2 months or so within your company, maybe something related to the housing market collapse (but in a helpful, non-depressing way), it may be just the change of pace you need. You may also be able to start such a program yourself. Or what about other functions in the company: training, HR, anything that you can move into laterally. You could also try starting something at the company that you have always wanted to see implemented, like a mentoring program or a suggestions program. You could go for certification in something, *during the day* that would make you a better employee in the future for reduced hours now. I give you these suggestions, but, when I was in a similar situation, I just quit and I felt so much better. Then I learned Swedish during the day instead, however I could afford to do so and it sounds like you need to stick around.
posted by Eringatang at 7:43 PM on June 24, 2008


++and for no one

Every case of burnout I've experienced (and there have been several) it all started with not sleeping enough. When I stop using the alarm everything -- and I do mean everything, not just work -- gets better.

Once you start taking care of yourself it becomes more interesting to evaluate your job, your career, and everything else. But start with you. When you are out of whack it skews your perspectives.
posted by trinity8-director at 9:58 PM on June 24, 2008


As much as I think little suggestions like getting better sleep, finding a hobby, excercising, etc are useful for most of us in our everyday lives, the fact is that saturn25 is in clinical depression and needs to make fundamental changes to his life to get better. Come on guys, he's on SSRIs...they don't give those to folks who have just gotten a little slack in their gym routine or their diet. Let's assume that he has correctly identified what is causing the depression (he hates his job) -- then the solution is obvious but also very difficult to do. Quit the job.

Go on stress leave or quit the job....NOW.
posted by randomstriker at 10:25 PM on June 24, 2008


In another comment, I link to my favorite quote about burnout. The article I linked there is great, and the thread has a lot of helpful comments.

To me, though, it doesn't sound like "burnout," which I think of as a situation where "I more or less like my work, but I have worked so hard that all of a sudden, I cannot work hard at all anymore," and where the key question is "how do I do my job sustainably?" If you really do think it's just burnout, we would be able to give more helpful comments about how to address the burnout without quitting if you told us more about what was going on at work. For me, burnout is a sign that you need to troubleshoot something, but what?

But to me, your description sounds more like straight-up "depression," of the "I am suppressing my feelings and forcing myself to keep doing something I really hate until my emotions take over my physical body to force me to stop doing it" variety. Here the key question is, "what will it take to make me respond to what my emotions are trying to tell you?" (The book The Roots Reach Toward Water talks about this.) I don't know what to suggest you do besides start making concrete plans to quit.

Ah yes, you are already doing that. As you point out, you're in a pretty desperate spot, one that will hopefully motivate you to get yourself in a better situation, now that it's apparent that your very ability to even make phone calls depends on you getting yourself into a better situation. Sounds like you've gotten desperate and are getting moving on that front, which is good.

Here is how I would try to hang in there in the meantime. You're in a tough situation here. You need to switch into survival mode. Get really clear on your goal. Your goal is to hang in there long enough to find another job. What is the bare minimum you need to do so you won't be discovered as someone whose body has already quit the job? Focus your energies. Make "to do" lists when you have a little mental clarity, then mindlessly do them. Trust the self that made that list. Make use of your unwillingness to do things, your lethargy, to figure out what to just stop doing. Burnout comes to me when I'm spinning my wheels a lot. So, fine, stop expending that energy. What are the few places where you have traction, where your energy will have results? What are the few places where you do need to create results, and what is the absolute easiest way to get them? This is the time to quit being an overachiever, quit reaching for the stars, set minimal goals, and then single-mindedly pursue them. And then let yourself rest. And then use the remainder of your energy to find yourself a better situation. Take a few sick days; I don't think you'll get anything for them when you quit, right? Consider taking vacation unless you'll need the funds to give yourself a break in between this job and the next one. Best of luck, hang in there, you can get through this.
posted by salvia at 11:50 AM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


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