Burnout: The good, the bad, and the ugly

I don't think I have a single friend who hasn't told me 'Slow down, stop doing so much, you're going to burn out'. It's how I've always worked. I'm sure I worry a lot of people.

Coming from pub and restaurant work, there's no such thing as taking a break when you need it. You take a break when the shift is over and there's nothing else to do. Your work time is set by the shift you're working. Easy days were 6-hour shifts. Difficult days were 12-hour shifts that became 15-hour shifts because of how busy it was.

So I'd work and work, beyond the point where my feet were throbbing, my back ached, all my fingertips were burnt from carrying hot plates of food, and my uniform was soaked through with spilled beer. Then all the work was done for the day, and I'd collapse on the comfy chairs with a cold drink, and laugh with my coworkers about what a nightmare that shift was. Then we'd all be back the next day for the same again.

I did that for 8 years. Then I became a driving instructor (while still working part-time at the restaurant). Suddenly the hours I worked were up to me - but it directly correlated to the money I made. So I worked 12-hour days, sometimes 15-hour days if my pupil needed a night lesson.

Now I'm a developer. I learned to code during the late nights, whilst working during the day. I got a job as a developer - with an incredible company, that values and cares for me. My hours are flexible, I get weekends and bank holidays, and even my birthday off!

So why am I still working to the point of burnout? I got my evenings and weekends back, but I then started new hobbies that took up that time. When I'm not working on my hobbies, I code for fun. Add to that the fact that my partner and I are buying a house, so my life is in chaos at the moment.

Ok, I'm rambling. What's the point? The point is that working to burnout has been extremely beneficial for my career - So far! I took part in hackathons, developed my portfolio, got a job, got a promotion, learned quickly, and proved myself to be a valuable asset to my team. I pushed to make myself feel like I'm worth my paycheck.

The bad side of working to burnout is that, when you're nearing burnout, your work suffers. Your concentration dips, and you start missing the fine details, making little mistakes. That's normally my first sign that I need to take a step back. That's the sign that you're no longer working hard, and you've pushed it too far.

Next is the ugly side of burnout. I feel like this isn't spoken about enough. It's often seen as just being too tired and needing a rest. When I've missed the signs, and I've worked myself to burnout, I'll be emotional, tearful for no reason, feeling like the world is against me. I tell myself I'm a horrible developer because I can't work through it. I'm messing up, I'm useless.

All of that is untrue. I'm not a horrible developer. The world isn't against me. I'm not useless. But that's how it feels. If it gets to this point, that's when I take a little time off my hobbies. I take back my evenings and weekends, often catching up on a TV show or watching a few movies that I've seen too many times already.

Self-care is the most important thing to practice. It's so easy to forget to give yourself love when you spend all your energy on work, hobbies, or other people. Take the time to pamper yourself - whether that's watching a rubbish movie, having a spa night, or playing a video game. Anything that isn't work.

So burnout CAN have its uses. But it's far better to learn about yourself, find your limit, and never reach burnout. Practice self-care, look after yourself, and take a step back when you need to. I'm still learning how to do that myself. That's the great thing about being human - We're learning all the time! So be human, and learn about yourself.

Avatar for Abi Harrison

Written by Abi Harrison

I'm Abi. I play trombone in my free time, and I love all things accessibility, so say hi if you want to chat about the incredible world of a11y!


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