I’ve been hit hard by burnout lately.

This is probably the first time I’ve actually ever felt what people describe as burnout, which is wild given how hard I’ve gone at things and how long I’ve been going at it. I tried telling telling myself for a month or two that I wasn’t burned out, that I simply had too much on my plate. Of course, you can only placate yourself so long before reality comes home and kicks you square in the nose.

All of this hit me when I was on vacation and instead of wanting to do wonderful things in the place me and my wife went to, I just wanted to sleep and stress eat all of the wonderful baked goods in the region; if I could have physically done both at the same time, I would have. By the third day I started to shake the rust off a little bit and was enjoying myself… But I ended up taking a few extra days off because I plateaued, and still felt pretty gross mentally. And I am thankful I could, many people would not be as fortunate as I am in that regard.

Even now, a few weeks out from taking time off and coming back to work, I still don’t feel all the way there. It’s a lot like walking wounded. I feel exhausted when I shouldn’t, I get agitated over things that I shouldn’t, I feel like I’m not putting out my best effort or that I’m not doing right by people (Even when objectively I’m doing those things and my work is meaningful), my sleep schedule is jacked up (I’ve been doing a lot of revenge bedtime procrastination lately), and I’ve been getting more headaches than I’m used to.

The problem, of course, is there’s no magic wand to make any of this go away. So I’m trying to do small things to get back to a place where I feel right again. The first big step has been telling people I actually feel frazzled. The folks I work with have been incredibly supportive and while I’m not so in the red mentally that my work has slipped, I like to think if it did I’d have some support at work while I worked on bouncing back. I’ve also been trying to detach myself from work in a more formal manner after the day is over- I have turned off notifications on my phone around email and other communications mediums. I’ve been trying to focus on things that I find enjoyable and are relaxing to me- me and my wife started making pickles recently, and I’ve been finding joy in learning something entirely out of my wheelhouse for once. I’ve also been trying to get out into the garden more, and trying to get back to the simple pleasures of enjoying video games. There’s a lot of talk around “mindfulness” and “reframing” that don’t really work for me in the traditional sense, but I’ve found ways to fit them into what I’m doing to try and feel better.

I think for people in technology, burnout isn’t just a possibility, it’s an eventuality. For every practitioner there will be a point, and maybe it’s a “Boiling frog” for you like it was for me, where you’re worn down. It’s a struggle! To constantly be on the move mentally (Context shifting between a half dozen projects gets the best of everyone), to have constant demands and requests made of you on top of the things you are already doing, to always be on guard and in the trenches, it’s exhausting. There’s this weird culture in tech historically of bucking up and getting it done no matter what, as though there are heroes’ elegies spoke in grave tones for pulling an all nighter to smash out a bunch of Java, or to diagnose an ongoing issue in an environment. There’s this weird culture of always needing to deliver, and not taking the time to invest back in yourself. As practitioners in technology we need to pull back from this self-destructive behavior (Which I am horrifically guilty of), and remember to be human.

Even as I write this, I am deeply cognizant of the fact that burnout isn’t just a tech thing. Burnout is real in every industry, though I cannot speak to the particulars of how it overtakes people beyond my limited experience with it. And how people feel it, and deal with it, is going to be deeply personal to them. Just, know that you aren’t suffering alone. You aren’t the only one worn down. How you feel is valid, and so long as you’re working to feel better (Or at least not feel worse) you’re making progress.

If I have learned anything so far in working through all of this, it is that knowing the name of your demon gives you the path to overcome it. Taking a break can be just as powerful as charging ahead, if it’s for the right reasons.