You may have noticed that my blog posting has been infrequent lately. Turns out I am only human.
I am at my best when I have a routine and am organized, but when my routine is disrupted I fall off the wagon hard. The last few months have been difficult, with tons of work and home obligations. The Type A lawyer in me thought I could do it all because, after all, female lawyers are expected to be Superwomen, all the time, and so I expect this of myself.
At first, I blamed spring fever. Once the sun started shining, I wanted nothing more than to be outside in the sun with my dog. But then the weather warmed to summer temperatures and nothing changed — I was still struggling to keep up.
What I really was experiencing is apparently called burnout. It is not as if I never heard this word. I am a litigation attorney after all. But I never believed burnout was a real thing. I thought I was just tired. Well, both my doctor and the World Health Organization disagree. In fact, the WHO just announced that burnout is recognized as a disease.
The WHO defined burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” The symptoms include “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.” (Interestingly, the WHO specified that burnout is exclusive to occupation and not to other areas of life. I am not sure that I agree, but who am I to argue with the experts.)
So basically everyone I know suffers from burnout.
The remedy is stress management – well, actually, “successful” stress management. That is an oxymoron if I have ever heard one. Managing stress is as stressful as the stress of life and work.
The WHO’s website claims that the organization is “about to embark on the development of evidence-based guidelines on mental well-being in the workplace.” It is about to start?
We as a nation are so far behind in accepting and addressing mental and emotional issues. For too long the resulting physical symptoms have been treated, but the mental and emotional issues have not.
I am working on finding ways to personally “manage stress” and to be consistent in doing so. Consistency is one of my biggest hurdles because priorities change. I always thought stress was a motivator, not something that needed managing.
For those who identify with these issues, I encourage you to reach out and ask others how they manage stress. For those who have it all together, please share how in the world you do it!
Angela Davis Pallozzi is counsel at Offit Kurman P.A. in Baltimore.