Whatever the problem, if you're in burnout mode, the best way to fix that is to take a few minutes for yourself and regroup. (If it's really bad, you may need to take a few days off, but let's hope we can fix it before it gets to that point.) I am very lucky in my current job, but I've had situations in the past where I've just been so burned out, I felt like I never wanted to set foot in a library again - and that is completely unlike me, and it needed to be fixed. I hope my tips and tricks help you, too.
What it isBefore we get to the fun stuff, I wanted to talk a little about burnout. The Mayo Clinic has a great overview of what burnout is and what you can do. For example, if you're feeling more than one of these symptoms, you might have an issue:
- Have you become cynical or critical at work?
- Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
- Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
Check their website for the full list of symptoms - there are many, and you may not even realize that you're dealing with a real thing, but burnout can be a serious issue, leading to depression, anxiety, heart disease, a compromised immune system, fatigue, insomnia... It's like stress, but moreso, and it's caused by work. Now, if things have gotten really bad, these tips might not help, but for those of us who just have an off day every once in a while, try...
Get Some Instant Relief
For moments when you wish you could get away but you really can't, buy yourself a stress ball, or pick one up for free at a conference. Other fidget toys are also helpful, like the Tangle, which looks like a big, twisty teething ring that you turn around in your hands. They can help with anxiety, or just distract you for a few minutes. I also like the Bubble Hourglass, where you flip it over and the colored liquid goes from top to bottom. It can be really relaxing to focus on something for a minute. I also have a large purple bunny (her name is Princess Bun-Bun) that a former coworker gave me; she's there for me to hold if I need a hug. Silly, perhaps - but helpful. A friend of mine keeps a jar of bubble stuff on her desk; another friend has play-doh. Whatever helps you.
Spend Five Minutes Or Less On...
|Actual screenshot I took when I was stressing one day.|
- The San Diego Zoo has polar bears, apes, elephants, and pandas.
- The Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., has elephants, lions, and pandas.
- The New England Aquarium has a webcam that looks down into the giant ocean tank, and you'll see everything from sharks to sea turtles floating past.
- The Monterey Bay Aquarium has eight different animal cams, from jellyfish to birds to sharks to sea otters. (I find the jellyfish to be particularly relaxing.)
If you Have a Bit More Time...
|Totally coveting these right now.|
If you have more time (seriously, it's addictive), take a look at the Unshelved comic series by Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes, and read about the adventures of the staff in the Mallville Public Library. If you need a good laugh, Awful Library Books is pretty much the most hilarious thing there is, and I'm also a big fan of Better Book Titles - which totally counts as research for readers' advisory, right? And of course, to wake up those brain cells, Mental Floss is your best friend.
Take a Twitter break:Of course, once you've set up your Twitter account, you can easily take a quick break and see what's new and exciting. Some of our favorite Twitter accounts (in addition to the one for our blog), include:
Withdrew a book today: Someone had scotch-taped the cover closed so that the innards wouldn't fall out. #libraryfail— Overheard@thelibrary (@overheardlibrar) April 13, 2016
If you really want a librarian to open up don't ask them about their favorite book, ask them about the book they hate the most— Fake Library Stats (@FakeLibStats) April 26, 2016
The library asks that donations of magazines be taken to the back of the building where we have the ritual fire pit all set up.— Banned Library (@bannedlibrary) April 28, 2016
Showing off some of the books that are circulating.Ooohhh a cool #popup #book ! pic.twitter.com/wQGFfPQ9WB— Recently Returned (@inthebookdrop) April 13, 2016
— Paperback Paradise (@paprbckparadise) March 31, 2016(Caution - Paperback Paradise is not always safe for work!)
The library can be a hair raising experience.#vabirdlibrary pic.twitter.com/eawGXncXWp— Bird Library (@Library4birds) April 27, 2016
They have a bird feeder that looks like a library, and it always makes my day.
Not always fun facts, but always interesting. And, of course....The average high school student has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient would in the 1950s.— Facts Library (@BestFactLibrary) April 28, 2016
From @mochibanks: "No mummy.. It’s MY BANANA! 😡🍌" #catsofinstagram pic.twitter.com/RGvZTEaYR4— Cats of Instagram (@catsofinstagram) April 26, 2016
And Lastly...There are a few things that you can do to help keep yourself in good mental shape, so you don't need to go looking for cat photos online in the first place (I mean, you will anyway, but still). Sometimes all you need to do is go take a nice walk on your lunch break; the combination of fresh air and exercise will perk up your endorphin hormones, and you might find that you come back to work with a spring in your step. (Or at least, not as downtrodden.)
"Mindfulness" is a big buzzword lately, but it really works. I use the Headspace app on my iPhone to walk me through short (10-15 minute) sessions, but if you prefer to stay low-tech, the primary goal is to focus on your body, your breathing, your contact points (your legs on the chair, your hands in your lap, etc.), any noises you hear, and smells you smell, etc. You don't judge the world around you - you just pay attention to it. I was surprised at how much this helps me; instead of getting annoyed at little things, they pass me by. I usually do it in my car on my lunch break. There are tons of great books and audio books out there on mindfulness, if you're interested in getting started.
Also: take some time to remind yourself that you really do love your job, and you're doing it for a reason. I Freaking Love Libraries is a great place to start. There's also I Love Libraries, which is an initiative of the American Library Association, and you can reach out to other librarians on Twitter, to vent and listen to their stories. (I usually use the hashtag #librarylife.) We're all here, we're all going through the same things, and we are all librarians at heart. If we didn't care, we wouldn't be so stressed out in the first place.
Let us know if there's anything else you can think of that might help you, and we'll be sure to add it to the article!
I recommend those walks above all. Getting away from the screen and getting away from the demands for attention is probably the best thing you can do during the day.ReplyDelete
It really can make a huge difference!Delete
Kat thank you... I never.knew I was burnt out... I could answer all of the questions you askedReplyDelete
I know the feeling! One day I just realized I was super snippy and cynical, and I knew it wasn't really me. There are more symptoms and advice in the Mayo Clinic link above. :) Hope I could help!Delete
There's also notalwaysright.com and those sites, for when your customers/patrons gets on your nerves. Always someone with a terrible experience in the line of customer service that's really bad. And really funny 😂ReplyDelete
I love this whole website. Especially this latest post.ReplyDelete
But I also have a question to your whole team: I would love to start a similar blog in Sweden (and Swedish), and would like to "borrow" texts from your site (of course credited in that case). Would that be OK?
Ting, thank you for asking! We don't mind you taking highlights or a small portion from our posts (1/3 of what was posted) and then redirecting your readers back to the original article for more info.Delete
Thank you so much for this! I opened all the links you provided and can't wait to get started on them!ReplyDelete
We're glad you found this post helpful. :)Delete
These are a good start! I would love to see more suggestions not involving looking at screens (which is a large portion of many library jobs). Also crucial to acknowledge mental health care--talk to your employer about your options through employee assistance programs & health insurance.ReplyDelete
Yes, if your burnout isn't cured by taking fun breaks and distractions, definitely talk to your employer for other options. (If you haven't taken a week vacation, do that first!) As for suggestions that don't require a computer, MsFrisby (who commented below) has a great one! :)Delete
I keep a folder in my drawer labeled "sweets" for my burnout days. In it, I keep the drawings from happy kids, photos from parents, positive patron notes and thank you letters. I go though then and I feel so much better and like I am making a difference.ReplyDelete
What a great idea! Thanks for sharing!Delete
The ALA Think Tank on Facebook is a great place to vent, get ideas, chat, and have a laugh too.ReplyDelete