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It’s another school year!

Time to take all of that energy you saved up over your summer break and focus it in productive ways. Maybe this year you’ll implement those programs you’ve had in the back of your mind. Maybe you’ll organize team bonding events or adopt the new software solution you researched over your vacation. Whatever you decide to do, it’s gonna be the best year ever!!

This is how the new academic year starts for most of us. We’re well-rested, focused, energized, giddy even with anticipation of what we can accomplish on behalf of the students in this brand new shiny year.

Then about six weeks into the school year, we unexpectedly get hit in the face with those old feelings creeping back in… the exhaustion, the frustration, the dreaded burnout. We swore this year it wouldn’t happen. We made sure to get a ton of massages on vacation. We slept in. Heck, some of us even took naps in hammocks!

So how is it that we can, so quickly, find ourselves going through the motions, looking at our calendars and counting down the days until Winter break?

The even bigger questions to ask are how will this burnout show up in your work, work output, and interaction with colleagues and students? Burnout changes how you approach your work. It’s a significant blind spot that affects everyone starting with you, the staff you manage and most of all, the student you serve.

Burnout is like a disease, and as with other diseases, there are signs and symptoms to watch out for.

SIGNS of BURNOUT

  • Complete exhaustion. No matter how much sleep you get you are physically and emotional exhausted.
  • You have become a cynic and often negative and defensive.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Loss of enjoyment for the many aspects of your job.
  • Isolation

The Prescription for Burnout Relief

Burnout is caused by a lack of awareness about ourselves. What makes us tick, what motivates us, what do we need to feel excited?

The old saying goes, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Well I have a new saying, “Asking yourself questions every day keeps the burnout away.”

The questions to consider?

  • How is the burnout affecting your well-being?
  • How long have you been feeling this way?
  • What needs to change? What’s in your control?
  • Have you voiced that you are burnt out?
  • Have others noticed?
  • Are you being the higher education professional you want to be?

Tips for Keeping Burnout at Bay

  • Be honest with what you’re feeling – Ignoring your feelings will only make matters worse. You owe it to yourself, your staff, and all of the students counting on you to face the issues.
  • Seek assistance – Processing your feelings can be challenging and confusing. While you are 100% responsible for how you deal with them, you don’t have to go it alone. Get some help from a mentor or counselor who should be able to help you develop a coping plan moving forward.
  • Take action – If your doctor tells you to take a multivitamin and stop smoking in order to become healthier, you’re going to do it. Well, once you realize you have a mental and emotional issue (burnout) and you get a plan together to manage it, PUT THAT PLAN INTO ACTION.

Burnout happens. But you don’t have to let it completely shadow your academic life. Take the necessary steps, keep checking in with yourself, and get the support you need so that you can show up each day offering your best self.

Debra Y. Griffith 
Dean of Student Equity and Success at West Valley Community College 
Consultant|  Speaker | Coach |Strategist |Trainer