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Burnout
Old 07-26-2007, 08:46 PM   #1
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Burnout

I think I've got it. Had it once before, while a medical resident. Exhaustion, inability to get going, feeling in a fog. I love my job, but because I am considered an "expert" in my area I am constantly being "invited" to contribute to this, that or the other initiative, not just locally, but nationally as well. Many of these "invitations" are expectations. If I left right now they would need two people to replace me. The demands are neverending. For example, I got no sleep whatsoever on Saturday night, and on Sunday afternoon a resident demanded a tutorial. That was the last straw. Help!!!
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Old 07-26-2007, 08:57 PM   #2
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Gee, Meadbh,

Ann Landers always said that people only take advantage of you if you let them.

Is there any way to start to set limits on the demands on your time? If you are FI today, what can they do? Fire you?

Best of luck.
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Old 07-26-2007, 08:59 PM   #3
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I think I've got it. Had it once before, while a medical resident. Exhaustion, inability to get going, feeling in a fog. I love my job, but because I am considered an "expert" in my area I am constantly being "invited" to contribute to this, that or the other initiative, not just locally, but nationally as well. Many of these "invitations" are expectations. If I left right now they would need two people to replace me. The demands are neverending. For example, I got no sleep whatsoever on Saturday night, and on Sunday afternoon a resident demanded a tutorial. That was the last straw. Help!!!
Oh, Meadbh.

Don't know if this is helpful but I had a conversation not long ago about how certain professions or "callings" carry an implied burden of total unselfish dedication, unquestioned indefinite loyalty, and inability to admit that no matter how hassled, sleep-deprived, or stressed you get, you never, NEVER call it "work," burnout, or stress.

I have only recently come to admit to myself that while I love my profession, ever-growing parts of it are WORK. Maybe it's the increased administrative expectations of being "senior." Maybe it's the bureaucratization of medicine. Maybe it's just age. I'm over it. At least half of what I do is work. Paperwork, personnel work, teaching students-with-an-attitude work.

Interestingly, seeing patients still doesn't feel like work after 36 years (with just a few exceptions). I have had days like you describe. My plan for FIRE is to limit my work to patient care as much as possible, part-time, and flexible enough to say no.

Hope you are working this through. Happy to chat off line if the urge hits you. I'm sure that medicine is not the only profession to have a version of this syndrome.
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As if you didn't know..If the above message contains medical content, it's NOT intended as advice, and may not be accurate, applicable or sufficient. Don't rely on it for any purpose. Consult your own doctor for all medical advice.
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Old 07-26-2007, 09:52 PM   #4
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Oh, Meadbh.

I'm sure that medicine is not the only profession to have a version of this syndrome.
Rich,
Any profession has the syndrome -- based on the culture of the organization. For those fully engaged in what their company is doing, giving less than the max labels one as not on the team.

But, as you say, there comes a time when in total it just isn't that important anymore and demonstrating enthusiasm for the issue at hand becomes harder and harder.

For me personally, demonstrating enthusiasm (aka energy, curiosity, bewilderment, anger, etc.) has become more difficult now that I realize that I am FI. So, instead, I focus on those areas where I can provide enthusiasm as a means to getting done what I personally committed to completing before telling management I'm chosing to exercise my rights to retirement benefits.

Meadbh, unfortunately, you have to pick and choose, and keep up the pretense until you're ready to leave on your terms. It's a tough line to walk.

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Old 07-27-2007, 08:20 AM   #5
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Old 07-27-2007, 01:34 PM   #6
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The workplace will often eat as much of you as you permit. One aspect that I see of maturity is to accept that you have limits and begin enforcing them. I had a colleague, a few years ago, that let it kill her. She was an amazing person, but she couldn't say no.

But hey, Meadbh, maybe they'll name a building after you.
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Old 07-27-2007, 02:42 PM   #7
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The workplace will often eat as much of you as you permit.
It's true that some professions come with built-in expectations that you will work for free, or another way to put it is that you will give 24-7. Teaching is one of them. I know that teachers have been complaining about it for decades but it happens to be true that teachers not only are expected to work all day into the evening but to contribute part of their salaries to buy supplies, furniture for their classrooms as well.

Then people say, Oh well they have summers off! What a joke that is. Most teachers work at other jobs in the summer to supplement their crummy teaching salary. They also do continuing ed, taking courses, doing research, prepping for next year. "Summer" ends up being a couple weeks of vacation, just like everyone else.

Then you have the wonderful "culture" of academia, the principals who hound you to do more, the parents who complain and complain and complain, and the other teachers who are usually great people but who are also stressed and so the lunch room is one big bitch fest.

