Coping With Job Burnout – 5 Ways to Regain Control: Simply put, job burnout sucks. Whether you’ve just started in your job or have been at the job for a while, eventually this will happen. The causes are different across the board – from a change in leadership, progressive overload, self-imposed stress or a promotion. Either way, job burnout is something that effects everyone at some point.
If you’re not sure if you are suffering from job burnout, try this quiz. After taking it, I discovered that I am at a high risk of job burnout. More on this in my story below:
Coping With Job Burnout: My own story
My own story about job burnout begins the usual way. Following high school, the goal was to go to college. You go to college to get a job that pays decent or well – depending on the amount of schooling. Not particularly motivated, I started in county college and worked towards transferring to a state school. Upon transfer, I needed to choose a major. After stating my interests of biology and psychology, I was thrown towards the cattle chute of “Speech Language Pathology” – a career I had never heard of up until that point. The adviser sold me on the usual things – pay, plenty of jobs, flexibility, etc. Being 21, I bought everything she said and signed up.
The remainder of college was manageable. The courses were good, the professors were friendly. There was just one catch: in order to do anything meaningful with this career, you needed to go to grad school (another 2 years and $50-60k in debt… woo hoo!). The best part – your transfer to a grad program was not guaranteed! Just to recap – if you’re in this scenario, you have already spent $30-50k on an undergraduate degree that is useless without a Master’s degree. If you don’t get in the Master’s program, you are effectively out of luck!
One of the lucky ones
Being one of the lucky ones, I got into a graduate program. Rather than living on campus, I was now driving to school 3-4 days per week, 40-60 minutes each way into one of the most unsafe areas that Philadelphia could create. This is coming from someone who had a previous college experience of a lovely serene campus in the woods with lots of room and friendly faces. Boy, have times changed.
I somehow survived after slogging through 2 years of a brutal graduate program. Between a multitude of exams, tests, projects, observations, internships – I finally had a degree. However, even though I was a “graduate”, I felt completely unprepared to begin working out in the field. The first job I got was working in a Skilled Nursing Facility. Basically the thing that guided my selection to that arena was the fact that you were paid more vs. working in schools.
As a bit of an aside: in Speech Language Pathology you can work in a variety of settings: schools, long term care, hospitals, teletherapy, etc. There is either a language/articulation focus where you would work in a school or a more medical focus dealing with cognitive, voice and swallowing disorders from debilitating conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s, etc where you work in a long term care facility or hospital.
The end became the beginning
Unfortunately, in all the internships I had done, none of them gave me any experience in this particular aspect of my new field. So, I was starting from the level of a student and learning was all “trial by fire”. Between getting written up within my first month (still learning my job), to a coworker trying to get me fired (month 2), to being transferred to a different building (month 3) – I was off to a good start (sarcasm alert)! Thankfully, I was able to get my bearings in the new building and begin learning the job.
The beginnings of burnout
After working in the job for a year, I was already cooked on this setting. Between a large caseload (10-16 people per day), managing “productivity” (aka. a BS metric long term care companies use to make sure you treat enough people in a certain span of time to ensure they’re making a profit) and trying to maintain a caseload of appropriate people (you get lots of referrals that are inappropriate and are usually pressured into taking them on anyway.) – I was exhausted. I thought it would be a good idea to switch settings, do something different. So that is what I did for the next few years.
In the field of Speech Pathology (SLP for short), I have switched to the following settings: home care, acute care hospital, multiple other skilled nursing facilities and even trying out management. It didn’t matter. Burnout followed me where ever I went. Although I still work in this profession, I have figured out some ways to better manage stress ways to improve my ability for coping with job burnout.
1. Start a side hustle or hobby that you can monetize
I know this goes against what some people may say “Never work in your hobby! It’ll become a job!”. I disagree. Work on something you enjoy that makes you some money. Not only can this help you get ahead on your bills, but it also gives you a creative outlet that you may not have at work.
As for side hustles/monetized hobbies I have started:
- Craigslist/Ebay car part flipping business (Check out my story about this in the post here)
- Etsy business selling customized car shift knobs (Check out my story about this in the post here)
- Beginning a real estate rental portfolio (Check out my story about this in the post here)
- Starting a blog (You’re reading it!)
Side hustles like this are more about having something to set your mind on if you do not find work that fulfilling. What do you enjoy doing? Maybe that is something that could be monetized.
Granted, a side hustle isn’t something that will replace your full time income in most cases. With my Craiglist/Ebay ventures, I sometimes saw a profit of $200-500 depending on the amount of effort. However, the effort required takes additional time out of your day which will already be limited if you have a full time job.
The most effective of those four items has been real estate. Granted, the upfront cost in terms of time and labor were intense but once everything is established, it requires very little work. The nice part was getting to team up with my father to learn the business, spend time together and make some money. It has certainly made coping with job burnout that much easier having something enjoyable to look forward to!
2. Make a plan to escape
If you’re unhappy with where you work, making a plan to change it is the next logical step. A friend of mine recently decided that she was done with the SLP field. Like completely done. So she did something completely radical, and honestly I applaud her for it. My friend is someone who enjoys weightlifting so she decided take complete a nutrition certification and work at the gym she goes to. And just like that, she’s free and much happier!
The certification program my friend went to was only 4 weeks long. That’s it! Then she was qualified to work. Change can really be that easy.
Coping with job burnout sometimes doesn’t even require coping at all. Escape is perfectly fine if the environment is so toxic that it is causing health issues.
If getting out of a terrible job isn’t something you can do right away, you’ll need to have some strategies to endure so you can maintain your sanity. Put your work in perspective. A job is a task that gives you money. It is not your identify. A job is temporary if you don’t like it. All you need to do is focus on ways that reduces stress, anxiety and discomfort in the current situation.
- Know your limits and stick to them
- If possible, delegate work that you hate to do
- Get plenty of sleep
- Keep work at work – Don’t bring it home!
Some of these steps may help as you will begin building a mental barrier between you and work. Turning the volume down on tasks you hate and exercises that cause stress will make work more manageable and increase your mental longevity.
4. Take a vacation
Not being in a stressful environment switches your brain from reactive to proactive. Taking some time off for yourself is another good way to recharge. One of the easiest ways towards coping with job burnout is to not be at the job that is stressing you out. It also gives you time to reflect and see if this job is something you want to continue to do. Even if you can’t take off for a sustained period of time, try just taking a day.
5. Start – Just Start.
Taking initiative is the most difficult step. Unfortunately it’s also the first one. Change is hard. Habit takes over quickly. If you’re unhappy at a job, you need to take action. Compartmentalize your situation, build some distance between the toxic job, start a side hustle, and escape! Baby steps towards the goal are still steps! Coping with job burnout takes work but it all starts with the first step!
Conclusion- Coping With Job Burnout:
If your work situation is going poorly, take action. Job burnout can cause plenty of health issues if you don’t address it quickly. Don’t let work destroy you!
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