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Burnout Should not be the New Black

January 28, 2022
Crossing street sign that reads "stress" and "relax."

This week we’re back teaching, learning, working in person once again after two weeks of virtual learning. I wonder what this constant change and adaptation is doing to our mental health. Are we becoming more resilient and flexible? Or are we adding to our existing burnout and stress as we approach the two year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic?  

I’ve been thinking a lot about burnout recently. I have this irrational belief that I could never actually have burnout because I love my job as a librarian. I love helping students, I love the projects I get to work on, and I love libraries. Therefore, I could never and will never get burnout, right? 

Wrong.  

After I asked myself why I felt so tired, unable to focus, with little motivation, I realized it was actually happening to me. It forced me to confront and reevaluate my own habits. How can I possibly help and support students and their mental health if I’m not recognizing my own struggles and addressing my own mental health? As they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup. So, in case no one has told you recently, here are some tips to help address burnout: 

  1. Take your vacation days (if you have them)! I’ll be the first to admit that I have not used all of my vacation days in several years. I always think I’ll try and take at least one day off a month in addition to longer vacations and I never do. So this is yours (and my) reminder to do so.  
  2. Don’t look at your work email outside work hours. Really, I mean it! Better yet, don’t even think about work outside of your work hours. Your brain will thank you! 
  3. Take your full lunch break. Make this a nonnegotiable. (Tip: block it out on your calendar so no one sneaks in a last minute meeting).  
  4. Get outside on said lunch break. Even if you take a 5 minute walk around the parking lot, that’s enough.  
  5. Say “No.” How much do you already have on your plate? Take moment to evaluate if you have the capacity to add to your workload. 
  6. Have more play time. When was the last time you did something you loved to do as a kid? Dust off those coloring books, rollerblades, puzzles, and board games. Have fun! 
  7. Turn off those notifications. Do you really need to know at all hours of the day and night when someone has sent you an email or posted on social media? Try it out, see how you feel.

Remember, we’re still in a pandemic. Even on our best days, we’re still navigating through unknown territory. I write this as a reminder to myself, as well as those around me. Self-compassion is key. 

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