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It happens to the best of us — we get swept up into our job, whether it be new or one we’ve had for years. We want to show our worth and value to the organization we love so much by working long days that stretch into late evenings. “Giving your all” has turned into “giving more than you have.” Most of us interact with dozens of patrons a day, if not more, and doing so can take a toll on your mental health — especially when some people are less than kind. Eventually, this can leave us not even wanting to show up to work some days, or feeling as though we’ve lost our passion for enriching our communities. In moments like these, we need to find our balance.
Through these past couple of years, I have discovered five keys that have helped me prevent burnout and keep my passion for parks and recreation:
1. Prioritize the separation of work and personal life.
When I first started to reach burnout, I felt lost and confused. I loved what I did, where I worked and who I worked with, but I found that every time I got a work notification on my phone when I wasn’t at work, I would get irritated and angry. It took me a while to find the cause of my irritation, until one day my fiancé suggested I silence the work apps on my personal phone while not on the clock. At first, I felt anxious. I stopped getting notifications for emails and messages, and I was terrified the building would burn down or the world would stop in the 10 hours I wasn’t at work. Over the coming weeks, the anxiety went away. No building burnt down, and the world kept spinning. In my free time, I felt like I was resting better and stressing less.
2. Learn when to say, “No.”
Saying “no” does not have to be disrespectful and can be a way to create healthy boundaries. Before you start saying “no,” take a moment and evaluate your time, mental stamina and current workload. Are you already working more than 40 hours a week? Respectfully decline additional responsibilities until your available time increases. Additionally, explain your concerns to your supervisor and let them know how they can help you.
3. Take mini-breaks.
When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take a five-minute breather. Walk the track, play a game on your phone, or even go outside and sit on a bench with a nice cold water bottle. These mini-breaks are a real lifesaver on super stressful days.
4. Give yourself compassion.
5. Know when to ask for help.
Both of these require you to give yourself some slack. What’s more, both require you to admit you can’t do everything, and both require you to humble yourself. Giving myself compassion was surprisingly one of the hardest things I had to learn to do. I was always so hard on myself, blowing the smallest mistakes out of proportion. I had to learn that making a mistake doesn’t mean that I am a failure, and to allow myself to make mistakes and grow from them. Coming to that realization also made me come to terms with asking for help, sometimes. I had to accept the fact that I can’t do everything all of the time by myself. Sometimes, I need help.
Life can become stressful, overwhelming and scary. Having little to no work-life balance can increase all of those feelings, if not be the cause of it. I suggest everyone implement these keys into their daily lives to help improve their mental and physical health. Often, you’ll actually see an increase in productivity and quality of your work.
Colton Patak is Sports Coordinator for City of Kettering Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts.