Bullish: How To Avoid Burnout And Not Become A Brain-Eating Zombie, Part II

August is nearly upon us – that cruel month in which the wealthy head to the Hamptons and the proletariat huddles closer to their air-conditioning window units to dream of better things, and also popsicles. (See Bullish Life: Be Broke Without Going Crazy).

It can be hard to stay motivated before the back-to-school nostalgia kicks in come September. To stay on track, first read Bullish: How to Avoid Burnout and Not Become A Brain-Eating Zombie, Part I.

Next, here are some more ideas for beating burnout.

Do not “relax” on the very device on which you work.

Internet = friend! I understand that we all love the Internet, in the sense that many of our careers would not be possible without it, and also that if you are horribly disfiguredin an accident, changes are, you will still be able to obtain sex via Craigslist Casual Encounters. (See Bullish: What To Do About Being [Temporarily] Pretty).

But staring at a computer is not real recreation (see Bullish: Pre-Internet Productivity Tips for the Young and Sprightly). Think of the adjectives you would use to describe your non-work Internet activities, be they cat videos, Facebook, or abstruse genres of pornography. Maybe .., “addictive”? But surely you would not say “refreshing”or “invigorating”?

I am a big fan of responding to that “Wait, what am I doing, the day is slipping away and I must rage, rage against the dying of the light!” feeling by slamming shut one’s laptop and then thinking about the next move. Only open that sucker back up when you have a defined purpose in mind, like checking the hours for a museum you have decided to visit instead of having non-relaxation online.

Of course, you are reading a blog right now! But this blog is about careers, so this countsas work – at least if you actually act on the information. Actually, I want you to readsome inspiring, useful, and galvanizing things here on The Grindstone (there are plenty!), and then take some non-Internet time to contemplate and let your subconscious do what it will. Angry Birds is not contemplation.

Find support somewhere.

Sure, schedule lunches, reconnect with friends. But I recommend animals and old people.

Volunteer to walk dogs for an animal shelter. That automatically makes you a better person, which is a pretty good way to fight burnout, and homeless dogs are a lot less likely to while away your time together with stories about their own stress.

Similarly, go visit your grandmother. Or, if she’s still young enough to meddle in your business, visit your great-grandmother, or really any octogenarian you can get your hands on. The very old often have quite a bit of perspective on things, make your concerns seem rather small and manageable, and make you feel much more grateful for the ability to walk quickly and without assistance.

Remember, what’s old to you is new to others.

We’ve all encountered retail employees who are really annoyed when a customer asks where something is, because, seriously, she just told a different customer where it was an hour ago! It’s as though the customers (who are all obviously part of a collective unconscious that psychically shares the location of USB cables at Best Buy) never learn.

Just as each customer in a store pretty much needs the same kinds of questions answered as the last customer, the job you’re burned out on is probably brand-new to many people you encounter. As Online Marketing Manager, you’ve written your eightieth blog post trying to make yogurt sound cool, and you’re ready for a probiotic hara-kiri. But,truly, there are yogurt lovers out there who truly never knew that they could indulge all afternoon in the pleasures of reading about dairy.

Whether you are helping others, offering information to those in need of it, or merely setting an unintentional example for the new person on the job, whatever is old to you is new to others. That small realization can inject a little freshness into a stale situation.

Play “Survivor” with your responsibilities and cast the worst one off the island.

When my apartment gets crowded, I look through every dresser drawer and bookshelf and pick out one thing to toss.

If you’re feeling burned out, you have to vote something off the island. Maybe a hobby that’s become a burden, a volunteer position, an alumni club, a draining friendship. Maybe a romantic relationship or even your whole job.

If the island could hold all of that, you wouldn’t feel burned out. Vote off one thing.You’ll be fine.

Define the endpoint.

Is there an end in sight? If you’re burned out on college, the end is pretty obvious. (Also,college is the easiest thing to take a break from, since it costs money rather than making it. Seriously, if you’re burned out, you’re not learning. Go take a bartending class or something and spend a semester actually making money instead of going into debt. Come back and learn when your brain isn’t fried.)

If it’s a romantic relationship and you feel that it has to end anyway, well, why not now?

If you’re in a horrible job, well, you obviously don’t want to do it for forty years, right? So there must be an endpoint. Will you hold out until you’ve been there eighteen months so it looks okay on your resume? Will you hold out until you can afford a better place to live?

Whatever the endpoint is, keeping it in mind will keep the burnout in check.

Also, amusingly, I have just learned of a 5K run during which zombies will chase you for motivation (and brains).

Those, my friends, are some tips for keeping yourself from becoming a hollowed-out shell of your former self, which sounds like it would be a very pretty serving dish, but no fun for you.

(See Bullish: How to Avoid Burnout and Not Become a Brain-Eating Zombie, Part I here.)

originally published on The Grindstone

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