I go through this period at work every quarter that involves a solid three weeks of higher than usual stress and an incredible work load. I tried to describe what happens during these cycles to a friend over the weekend, and he said that it sounds like I work the equivalent of two full-time jobs. It’s true. Two full-time high-pressure jobs rolled into one. I’m doing my normal day-to-day work, which can be harrowing on its own, and adding a massive extra task with a very short deadline on top of it.
I am in the middle of that particular phase at the moment and no matter how much I try to take care of myself, the tension can get unbearable. I always head into these things prepared to get daily exercise, meditate, eat well and make sure I sleep, but it never quite works out that way. The stress becomes impossible to escape. My therapist continues to tell me that I can only do what I can do and if it’s not sustainable and I don’t meet the deadlines then I’m not going to die. While I appreciate that sentiment and it does help me to keep my perfectionism in check with a lot of my normal work, it’s not so easy during these heavy deadline periods. As it is, I already always run past the targeted due dates because it’s too much to manage.
I sometimes wonder how little sleep some coworkers get. I know mine suffers during these phases and I don’t even have children to also look after. I watch people with families who are pushing through the heavy workload on top of trying to handle their family situations and I feel for them. We all work long days in the office and typically log back in after finally getting home at night and on the weekends. That’s pretty standard for even a normal work day, but it’s even more necessary when this quarterly cycle comes around. We all spend these times in the office a little grumpier, a lot more tired and generally lacking any positive energy. There are body aches and short fuses to contend with everywhere you turn. No matter how hard we all try, the mental and physical exhaustion run rampant.
When I stop to consider that I spend a minimum of three weeks every quarter going through this, that’s three months of my life each year. Three months of stress levels that are off the charts. Three months with little sleep or much in the way of self-care. Three months where I neglect much of what is important and valuable to me. Maintaining the positive attitude that has come to be expected of me is becoming more of a struggle with each passing quarter. I try to put on the brave face and show everyone that I can handle it, while in reality it’s tearing me up inside. I always come into this cycle wanting to make it better somehow, but by the end of the three weeks even this queen of positivity is left feeling defeated.
None of this seems like something a person should go through. I am incredibly grateful for what I have and for the opportunity that I’ve been given. I like who I work with and I like the good that we do, but the balance is lacking. Burnout is a very real thing. This isn’t something that just impacts my business, it’s the culture that we are surrounded by in this country, in general. Burnout can lead to a whole host of problems. All work and no play makes Jack a very anxious, forgetful, tired, pained, ill, depressed, lonely and addicted boy.
In no way am I blaming my alcohol use on my job, but I am keenly aware that it was how I coped during the high stress cycles. Maybe it’s being sober that makes me hyper-sensitive to the pressures of the job, or maybe it’s getting older and recognizing the value of each moment in this short life. Work is important and certainly necessary, but there must be a way to find joy and balance in it instead of watching the years melt painfully away as the hamster wheel keeps spinning.