Brrring Brring the song “Let’s Dance- Move it” comes on over his phone. He reaches over and thinks: “What day is it?” Oh, yes work and school come to mind. He reaches over and stops the music. He pulls himself out of his bed and stumbles down the hallway, navigates over the toys, dog, and clothes strewn all over the floor from his bedroom to the kitchen. He yells for the kids to get up as he looks in the fridge for some semblance of a healthy breakfast. He finds milk, eggs, and cheese. He ponders what to make that they will eat. He chooses dry cereal.
The kids come running into the kitchen fighting over the seat next to the door. They choose cereal and juice for breakfast. Daaadddd! Yells Frank. Peter looks around the room to see what could have upset Frank so quickly. He spots the problem Frank has a fork and not a spoon. Peter wonders why he can’t get up and get himself a spoon? Peter decides not to argue over that as the morning is just starting and he could have other battles to fight.
Peter thinks about all he must do today at work. He begins to feel his heart race and breathing quicken. He knows he must work, he must support his children and pay the bills. He does not dislike his job he just does not feel excited or happy to go to work. His mind focuses on the negatives of his job, the stress he has, the paperwork, and finally the lack of support he feels daily. He feels overwhelmed with all the people who come to him for advice, the deadlines he must meet, and the ticking clock around his children.
Burnout? Do men get burnout? He is not sure that is ‘manly’ and pushes that thought out of his mind. Does he need help? He thinks about what kind of help he could get? Help with cleaning the house? He has that. Help with supper? Well, that would be nice, but he likes to cook, and it is family time around the kitchen where he has a chance to catch up with the kids, review homework, and set their daily schedule. No, that would not be an answer.
Burnout is a hidden mental health problem facing most of us. We become so focused on the rat race, we jump on our wheel and start running our race. Once we look around and take a breath, we realize the wheel keeps turning. “It does not need me but a body to turn it. If I am not there someone else will jump on the wheel and keep everything on track”. The cycle keeps moving. We have to ask the question “Do I want to move with it or jump off”?
Peter looks around while walking into the lunch area. He has a lot on his mind and can’t decide what to do. He pulls out his lunch and sits with friends. He looks around at the tired and stressed faces next to him. He sighs, gets up, and walks toward the door. He catches a glimpse of someone he knew would be trustworthy; he walks over to speak with her.
“What’s happening”? “Do you have time to talk?” asks Peter. Sandy nods and they walk outside to the picnic tables. “What’s going on? I noticed you are not as chatty or simile as normal”. Peter thinks for a minute to decide if he can trust her. He is looking for someone to listen to him, not gossip, and not condemn him for his thoughts. He takes a breath and begins to open up regarding his overwhelming feelings of dread and suffocation he feels every morning. He hates his job, well not hate but he does not feel appreciated and has no real desire to be at work. He does not want to leave but can’t find that medium which would help him to push through.
Overworked, underpaid, drama, and feeling unappreciated can make us feel like we need a change in our life. We may not have the strength to see over the wall or mountain of paperwork, schoolwork or laundry. All we can see is the mountain, our minds replay the injustice, and our thoughts agree with it. We debated making a move, but is it the right move?
As we begin agreeing with the negative, we may only see problems. We see the work as unfair, the workload as never-ending, and the benefits as nonexistent. We forget to look at the positive; it may be only a smile out of a child, a successful school day for the child who has meltdowns regularly, or the dinner on the table when you get home. It may be difficult to find all the good when it all looks so bad. Burnout begins slowly and continues to build until we just walk out of the situation.
If we stay in the situation, we become angry, bitter, and demanding. We spread that attitude to others who are around us. We may try to hide it; however, it still seeps through from our attitude, conversation, and actions.
Peter and Sandy begin to discuss his life, the kids, work, and social life. Peter realized he has not taken the time to do any of the things he liked to do. He was not fishing because the kids had activities scheduled each weekend. He might find a babysitter but did not have the finances to pay for it right now. He continued to talk, think, and wonder. He was realizing he was tired and had burnout. What could he do to change that? Did he need to change jobs? How does a person move from burnout to contentment?
These are hard questions for each of us when faced with burnout. How do we tell if we have total burnout or if we just need a change in our life? That change can be as easy as a self-care day, new haircut, or rearranging the living room. Small changes can make big differences in our life if we are stagnated or but love the rest of our life and the path it is on.
Peter and Sally begin to brainstorm ways he could make small changes and see if that would help with some of the anxiety and depression coming on due to burnout. He was moving from simple burnout to depression. His mind was focused on the negatives and stress of his life and not the positives. He and Sally developed a plan for him: he would take every other Saturday off for a ‘me’ day. He would begin with a boy’s night out with friends he has left slip away. He would also take the kids on outings monthly. Simple things like fishing, eating out with buddies, taking the kids to the park or zoo. Using a small budget each week set aside for these self-care days.
Our actions speak louder than our words. Burnout can begin slowly and move quickly when unattended. Finding time to yourself, spending time with others who make you laugh, identifying hobbies you enjoy is one way to help with self-care and ward off burnout. Peter enjoyed his job and was not able to change his employment status at this time. The position was not going to change as he had hit the ceiling for his education and ability. He wanted to give his children the best life he could and to do that he needed to be the best he could be. He realized not taking care of himself was hurting his family and his relationships. He decided to the only way he could get out of his funk was to take Sally’s advice.
Peter realized what he needed to do. He found someone safe to speak with and developed a plan of action. He began to put the plan into action. He found it was not as difficult as he thought it would be. He did not magically come out of his funk, but he did work toward contentment, enjoyment, and happiness. He felt better about his family and the time they had together. His job was easier to go to as he changed his thought processes from negative to positive. The work had not changed but his attitude and thought processes did.
Each person has an option when faced with life choices. We all decide on what is most important to use. Our money is where our heart is, our conversation exposes our true heart, and our actions express our desire. Where your desire is you will find happiness. If the workload is demanding and flowing into your desire, you will give up the work. The desire will always win. Count the cost and make the best choice for you.
Burnout is nothing to take lightly but easy to neglect.