I recall resuming at my first real job years back. I had mixed feelings ; feelings of excitement and curiosity. Little did I know it would eventually end in burnout.
In my naivety, I had convinced myself that it was unprofessional to say “no” to colleagues at work. I said “yes” to everything and to everyone’s request. I did not get to tackle my own tasks without being interrupted and in some cases, I found myself doing overtime to make up for lost time.
Being the new kid on the block with degrees from “fancy” schools brought with it a fair share of pressure. I had to apply emotional intelligence, to avoid intimidating or sending the wrong message in my new workplace. I had to show them I was one of them. Same team, same goal and very much a reliable colleague. So, whether it was taking on additional projects while others were pending, releasing my private car for official work, or covering up for colleagues, I found myself in the middle of it all.
Were there other reasons why I was doing of all this? Yes! Asides assuming it was unprofessional to say no to lending a helping hand even to my own disadvantage, I also thought taking up more work than one can handle showed a sign of being a stellar performer. I also did not want to be labelled a jerk and hated to disappoint colleagues. I was happy to be everyone else’ s Clerk Kent but myself. Of course, keeping up with that, was not sustainable.
It was only a matter of time. Naturally, I got overwhelmed and exhausted. I could not keep up with the first impression I created. I struggled with work-life balance. It affected my deliverables, and relationship with colleagues who were starting to see a “different” me. That was when it dawned on me. I had reached the point of burnout.
There was no clarity in our roles, the job came with unrealistic expectations and the dysfunctional workplace dynamics did not help either. I gradually starting detaching from the job, became cynical and lost my creativity spark.
These are signs of burnout. I had reached the point where I was emotionally numb and lacked the energy to be consistently productive.
Does this sound like you? Are you heading towards that path? Then you should address it before it degenerates into depression and substance abuse. You can start doing these things right away.
Evaluate your options. I did that and realised it was time to move on. My mental health was more important than the job. If you are not equipped or empowered to meet up with lofty expectations, address this with superiors. If nothing changes, then start looking for alternatives.
Establish exercise routines, meditate often, and ensure you are getting enough sleep. The recommended sleep time for an adult is about 6 to 10 hours. Adapt your lifestyle and habits to accommodate at least 6 hours. You will be better for it.
Practice mindfulness. This means focusing on what you can control which avoids the path to stress and anxiety.
Finally, learn to say “no.” You could respectfully say “I would love to help with that, but not right now.” It does not make you a horrible person or a disappointment to colleagues. Do fewer things but exceptionally well. And make sure you are tackling major issues. See it as prioritizing what matters, how you control your time and energy. Believe me, everyone will get used to the new but real you. And they will come around.