Saturday, June 9, 2012

Put on your own oxygen mask first

One look at the guy and I could tell he was burned out. He had just returned from a week of vacation, but he already felt he needed another one. He was even toying with the idea of quitting his job. Burnout does that to you.

Out of desperation, he was planning to take more time off, and I listened to him list all of the pressing matters and needy people that would consume his time away from the office.

I asked him what he enjoyed doing, and if he remembered the last time that he did it. I knew he wouldn't, and of course, he didn't.

Because I work in a 24/7 environment, I am prone to burn-out too, so I passed along some advice that I've learned from the airlines.

Flight attendants lecture us before take-off, that in the event of a drop in cabin pressure, passengers should first put on their own oxygen mask before helping others who may need their assistance. That sounds counter-intuitive, but you can’t help others if you yourself can’t breathe.

Burnout stems from resentment, and although there's a certain feeling of superiority to announce to the world "Who has time to relax?" the inevitable result is a deadness and apathy that has us just going through the motions of life. It can be a hard lesson to learn, but we are more useful to our family, place of employment, and the million other things that we're responsible for if we first give ourselves a chance to breathe.

That means carving out the time to ignore the "To do" list and doing something that recharges, and re-invigorates--whether that something is puttering in the garden, reading that best-seller, or going out with friends. 

Burnout doesn't happen overnight, nor does it go away overnight. But mindfully making time for ourselves to regenerate without guilt goes a long way to repairing the damage--and we owe it to everyone to do it.
Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.