Notice that I haven't mentioned one negative about the students or the actual teaching experience. That part is why people become teachers. They love teaching! It's all the peripheral stresses that teachers complain about.

Glad I don't teach anymore and I'm sad to hear these stories from my daughter-in-law who just started teaching. That's why there's such a huge drop-out among new teachers.
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Old 07-27-2007, 02:52 PM   #8
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For example, I got no sleep whatsoever on Saturday night, and on Sunday afternoon a resident demanded a tutorial. That was the last straw. Help!!!
Sorry you've been working so hard. What you're experiencing doesn't sound like typical burnout, though, more like being dead tired and needing some time off. When I think of burnout, I think of losing interest in the job (which you say you love) yet hanging around and finding yourself doing just the minimum to get by. OTOH, if you're in a situation where you just can't get the rest you need, it doesn't matter what it is called, you may need to cut hours or turn down work just to keep your own health and sanity.
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Old 07-27-2007, 03:33 PM   #9
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Meadbh,

Try to bear in mind that other people's "expectations" and "demands" are not royal commands. You are not a slave, and always have a choice.

I guess it boils down to learning how to set boundaries and how to say "no". The following list of tips might be helpful: How To Say No. More generally, you might find it helpful to read chapters four and six of Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter, by Elaine St. James.

I hope this helps,

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Old 07-27-2007, 08:06 PM   #10
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Thanks everyone for being so supportive. I particularly like Milton's link to the tips on how to say No. I periodically get into this situation and have to utilize these strategies. I think it's because I am known for delivering that people at all levels, from the CEO down, think I can just "handle it". I have actually been quite firm with people this week and have set limits. As well, I have one week of vacation starting today and am now in my vacation home, the one I own fractionally. Away from the pressure of work I am feeling better already. Now, I know that some people feel I made a bad financial decision in purchasing this fraction, but because I have a scheduled week four times a year it FORCES me to get out of town. Frankly, this is a lifesaver.
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Old 07-27-2007, 09:05 PM   #11
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Thanks everyone for being so supportive. I particularly like Milton's link to the tips on how to say No. I periodically get into this situation and have to utilize these strategies. I think it's because I am known for delivering that people at all levels, from the CEO down, think I can just "handle it". I have actually been quite firm with people this week and have set limits. As well, I have one week of vacation starting today and am now in my vacation home, the one I own fractionally. Away from the pressure of work I am feeling better already. Now, I know that some people feel I made a bad financial decision in purchasing this fraction, but because I have a scheduled week four times a year it FORCES me to get out of town. Frankly, this is a lifesaver.
This last 3 years I have set firm dates for 2 weeks vacation and said to my CIO "these days are set in stone, we are going on vacation with family joining us from "wherever" and I can't change the dates" Does not matter if it is absolutely true or not, you have got to schedule down time.I've also set my mail file auto reply to say that I if it is important to re-send after date "x" and set a rule to delete all incoming mail.

For the last 2 years I and about a dozen others meet at a local pub at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon for a couple of hours or more. This has now become so accepted that colleagues accept it as a fact. Even though I have been working 12 hour days for the last 2 weeks, folks know taht Friday after 3:30 is my time until Monday.

I know this is hard to accomplish but boy does it feel good when you get to that stage. I tell the folks that work for me (in Megacorp) " if you work all hours that God sends to get things done how will I ever justify hiring more people - go home and let the chips fall where they may, I'll sort things out"
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Old 07-28-2007, 11:35 AM   #12
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Meadbh - good on you for leaving and for scheduling time to be away. I work in healthcare and can understand the demands -the problem I see is that people go to people who can get things done, and the world being one pretty much ruled by Pareto, if you are that 20% effective, you'll get 80% of the work. For me, I've found I'm even more effective if I limit access to me. Otherwise I get cranky and disorganized and start proverbially running around in circles. It also helps that I have an attitude of if they fired me tomorrow or if I quit tomorrow, I have enough cushion to last for several years and I've also had many people in many different industries show an interest in hiring me - I have options. It's the mental attitude that becomes key to me. And saying no :-)

Have a great vacation!
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Old 07-28-2007, 12:58 PM   #13
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Meadb, sounds like you must not only be good at what you do, but good at sharing/teaching etc. to others...a blessing and now a curse!

Are there others you know (perhaps some "up and coming" and excited to travel more) that you could start building a list of to refer those you want to decline - sounds like an easier "no", sorry i can't make it but I know X and X are wonderful, here's their email...

