From Burning Bright to Burning Out and Back Again

I recently took a week's vacation. We didn't go anywhere or do anything super spectacular, just relaxed at home, did some activities with the kids and generally chilled out. It wasn't until the Wednesday that my body started shutting down.

For months, there has been an increasing stress load at work, resulting in many additional hours. Now I know that working in the IT world means that the allegedly normal 'hours' of 9-5 dont apply. Infact, even as I write this on Sunday, I have just finished 6 hours of server updates, software maintenance and over-due tasks. It is one of the things I like about working in IT - the varied nature of the work and the hours, but sometimes that positive turns into a negative.

A few weeks ago, I was down, depressed and feeling downright crap. After some mindless websurfing one evening I realised that I had the symptoms of Burn-Out.

What Is Burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.
Burnout reduces your productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give. 
from  HelpGuide.Org

The vacation was just what I needed. time to recharge and recuperate. There wasnt a day I didnt sleep in past 8.30am (much to my wife's annoyance) and by the end I was feeling more human. Not only that, but it allowed me to spend some much needed time with my two girls and remind myself why I do what I do for them.

Now, I have to make sure that work doesnt take over again, because, at the end of the day, it is just a job. A few years ago, I heard a great quote;

No-one lays on their death bed and thinks... Ya know, I wish I'd spent more time at the office...
I refuse to be one of the new groups of thirty-somethings that have a heart attack at the office. So how do I balance both sides of the scale. My plan (at this stage) is to improve efficiency wherever I can. So, this means making a (reasonable) daily task list for work - so that nothing gets forgotton and bites me in the ass later on. If I can get the work done, that has to be done, when it should be done, then I will have more time to spend at home with my family.

We'll see how this works out.

For those of you reading this who are wondering if you qualify for this charred award, the general symptoms are;

Physical signs and symptoms of burnout

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time
  • Lowered immunity, feeling sick a lot
  • Frequent headaches, back pain, muscle aches
  • Change in appetite or sleep habits

Emotional signs and symptoms of burnout

  • Sense of failure and self-doubt
  • Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated
  • Detachment, feeling alone in the world
  • Loss of motivation
  • Increasingly cynical and negative outlook
  • Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment

Behavioral signs and symptoms of burnout

  • Withdrawing from responsibilities
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done
  • Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
  • Taking out your frustrations on others
  • Skipping work or coming in late and leaving early
from HelpGuide.Org