003: Burnout and Things I Learned in Therapy

That time that I burned out and took 5 weeks off of work.

Ep. 003

[00:00:00] Thuy Doan: Hello everyone, and welcome to today's episode of Candid and Cringe, a podcast about growth and the roller coaster of life. Today's candid conversation is going to be about burnout, burnout, burnout, burnout, and then some things that I learned in therapy. With this whole burnout thing, I feel like, I don't know if it's just tech, Twitter, but I feel like every day I go on Twitter, somebody is talking about how burnt out they are.

[00:00:46] And it's also very prevalent inside of my workplace right now. For the people who have listened to my episodes, um, prior to this one, you know, that I'm on leave for burnout, but there are a whole bunch of [00:01:00] other people that I know in the industry who are burnt out. Some of them have taken leaves. Some of them, those leaves have worked out for them.

[00:01:11] Um, and some people, they want to take a leave, but they can't. I guess, you know, it could be parents with children and they can't really afford, uh, the income to stop or they feel guilty, I guess, many reasons. Uh, and on top of burnout, that is a result of typical factors... there's... Pandemic burnout. Some people say they're burnt out because of the pandemic.

[00:01:38] And I think there is an overlap between the pandemic and the workplace, um, as, as it relates to burnout. And the other thing that we're seeing in the industry, maybe just within tech but The Great Resignation. A lot of people quitting their jobs. Um, I think in favor of more autonomy, more autonomy, more [00:02:00] flexibility, but also because they've just had enough, uh, of their company maybe related to the pandemic or not. This podcast is going to be more about my story, about finding out that I was burnt out.

[00:02:12] Like, what was the trigger. What's going on with people in general and things that I have learned about burn burnout that might help you guys. So for me, I try to get ahead of my stress daily by doing something that some people call filling your bucket, you know, as you go through the day, you use your resources, time, energy to do things, right.

[00:02:39] And ideally, you're spending some portion of your day resting or filling your bucket so that you have enough energy or water, uh, in this scenario to do what you need to do the next day. Right. And normally filling your bucket for me [00:03:00] is watching videos after work. That could be like mindless vlogs from YouTubers that I subscribe to.

[00:03:10] It could be, I'm not a pet video person, so I'm not going to say cat videos. That's not me, but it could be, it could be a show like right now I'm watching Nine Perfect Strangers. I think it's called Nine Perfect Strangers on Amazon Prime. And that's really interesting. And I need to make sure that I do that daily.

[00:03:32] And when I have a busy day, it could be that I'm maybe I'm out partying. Maybe I went hiking. Maybe I went on a day trip, but maybe I'm on vacation. I need the time to be alone and do something to recharge. Right. But unfortunately in this time period, and maybe throughout people's lives, they have not really taken the proper time whether by their own choice or not [00:04:00] to refill their bucket.

[00:04:02] That's the daily thing. There's another longterm concept, which is time management versus energy management. Time management is something that everyone has probably heard of. You know, we have a finite amount of time as humans, like a day. And time management has to do with how do you take your finite amount of time a day and get the most out of it?

[00:04:31] You could say that time management is a productivity thing, right? In a span of 24 hours, how much can you pump out? On the other hand, energy management is more about making sure that you have the appropriate amount of energy to do the right thing. So energy management is less about [00:05:00] productivity and more about priority, energy consumption, effective energy usage.

[00:05:10] So with energy management, technically, within the same amount of time, you could be producing less than under the concept of time management, but you may be doing more important things. Right. And that's something that I've had to start learning in this period of time. So during, well, prior to this leave, I was a person who really was heavily on that time management.

[00:05:37] Like, how do I produce, how do I pump out? Like, I was somebody who, if I had something get canceled during the day, I would just replace it with more things to do. Right. But because of my experience right now, With burning out. I've been trying to focus on [00:06:00] doing the right things rather than doing the most.

[00:06:05] And that's really hard because I've almost created my entire identity based on what I produce. But ultimately I think working on the right things is the right thing. In terms of when I found out, how I found out that I was burnt out was, I was, I think I was in a webinar. I was in a webinar. And during that webinar, they asked us to do something called an energy audit, which sounds really woo woo, but it really was pretty, it was pretty logical, an energy audit to see where you were at with your energy levels and the result that I got

[00:06:50] from that energy audit was this imminent energy crisis. And when I saw that, [00:07:00] that was when I thought to myself, am I stressed? And it took me a quiz. It took me a quiz to think that to myself, which is wild too, because I am a pretty introspective, self-aware person. So how can it be that I only knew that I was stressed by taking a quiz. More on that probably when either I dig deep into therapy during this session or another session, it just depends.

[00:07:37] So that's how I found out that I was burnt out. When I found out I was burnt out. I told my manager because my manager and I have a good working relationship. I told him, and he was the person that recommended to me. Maybe you should consider a leave. And if it wasn't for my manager, I probably would never have [00:08:00] conceived that that was an option that I could take.

[00:08:04] Because again, my identity is how much can I produce? Right. And so if you take a leave, consequently, you are producing less because you're not working. And so when he recommended it to me, I both felt like, okay, my manager supports me as usual. But the other thing that I thought was, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, no.