It is often the case that everyone thinks of the same person and then it's a snowball effect...that makes it harder for lesser known people coming up to get a chance to learn the same skills like public speaking or teaching or whatever the case is.

Sometimes its harder to set boundaries if you care about what you do, like it or love it - burnout happens. working in non-profits i see it all the time because people are committed to the issues they work on and then blamo- a crisis stops them in their tracks - either exhaustion, family crisis, or any number of other problems...

so please "schedule" your "me" time and see that as a service to your colleagues too! enjoy your week off!
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Old 07-29-2007, 10:24 PM   #14
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I've never reached the point of burn-out yet but when it comes, I will downshift to a locum tenens practice. It will be a form of semi-retirement wherein I will work only 3-4 months of the year. The rest of the year I will spend in vacation mode in a low cost-of-living country in Asia, possibly in the Philippines, which I found to be very accomodating and friendly to Americans when I visited 2 years ago. Plus, the beaches are superb.
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Old 07-31-2007, 10:55 PM   #15
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. I think it's because I am known for delivering that people at all levels, from the CEO down, think I can just "handle it".
That's the nature of excelling in what you do. Observant people will load you up until you forcefully put the brakes on. It probably use to be enjoyable to get new challenges or to be invited, they were doing a good thing by loading you up, it was an opportunity. Sounds like you no longer need those "opportunities" and can leave them open for someone else. Hard to give advice on specific actions, but it sounds like you can be comfortable enough in your job security to set whatever limits you need to..which will ultimately help your company in the long run, and of course help you.

I've been bordering on burn-out and I now close my door perodically during the day and take more risks in delegating work and saying no. The sky hasn't fallen on me yet...but I still keep one eye up there. After all, your body knows it takes two people to replace you...so it's asking if it can work half as much to make up for that massive array of neurons it has to maintain! I need to take your advice....a vacation here and there to break it up has to be a good thing.

-Mach
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Old 08-01-2007, 09:27 AM   #16
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My DW and I are retiring in a year, and have announced our ER to our respective department heads at the university where we both teach (and do research, and serve on local and national committees, and give local and national presentations, and grade papers at night, and attend meetings ad nauseum, and ... you get the idea). One reason for ER is that DW was getting more and more stressed by her workload. My observation was the she had a tough time saying no to students, fellow faculty members, administrators, and friends. She has chaired more thesis committees during her 16 years as a professor than any of the 76 faculty members in her department. I think it's tougher for some women than most men to say no, because women feel that they have to do everything well to compete with men. I hope I'm wrong about this. (BTW, my son-in-law who became and MD a couple years ago and is doing his medical residency right now feels that he has to work harder than other residents because he is black. He was raised to believe that he had to work harder than whites to get the same educational and professional benefits. I don't know how true that is any more, but he and his twin brother, who is a lawyer, both believe it is. I'm in no position to judge.)
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Old 08-01-2007, 12:55 PM   #17
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My DW and I are retiring in a year, and have announced our ER to our respective department heads at the university where we both teach (and do research, and serve on local and national committees, and give local and national presentations, and grade papers at night, and attend meetings ad nauseum, and ... you get the idea). One reason for ER is that DW was getting more and more stressed by her workload. My observation was the she had a tough time saying no to students, fellow faculty members, administrators, and friends. She has chaired more thesis committees during her 16 years as a professor than any of the 76 faculty members in her department. I think it's tougher for some women than most men to say no, because women feel that they have to do everything well to compete with men. I hope I'm wrong about this. (BTW, my son-in-law who became and MD a couple years ago and is doing his medical residency right now feels that he has to work harder than other residents because he is black. He was raised to believe that he had to work harder than whites to get the same educational and professional benefits. I don't know how true that is any more, but he and his twin brother, who is a lawyer, both believe it is. I'm in no position to judge.)
WAMH, I think you may be right about your DW and your SIL. Most people who are not Anglo Saxon White Males but are ambitious and competitive still establish expectations for themselves that exceed the average. Some of it is society driven, and some is personal.
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Old 08-01-2007, 01:57 PM   #18
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Most people who are not Anglo Saxon White Males but are ambitious and competitive still establish expectations for themselves that exceed the average.
No more sexist / racist generalizations, please.
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Old 08-01-2007, 05:17 PM   #19
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No more sexist / racist generalizations, please.
I happen to belong to this group, so I have some expertise on the matter.
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Old 08-02-2007, 07:11 AM   #20
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I happen to belong to this group, so I have some expertise on the matter.
That's no different than saying "I am a white male, so I can confidently assert that white males tend to be better / more [INSERT characterization generalization of choice] than women or blacks".

This forum is no place for offensive stereotypes.
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