Thursday, March 31, 2011
Lately I have been having bad days and worse days. Monday was a worst day. I woke up from a literal nightmare about my job (it involved corpses, a sure sign that it's time to go) and ended my workday with a figurative nightmare in which I barely restrained myself from shaking my boss's boss, who is a complete idiot. The middle wasn't much better. I was so upset that I spent an hour and a half in my mentor's office, trying to calm down. She forbade me from coming into work for the rest of the week. I think the term "breakdown" can be fairly used here.
I didn't take the whole week off; I have the time, but don't want to use it. And I was better by the end of the two mental health days. I spent them very well.
Tuesday morning I vegetated. I sat in what felt like a semi-catonic state with the cats on the couch while knitting and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix. My turning point came Tuesday afternoon when I got a massage. Releasing the physical tension helped me let go of the mental and emotional tension. Wednesday I was able to relax, accomplish some things I've wanted to do for a while, and think clearly about my problem. Being me, I developed an action plan.
First and foremost, ditch the sinking ship - both emotionally and physically. I will continue to go to work and do my job. But that's it. I'm not going above and beyond; no more Super Woman. Management doesn't care if we succeed, so why should I? Besides which, I'm moving on. My resume is out and I've applied to a handful of jobs. Tomorrow morning I have an exploratory meeting about a promising opportunity.
Cut short the swearing, anger, and negative thoughts. They're only making every day harder. A positive outlook will take me a long way. I'm a very verbal person, so language has an emotional impact on me. Avoiding cussing in favor of appropriate and concrete words will have a big effect on my state of mind.
Avoid to-do lists at home and make sparing use of them at work. Just seeing so many unchecked boxes makes me stress. I know what I need to do, so I'll do it one step at a time. Mindfully choose a task, do it, and move on. Celebrate what I've accomplished, not worry about what's still undone.
Do one thing a day I truly enjoy. This can be as simple as reading a book instead of the habitual evening TV watching or as involved as a date day in downtown DC with DH. This will give me something to look forward to even on the worst days.
Look for a new church. I moved to Maryland two years ago and never searched for a new church. But I need spiritual sustenance, so it's time to start.
Continue with my healthy lifestyle. Duh.
Stop weighing myself every week. The healthy lifestyle needs to be about process, not product. Pounds lost = product. Starting today I'm going to weigh in on the last day of the month, and that's it. That should take a lot of pressure off and encourage me to eat right and exercise for the sake of feeling good, not some stupid number on the scale.
Continue the goal blogs. I find them a useful construct for breaking my goals into smaller, more manageable parts. And the monthly wrap-ups usually remind me that I've done a lot more than I give myself credit for, which causes me to stop giving myself such a hard time.
This may sound like a lot, but it's really not. In most ways it's a radical simplification. Most items involve either stopping an unproductive activity/thought process or continuing a healthy practice. The only two new things - doing one thing a day I enjoy and finding a new church - are such huge positives that they definitely outweigh the time out of my day. I'm feeling better already!
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Seriously, I think Tolstoy may have spent less time on War and Peace. So I won't fault anyone for not slogging through it; this is mostly to help me get my own head together. But I will be truly grateful to anyone who manages to get through it and/or has advice.
Friday I melted down, and I have the blog to prove it. So this weekend I did some research on burnout because I think that's the problem. http://www.helpguide.org had some incredibly useful information. This is how the site defines burnout:
Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.
Burnout reduces your productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.
Uh, yeah. That perfectly describes how I'm feeling.
The site offered the following symptoms of burnout:
* Every day is a bad day.
Only when I'm at work.
* Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy.
I seem to spin my wheels all the time at work, without much by way of results.
* You’re exhausted all the time.
Umm, yeah. Most days it's all I can do to get through the day.
* The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming.
Yeah, they're either one or the other most of the time.
* You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.
The program I'm working on is falling apart at the seams and there's nothing my coworkers and I can do about it. Events and poor management leadership are destroying everything we work for.
* Feeling like you have little or no control over your work.
