After a few years of over-working and ignoring the warning signs, I may have reached a “burnout” stage. What used to be easy at work is now difficult; the drive I used to have feels like it has been sapped; and I have noticed a negative change in my attitude.
Does ancient Jewish wisdom provide any useful information for recovering from “burnout” and metaphorically get back in the saddle?
Congratulations on recognizing that ignoring your warning signs resulted in a small problem growing into a larger one. We hope that your words serve as a warning to others not to turn a blind eye to warning signs. (Then there are those people who magnify a bad stretch and put flashing red lights on normal feelings—the opposite of what you did which leads to a different but equally serious problem.)
Imagine if you had physical symptoms that suggested that you were pre-diabetic. At that point, certain lifestyle changes might keep the symptoms from worsening and a full-fledged case developing. However, once your health was severely compromised, it would be much harder to fix.
For this reason, your recognition is valuable because you need to send yourself a message that this situation will not easily change. You need to aim for small steps that steadily improve your frame of mind, knowing that you will hit plateaus and possibly backslide occasionally. It might be worth keeping a journal so that you can chart progress and not be thrown when you hit a rough spot.
We would suggest working with a coach in person, but here are four steps we encourage you to implement.
- Keep the Sabbath. One day a week should be set aside for God, for yourself and for the valued people in your life. Don’t allow work to intrude into this Lord’s day, whether by checking emails, answering a ‘quick’ phone call or even thinking about your work load. God commands us to work for six days and rest on the seventh, but we and many others see this as a benevolent gift from our Creator rather than a rigorous requirement.
- Find something in your life about which you can be passionate. This might be a hobby or some volunteer work. It should need active involvement from you. Passively watching four seasons of a TV series does not count. Passion in one area of life leads to passion in other areas.
- Share your dilemma with a trusted advisor who understands your particular work. An outside eye may find ways in which you can tweak your daily labor to emphasize areas in which you do find fulfillment and minimize other areas.
- Spend time and effort developing real relationships. Our culture encourages us to interact with machines rather than people. Make time for the people you care for and actively enlarge that group. Spend at least some time each day connecting with other human beings on matters other than work related ones.
We wish you renewed passion and enthusiasm,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin