I know I’ve talked incessantly about going back to school for my MBA at the ripe old age of 42 (see blog 1 and blog 2), but I’m bringing it up again because post-graduation I have some thoughts on burnout. That’s right. Instead of basking in the glow of my advanced education, when all was done I felt lost, a little numb, and frankly, bored. Thankfully, it was a temporary feeling and I’m recovering. I thought about writing on burnout this week because right after busy season, I’m guessing my friends in public accounting can relate.

During two full years of classes two nights a week, plus my job and family, I thought I was handling it like a champ. And mostly I was. But when it was all over I crashed hard. I couldn’t settle down. I couldn’t read a book without feeling the need to highlight something. I had what felt like endless migraines. I found my family to be sort of irritating. I’d think things like “I’m STILL here hanging out with you? Don’t I have to be somewhere else?” I realize that’s terrible (sorry family). I’d wrapped myself up so tightly in being efficient and effective and scheduled that I had no idea how to just BE anymore.

I keep reading about burnout and now I know it’s real. I think it’s why many companies and firms are adding sabbaticals to their benefits; many times these are mandatory. People just need a break sometimes — and they might not even know it. It’s important to be vigilant and take care of yourself even during your busiest times. Don’t do what I did. Examples of my bad behavior: No time for the gym — just give it up. Friends — I’ll probably have to see you in about two years. Family — I’ll show up, but I’ll often be preoccupied. I think I was trying to break a record for coffee consumption. And, I did it all to myself as I couldn’t possibly have a family, boss or colleagues who were more supportive. I just didn’t really notice what was happening.

There are articles everywhere that help us deal with burnout. Here are just a few:

I’ll boil it down to just four of my favorite tips:

  1. Take deep breaths. Often. Many times a day in fact. You’d be shocked how helpful this can be and how it clears your head if even only for a little while.
  2. Take days off with no designated purpose. Not to chaperone a field trip or work on your house. Just take a selfish day for yourself even if you feel selfish every day for being so busy – you still deserve ‘you time’.
  3. Take time to exercise. I’m sorry. I hate it, but it actually works. Do whatever makes you feel good and do it even when you don’t want to. I credit Stephanie Parton on our staff for inspiring me on this one.
  4. Take a few minutes each day to write a manifesto. Not a creepy one like the Unabomber, but one about what you want and need out of life. Just start writing and you’ll be surprised what comes out.

In an article I read recently in Inc. magazine (10 Mistakes Smart People Never Make Twice) Travis Bradberry says, “Emotionally intelligent people are successful because they never stop learning. They learn from their mistakes, they learn from their successes, and they’re always changing themselves for the better.”

I talked in my last blog about being proud of my accomplishment in going back to school and trying to better myself through continuous learning, so I felt I should also share some mistakes I made along the way that led to a feeling of burnout. I hope that I’m emotionally intelligent enough to not make those same mistakes again. And maybe, just maybe, someone who reads this will not make the mistakes in the first place. Deep breath.

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