Originally this blog post was going to be tongue in cheek – recounting funny experiences of end of year breakdowns. But since no one answered my call for stories – I decided to turn this into something that I hope is more meaningful and helpful.
In my experience, the end of the year at work is madness. You’re rushing to finish off the last projects, leave no loose ends before you go on holiday, but you’re also desperate to finally have a break! Meanwhile you may be reflecting on everything you’ve done this year, thinking about the performance review and conversations you want to have, and wondering what you’ve achieved. Or you may be – as I have in the past – ridiculously overworked and racing against the clock.
Nevertheless when we finally catch a break, the end of the year is a time we use to reflect. A page is turning, what are we doing with it? In this blog post, I’d particularly like to focus on what this means professionally.
This is the first time in 7 years that I’ve not reached Christmas on the verge of a mental breakdown. It’s quite an accomplishment, and also quite refreshing. In the past, I would get to Christmas so frazzled that it was about taking time to recover, and then decide what that meant moving forward.
The first time I burned out around Christmas, I’m not sure I was able to learn anything from it. I was so exhausted I just needed to recover and feel protected within the family sphere. I probably made some resolve to improve my situation but I wasn’t able to act upon it because I wasn’t in the right mindset. But moving forward, I made progress.
Here are some realisations I’ve had over the years:
- That no one realised how much effort I was putting in – or how sick I was making myself over it.
- That I was getting nothing back for all the blood, sweat and tears I was giving
- That I was very emotionally invested in my work
- That someone had been projecting responsibility on to me for things that weren’t in fact my responsibility. That I had allowed myself to get very worked up and worried when in fact I shouldn’t be bearing responsibility for this.
- That life is about more than work, and that it’s worth living
- That most of my suffering, I was doing to myself
- That I needed to stop killing myself over work and go out and enjoy life
- That I was being asked to be someone I wasn’t, and that was causing a deep conflict for me
- That the model of working in an agency didn’t suit me and my beliefs
And here are some decisions I consequently made:
- To start standing up for myself and feel better prepared to deal with difficult conversations.
- To learn from the bad examples I was seeing and do my utmost not to be like that.
- To say what I was thinking and not let myself be bullied.
- Learning to deal with my anxiety
- Regaining self-confidence and becoming more assertive
- To stop working on weekends and extra hours because it wasn’t worth it
- To stop taking on other people’s problems and adding them to mine
- Letting go of responsibility (to some degree)
- To quit my job
- To take more time to enjoy life and do the things I loved, outside of work
- Enrol in a dance performance group – pursuing my passion
The key takeaway is that no matter how rough the year is, or how badly it ends, the most important thing is to take time to reflect. Even though you may feel too exhausted, or you don’t want to confront the difficulty, it will be the most valuable thing you can do.
The most difficult or unpleasant situations are the ones we have the most to learn from and can help us to grow. What has this year – or a particular moment – taught you about yourself? How can you use that to improve your experience or make a change in your life? What will you do differently?
No matter the hardship, remember that you are in control of your life and you can make the changes you need, for it to be better.