* Lack of recognition or rewards for good work.
Bizarrely, no. I got a promotion and an exceptional performance award in the past year, and management routinely compliments my work.
* Unclear or overly demanding job expectations.
My mentee described me as Super Woman last week. Nuff said.
* Doing work that’s monotonous or unchallenging.
Uh, no. That would be a nice change, though.
* Working in a chaotic or high-pressure environment
* Working too much, without enough time for relaxing and socializing
10-12 hours a day, 4 days a week = 40-44 hours a week, which isn't obscene but leaves no time during the week. Weekends have been devoted to travel so I haven't had any Jentime. Adding introvert overload to burnout makes for one cranky Jen.
* Being expected to be too many things to too many people.
I'm Super Woman, remember?
* Taking on too many responsibilities, without enough help from others
Still Super Woman. And we're drastically short handed. As the most experienced member of the team, guess who gets to pick up the slack...
* Not getting enough sleep
7-8 hours a night isn't enough to keep up this pace.
* Lack of close, supportive relationships
Nope. I couldn't ask for a better husband, family, or friends - including those of you brave enough to make it this far into this blog, lol.
* Perfectionistic tendencies; nothing is ever good enough
Oooh yeah. That'd be me.
* Pessimistic view of yourself and the world
I'm optimistic towards the world but way too hard on myself.
* The need to be in control; reluctance to delegate to others
No way, Jose. I push off as much as I can. But management reserves the toughest tasks for me, so I delegate the easier stuff to others.
* High-achieving, Type A personality
One doesn't graduate first in her college class or get called Super Woman without it...
Okay, so clearly burnout is the problem. And obviously it's work-related. The sad thing is that I know it's going to get worse; we're reorganizing and my new boss is an idiot. He's rough, rude, micromanaging, and incompetent. To the point where we call him Max Power. For you non-Simpsons fanatics, there are 2 ways to do things: the right way and the Max Power way, which is wrong but faster. Knowing this guy as I do, I know he'll ask me to keep performing the same duties - but with way more meddling and screwing things up as we go along, so I'll have to spend a lot of my time and energy fixing the problems he creates. Makes me want to put my head through a wall just thinking about it.
Sooooo...what to do about this? HelpGuide suggests getting a new job. Well, yeah, I'm working on it. That's easier said than done in this economy, even in DC, which is relatively recession-proof. My problem is that I work for the government, so finding a new position will involve a lot of red tape and patience. The private sector is a real challenge due to the economy, but I'm looking there, too.
But I can't go on like this in the meantime. HelpGuide offers four strategies:
1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, as this will help manage stress;
2. Slow down;
3. Get support;
4. Reevaluate your goals and priorities.
1 is relatively easy; I just have to maintain what I'm already doing thanks to SP. Workouts are often the highlight of my day, and I refuse to give them up. Healthy eating gets harder as the week goes on and I feel more ground down. I spent a lot of time this weekend planning, shopping for, and prepping food. I bought good, healthy stuff and went a bit nuts on the veggies and yogurt. Monday through Thursday are crock pot suppers, and the weekend evenings are lighter versions of classic comfort foods (thank goodness for Cooking Light magazine and cookbooks!). I baked lots of healthy, hearty muffins for breakfast and cut up fruits and veggies for snacks. I also made lighter, healthier versions of brownies and chocolate muffins so I can indulge my PMS-induced chocolate cravings and stress-induced comfort food cravings without breaking the calorie bank. So I'm good to go there.
2 is the absolute hardest. Slowing down doesn't feel like an option. But I have to find a way to do it or I'm going to explode. This weekend I put away the to-do list and did things as I felt like doing them, focusing on one task at a time. That helped a lot. Cooking and gardening helped a lot too - I really enjoy them and haven't had the time for them. I feel refreshed and recharged. I think that I'll need to just take things one step at a time at work and refuse to go into overdrive. This is going to be tough, but I can't see another way to keep from losing it altogether.
