When you work in academia, it can be very hard to find a good work/life balance. I’ve always considered myself pretty good at it—so it sort of took me by surprise when in the middle of December, I experienced a mild case of burnout. Burnout is defined as the experience of long-term exhaustion, which can have many causes. For me, I believe the cause was multifaceted and difficult to pinpoint, but in general I think I pushed myself too hard for too long. I also have a suspicion it may have been induced by my close proximity to stressed out college students. My creative juices went dry and things that I normally enjoy doing, such as blogging, felt like an insurmountable chore. Good news, such as finally publishing a research article, yielded apathy rather than joy and pride.
Fortunately, I had the foresight to take a couple extra days off before holiday break in hopes getting a lot of rest and giving myself the opportunity to recover. Thankfully I didn’t travel too much over winter break, so I was able to truly savor every minute. I’ve been back to work for a few days now and I’m feeling much better! I’m optimistic that I kicked this bout of burnout.
Based on my own minor experience with burnout and a bit of research I’ve done, here are a few of my survival tips on finding a successful work/life balance:
Disconnect: When you physically leave the library at the end of the day, make sure your mind leaves it, too. I’ll admit, I break this rule all the time—especially when I have a lot of instruction sessions to prepare for, when I’m working on a research article, or when I’m (ahem) working on a blog post. I have often found that disconnecting helps me find creative solutions to problems I couldn’t solve while sitting at my desk. Unless I’m expecting an important email or phone call, I try not to touch any work on the weekends.
Find another passion: While it is very important to be passionate about your profession, I also think it’s important to be passionate about something outside of librarianship. All the librarians I know have lots of interests and hobbies. Pick one and put some energy into it. Mine is yoga. If I’m not at work, I’m in the yoga studio. I take my yoga practice very seriously and I make sure to carve out time for it. My colleagues sometimes think I’m crazy for doing yoga upwards of 15 hours a week (–I don’t have children), but on the contrary, it actually keeps me sane.
Have compassion for yourself: When you’re not able to do things as quickly and as efficiently as you are used to, be easy on yourself. Be mindful enough to realize that the blockages you are encountering do not reflect your value as a librarian or a person. Know that with time and patience, this will pass. And if it doesn’t, then you need to seek help or make a change.
Do you have any tips on navigating the work/life balance?