Is It Burnout?

I go through this period at work every quarter that involves a solid three weeks of higher than usual stress and an incredible work load. I tried to describe what happens during these cycles to a friend over the weekend, and he said that it sounds like I work the equivalent of two full-time jobs. It’s true. Two full-time high-pressure jobs rolled into one. I’m doing my normal day-to-day work, which can be harrowing on its own, and adding a massive extra task with a very short deadline on top of it.

I am in the middle of that particular phase at the moment and no matter how much I try to take care of myself, the tension can get unbearable. I always head into these things prepared to get daily exercise, meditate, eat well and make sure I sleep, but it never quite works out that way. The stress becomes impossible to escape. My therapist continues to tell me that I can only do what I can do and if it’s not sustainable and I don’t meet the deadlines then I’m not going to die. While I appreciate that sentiment and it does help me to keep my perfectionism in check with a lot of my normal work, it’s not so easy during these heavy deadline periods. As it is, I already always run past the targeted due dates because it’s too much to manage.

I sometimes wonder how little sleep some coworkers get. I know mine suffers during these phases and I don’t even have children to also look after. I watch people with families who are pushing through the heavy workload on top of trying to handle their family situations and I feel for them. We all work long days in the office and typically log back in after finally getting home at night and on the weekends. That’s pretty standard for even a normal work day, but it’s even more necessary when this quarterly cycle comes around. We all spend these times in the office a little grumpier, a lot more tired and generally lacking any positive energy. There are body aches and short fuses to contend with everywhere you turn. No matter how hard we all try, the mental and physical exhaustion run rampant.

When I stop to consider that I spend a minimum of three weeks every quarter going through this, that’s three months of my life each year. Three months of stress levels that are off the charts. Three months with little sleep or much in the way of self-care. Three months where I neglect much of what is important and valuable to me. Maintaining the positive attitude that has come to be expected of me is becoming more of a struggle with each passing quarter. I try to put on the brave face and show everyone that I can handle it, while in reality it’s tearing me up inside. I always come into this cycle wanting to make it better somehow, but by the end of the three weeks even this queen of positivity is left feeling defeated.

None of this seems like something a person should go through. I am incredibly grateful for what I have and for the opportunity that I’ve been given. I like who I work with and I like the good that we do, but the balance is lacking. Burnout is a very real thing. This isn’t something that just impacts my business, it’s the culture that we are surrounded by in this country, in general. Burnout can lead to a whole host of problems. All work and no play makes Jack a very anxious, forgetful, tired, pained, ill, depressed, lonely and addicted boy.

In no way am I blaming my alcohol use on my job, but I am keenly aware that it was how I coped during the high stress cycles. Maybe it’s being sober that makes me hyper-sensitive to the pressures of the job, or maybe it’s getting older and recognizing the value of each moment in this short life. Work is important and certainly necessary, but there must be a way to find joy and balance in it instead of watching the years melt painfully away as the hamster wheel keeps spinning.



6 thoughts on “Is It Burnout?

  1. It sounds like you soul is speaking up to me. Becoming louder and clearer that this isn’t okay any more. Head down and ignoring it for me was my coping strategy, but sooner or later that will implode and not a fun way. The soul will be listened to one way or another.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve gone through the ignoring phase and then I finally started doing the speaking up starting about a year and a half ago. After 7+ years of the same cycle continuously repeating itself, it’s certainly giving me pause.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I get it. Hey: do as I say and not as I always do: you only live once. In a pretty long career I’ve only (luckily) gone through a few periods of mega-stress. It was terrible and my drinking got much worse. As always: best wishes to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, my friend! I’ve struggled with this for a while now…I know I’ll figure it out, but the stress has been going on for over 7 years. At some point something has to give. I’m just not sure what that means yet. I look at it all with even clearer eyes as a sober person, which is a gift in itself.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, alcohol probably did help you ignore some of those thoughts expressed at the end of your post. Are there other strategies you can use, now, that could help? Can the job be altered in any way to avoid some of that “crunch time” mentality, for example? Do you have different options of how to deal with that at work? Then, of course, one must ask if this is THE JOB for them. All difficult questions that many people face in one form or another. Hopefully your new-found health and clarity will help you with the answers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks, Becky – in seven years, I’ve tried every strategy I can think of. Even more in the past year and since the time of my sobriety. Sadly, there is no way to alter the job, it is the reality of the position for me and others in it. There is much more to the story than what I’ve just indicated in this post, and I would love to see things move in a different direction, but no amount of vocalizing that and being an “agent for change” has done the trick quite yet. I will figure it out, ideally I’d like to figure it out while being able to stay put, but you are right, at some point we all have some pretty serious questions to ask ourselves.


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