3. My support structure is great. The trouble is that I haven't been using it as much as I should. I talked through a lot of this with DH this weekend, and he's ready to serve as a sounding board whenever I need it. And I always have my SparkFriends; you guys are awesome.
4. Reevaluating goals and priorities will need to be the subject of another blog; this one is already too long. But I know that I need to do it. In the meantime, I'm going to KISS this problem: keep it simple, stupid. Don't worry about the big goals, just keep moving forward as best I can. That should help.
The other two things I'm going to do are be gentle with myself and fake it til I make it. No fussing or fuming for what I do or don't get done. Do what I can, y ya. Try to do one or two things I genuinely enjoy every day and take as much pleasure as I can from them.
If any brave soul as managed to make it to the bottom of this blog, send me a message with the word "puffball" in it and I'll give you a goodie!
Thanks so much,
Friday, March 25, 2011
The past few weeks have been rough. Travel on the weekends, a constantly-changing schedule and utter insanity at work have led to fatigue, very few workouts, strength training lapsing altogether, less than perfect nutrition and general crankiness. I am on track to achieve very few of my goals this month and it's too late to do anything about it. For example, I am not going to do 430 fitness minutes in the next six days. Ain't gonna happen.
Not only do I lack motivation, but I'm also incredibly apathetic. I don't wanna, and I don't care that I don't wanna. And this doesn't apply to just fitness or nutrition, either. It applies to work and household chores. All I want to do is rest. (Knitting and reading goals are the only ones I'm set to meet this month.) Yeah, talk about a bad attitude...
I have GOT to snap out of it. I'm trying to just take it one step at a time and do things to keep moving forward. I can knock small things off my to-do list at work and catch up on my reading. Just a few well-placed tasks will achieve a few of my monthly goals. Small things around the house make a big difference. I worked out 2 of the past 3 days, so one cardio and ST session would put the exercise back on track.
But man, it's an uphill battle to find the energy or motivation. Yesterday was a good day; I was back on a regular schedule in every way and was feeling my oats. I was looking forward to a productive, fun weekend. This morning I felt great, too, but a later than usual bedtime last night and two crises at work have utterly drained me. Knowing that I'm heavier than I wanted to be at this point in the year and that I fluffed most of my March goals is frustrating and demoralizing. But not enough to actually spur me into action. Oh wait, I think that's actually the definition of "demoralizing"...
Ugh. Here's hoping a relaxing evening, good food, and a full night's rest - and no alarm tomorrow! - fix me up. If not, I'm asking each and every one of you to stop by my SparkPage on Monday and kick my butt.
Sunday, March 06, 2011
Over the past two weeks I have slowly, gradually slid off the SparkWagon. So slowly that I didn't really notice it until this Thursday or Friday. I let one or two things slide a day until eventually I wasn't tracking my food, exercising, or Sparking. And I know that I was eating above my calorie range.
I have the usual excuses: work was crazy, I was tired. I've been working very hard at my healthy lifestyle for two months and I was a little burned out. The most troubling thing, though, is that I always seem to do this right after a big success. I dropped 10 pounds in January and February, to halfway to my overall goal. My fitness test revealed spectacular success - I raised 4 of the 5 indicators that needed work to fair and made good progress on the fifth, plus I raised my bicep strength from fair to excellent. Rather than energize me to work harder, I rested on my laurels. And I'm certain I've gained weight because of it; tomorrow's weigh in will tell the tale. The less I did, the worse I felt. The worse I felt, the less I did. What a vicious circle.
Yesterday I decided to break it, although cautiously. I was careful about food, although I didn't track it, and worked out for 20 minutes. Today I'm tracking everything, and a Vinyasa yoga workout is on my to do list. A rainy Sunday feels like the perfect time to start over gently and let myself off the hook.
The larger problem is finding a way to avoid this cycle next time I have a big success. I'm honestly not sure where to start and would appreciate any advice you lovely Sparklers have to offer.
Also, I want to apologize to YOOVIE and the Mega B2W team for not participating in Mission 4 or 5. I'll get back at it tomorrow.
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