4 Modest Ways to Recharge After Burnout
THIS IS A POST FROM THE MSBA “SMALL FIRM SOAPBOX” SERIES, WRITTEN BY OUR OWN WADE ABED. YOU CAN FIND IT HERE ON THE MSBA WEBSITE.
“I FEEL THIN, SORT OF STRETCHED, LIKE BUTTER SCRAPED OVER TOO MUCH BREAD.”
Bilbo Baggins the seminal character from The Hobbit books says the above quote to Gandalf the Grey as a spirit looking back on his rather long life. I always thought that quote described how it feels to be burned out. Bilbo captured the essence of burned out in thirteen words. (Side note: I know opening with Bilbo Baggins confirms that I am a total nerd).
Just because Bilbo recognized that he was spread too thin doesn’t mean that the rest of recognize when we are headed for a crash. How can we tell when we are burned out or if we just need to move on to something else? I started thinking about the concept of burnout for two reason. The first reason was my Grandpa Bill. The second reason was Jon Stewart.
Grandpa Bill is from Jaffa, Palestine. Jaffa was the largest city in historic Palestine during the years of the British mandate. Jaffa had more than 80,000 Palestinians living in the city. During the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel, my grandpa was in his early to late teens. He stuck around for a little bit and then he made his way to America sometime between 1952 and 1953.
I asked my Grandpa Bill about this time in his life and I asked him how he had the energy to start a new life after leaving Jaffa under an extremely tumultuous and violent period. I did not ask him if he was burnt out. I don’t think Grandpa Bill knows what burnt out means. Grandpa Bill said that his goal was to survive, thrive, and build a new life. We had this conversation nearly 15 years ago.
As I reflect on this conversation, I have come to the conclusion that the phrase “burnt out” or “burned out” is a new wave 21st century economic condition that involves a job or career. Most of the time burn out is not life or death like fleeing your homeland, unless it goes unchecked for too long.
SO, WHAT IS BURNED OUT?
1. Urban Dictionary’s Definition:
“burned out”: What occurs when you overwork yourself into a state of limited mental acuity, depleted emotions, and strength completely drained from your body.
2. Google Dictionary’s Definition:
“burned-out”: adjective– (Of a person) in a state of physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.
“she felt burned out, an empty shell”
3. Maslach & Jackson’s Definition:
“burned-out”: When workers “feel unhappy about themselves and dissatisfied with their accomplishments on the job.”
The definition I prefer is the one from Christina Maslach and Susan E. Jackson, from the Maslach Burnout Inventory. These folks have been studying the topic for over 30 years.
4 MODEST WAYS TO RECHARGE
1. Focus on you.
Now we can tie up that loose end from earlier in this post: Jon Stewart. Jon Stewart retired from The Daily Show on Comedy Central. I cannot believe he took over the show in 1999. (Side note: there’s a great article on the evolution of the show on Slate). Jon chose to focus on himself and his family. Bottom line: if Jon Stewart can leave that media giant at the top of his game, then you could certainly take a little bit of time for yourself every day. We spend a lot of our time meeting the demands of everyone except us. Time some time to meet your own demands too.
Ten minutes of mediation goes a long way. Check out Free Meditation to get a start. You can also learn about the benefits of meditation here by downloading the free PDF.
Eat more salads. Take a walk during the work day. Swim. Bike. A stronger and healthier body helps to produce a stronger mind. We can deal with the stress and anxiety of work better if we eat better food and exercise. Which is tough for me because I enjoy eating Egg McMuffins.
Write down your personal and professional accomplishments every day. The whole point of this is to regain your perspective and get you out of the foxhole that is work. This helps us regain our wide focus to see the bigger picture and not get bogged down with a myopic mental state.
If you’re still experiencing burnout for longer and longer periods, then maybe it is time for a career change or renovation. Talk to your peers, trusted advisors, and mentors to help reframe your career or make changes to reach your potential. Also, no one is too old for a mentor. There is help out there. Really. According to The Atlantic’s, Leigh McMullan Abramson, there are so many attorneys that want out of the law or a way to redefine their jobs that there is a whole industry developing which specializes in getting lawyers on a new path.