Burnt Out? Disconnect to Recharge

 Approximately 30 hours have passed since I turned on my Outlook auto-reply message, and I won’t be turning it off until the Tuesday following the New Year holiday. It feels wonderful to say, “I’m out of office” — staying in bed until mid-morning, treating myself to lunch and afternoon coffee shop breaks, reading The Hunger Games (it’s so hard to tear your eyes from the book) and doing what I want on my own time.  No meetings, no deadlines, no billable hour goals. My phone’s constant buzzing to remind me of calendar appointments and to alert me of new emails is nonexistent.

But at the same time, I quite often wonder what’s going on at the office. What emails have I missed? What projects could I help with if I were there? Should I work or check on anything while I’m out of the office to avoid the load that is inevitably piling up?

I’ve had discussions with several people who have agreed that, whereas vacations used to alleviate stress, it’s now somewhat stressful to even think about using vacation days. How did we get that far?

It’s no secret that Americans are considered workaholics, especially when compared to citizens of other countries. And for those who work in public relations, I believe it’s even worse. We are expected to be on hand for our clients, should any crisis or problem arise. Major deadlines are always looming, all while additional projects are loaded onto our plates. Arriving at the office hours before the long line at Starbucks forms and/or leaving the office hours after sunset is considered the norm for some of us — how else can you get all of the work done? For all of these reasons and more, public relations was considered to be the second most stressful occupation by CareerCast.com in an April 2011 survey.

That’s why, although I’m on “vacation,” I still find myself thinking about work.

I recently read “A social-media addict tries to disconnect” at CNN Tech. Written by Field Producer Kiran Khalid, the article chronicles her challenge during a vacation to Antigua: to disconnect from all social media and refrain to check her email for work. As you can imagine, it was difficult for her. She ended up allowing herself to check email a couple of times and even sent a message to some close friends, one of whom replied, “Aren’t you supposed to be off the computer?!”

After finishing the article, I sent Kiran a tweet to let her know I enjoyed the piece, to which she responded:

“It’s worth disconnecting to recharge.” That’s a wonderful piece of advice that I’ve taken to heart. After all, it’s incredibly easy to get burnt out when it comes to your job — I’ve already encountered that burnt out feeling, and I’ve only been part of the working world for seven months.

With that said, I hope you all will take the same advice. As you’re enjoying the last of your holiday vacation (and whenever you take days off in the future), put all things related to your job out of your mind. Mentally disconnect from work and truly enjoy the time you have to yourself, with friends and family. When you return to the office, you won’t feel as fatigued as you would have otherwise.

Do you often feel pressured to stay connected when you’re on vacation? What do you do to keep work off your mind on days you’re out of the office?

On a personal note, I’ve finally nailed down plans for New Year’s Eve here in Atlanta. We’ll be enjoying a three-course dinner at a restaurant in Midtown, with live entertainment and delicious wines. I won’t be posting before then, so I’m wishing all of you the best for 2012! What are your plans to celebrate the New Year?


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