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Dealing with Burnout

This year marks 20 years since I graduated from university and entered the real world as a software developer. Throughout that time I have dealt with burnout many times and have learned a few things about working through it.

How do you even describe or define “burnout”, anyway? For me, it’s when I feel like I simply cannot go on. I am exhausted and either depressed or seemingly on the verge of depression.

According to WebMD:

Burnout is a form of exhaustion caused by constantly feeling swamped. It’s a result of excessive and prolonged emotional, physical, and mental stress. In many cases, burnout is related to one’s job.

There are times when I am simply unmotivated or feeling a bit passionless about my work but this doesn’t mean I am burned out. Burnout is more of an intense feeling of exhaustion and it usually follows a very intense period of work; at least this is what I have experienced.

Here are four things I have learned about dealing with burnout:

  1. Don’t panic

It’s temping to freak out when I start to get burned out. “What does this mean?” “I can’t go on…what am I going to do?” The thing is, burnout passes so if you’re patient you’ll get through it.

  1. Make a change

Although my situation has many times been out my control I still have the control over other areas of my time and am able to make one or more changes. Simply making a change in my daily routines and habits has helped me. In the past I’ve implemented changes like exercising more, picking up a new hobby, avoiding television, taking a few days off and going on a trip. Yes, sometimes changing jobs is the right change to make, especially if you are in an environment that is perpetually exhausting and demanding.

  1. Do something you enjoy

Making a change is good but doing something I really enjoy is important. For me, it means picking up the guitar, going on nature walks, or spending more time with my family.

  1. Be around people

Forcing myself to be around people more has helped me in the past. This one is not intuitive to me because my inclination is to isolate when I’m exhausted. But, rubbing shoulders and socializing is helpful for me.

As a bit of an aside, my tell-tale sign that I am burned out is when I have a desire to quit my job and take up a manual labor job such as delivering packages or working in a warehouse. There is nothing wrong with those respectable jobs, of course. I don’t understand the psychology behind it but it’s my own indicator I need to act.

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