[00:08:29] I, I, I don't think that's, I don't think that's necessary. That's what I thought. And the reason that I gave was well, you know, manager, I just started working with a career coach. I just started working with a therapist and, you know, I think of a leave as the thing that you do after all the things that you could possibly do, like therapy, getting your sleep in order, or getting your eating in order exercising, once you've exhausted all of those options and they didn't work.[00:09:00]

[00:09:00] Right. So I said no. But that escalated rather quickly because maybe a couple of days later, or a week later I went back and I was like Mangger, you know what I think I do need to take a leave. Let's talk about how that works. By the end ofthis,this. I do want to talk about leaves and what sort of leaves that we as employees are afforded.

[00:09:26] Um, and how to take the type of leave that I took, uh, because there's a lot of mystery around one burnout, which is why I'm doing this episode, but two what people do when they experience burnout. So we'll get to that. Now. I want to talk about something that I learned about burnout that I didn't know before.

[00:09:49] So I used to think that burnout was something that you experienced when you work too much, right. There's just too much on your plate. [00:10:00] And that's part of the reason why, before I pursued my leave, I thought to myself, you know, okay, I need help. I recognize that I'm doing a lot though. That was hard to recognize too, because I always do a lot.

[00:10:16] I'm doing a lot and maybe. Not necessarily at work, but like just in general, but maybe if I got a handle of my plate, maybe I wouldn't be as stressed as I supposedly am now. Right. So I got a career coach to help me with that. Right. You know, given my goals, am I focusing on the right things? Right. And I would show her like this giant do list of things.

[00:10:45] Some of which weren't even things that I had to do very soon. It was like things you should do in this year. Um, and we sat down together and did the, I think it's called the Eisenhower Matrix. I recommend [00:11:00] that if you are somebody with a giant to-do list that is not prioritized in any way, or you suspect that you need better prioritization of that to do.

[00:11:12] But yes, the, I, I did the Eisenhower matrix. I took all of the things that I wanted to accomplish and put it under four different quadrants. One was things I have to do today, or tomorrow, two things that I don't need to do yet, but are coming up and I should decide when I need to do them. Three, things that I realistically could do delegate.

[00:11:40] And four, things that you really can cut or put them under the do it way later thing. So for example, it's July, it's not July right now, but let's say it was July. And there's this thing that you needed to do in December that really doesn't need [00:12:00] to be on your prioritize to do list. Maybe it can be on your master to-do list, but not your prioritized to do list.

[00:12:07] So that is under the thought process that burnout is a result of having too much to do. But the thing is, after I got a handle on my plate, delegated some things cut, some things saved it for later, I found out that I was STILL stressed and I was still stressed with great sleep, with great nutrition.

[00:12:33] Above average, according to my health practitioners being, uh, exercising daily, going in on at least a one hour walk a day, or throwing in the gym or throwing in a run or whatever, I was still stressed. So what was it right? No. Is, is it the pandemic? Because a lot of people cite their, their burnout as a pandemic thing. Could be related.[00:13:00]

[00:13:00] It's certainly, probably not a single factor. Is it that I need a change? Right? And then if I need a change, what do I need to change from? New team? New company? Trying something new, like as a hobby, who knows? But in this journey, I, I did some research about what, what sort of a burnout exists when I looked at this list of possible causes of jobs.

[00:13:32] Which is what I felt like mine was related to the job, but I didn't know quite what it was about the job, but this point stuck out to me: lack of control. Job burnout can result from various factors, including lack of control and inability to influence decisions that affect your job such as your schedule assignments or workload could [00:14:00] lead to jobs.

[00:14:01] So could a lack of the resources you need to do your work. Now, when I first read this, I glossed over it a little bit, a little bit, because I was like, well, I mean, my company is, I mean, they got money. That's not a problem. We got side. So we got structure. We have great managers. I have great coworkers.

[00:14:28] There is some degree of autonomy, especially as a development team, we could introduce new technology if you want. We can get rid of technology if we want ittoas well. So why did somewhere deep down I related to this lack of control thing? I think it's related to the things that I was doing while on the job that aren't necessarily related to my role, for example. For anyone that's in the DEI space, EDI, DEI, accessibility, [00:15:00] or disability space,

[00:15:02] I'm sure, you know, the type of emotional labor that you're doing when you advocate. Right. And as somebody who's new to advocating since 2019, uh, particularly with accessibility, but then also DEI stuff and mental health. I. knew not of, uh, I guess the turmoil that I would possibly go through because I was naive. In retrospect, I think my burnout is in part because I tried to drive change by myself and quickly when realistically that was just not going to be the case.

[00:15:53] Right. If you're trying to get a workplace to be more diverse, equitable, inclusive, [00:16:00] trying to get a company to build more accessibly, that isn't something that you're going to solve with one presentation. You know, even if you're fortunate enough to do it in front of executives, why is that? Because the issue is complex and it's large.

[00:16:21] And has lasted a long time. And I guess I forgot about that when I was trying to drive change here at my company. And it took me two years, I guess, two years for the effects of that, uh, of those attempts to catch up to me. And it took my manager and a couple of coworkers asking me, you know, what are we trying to achieve with

[00:16:50] whatever project I was proposing at the time. And it was through that line of questioning that I realized that I was trying to focus on too many things. Um, and [00:17:00] ultimately I stepped back so that I could stop experiencing the stress and the disappointment that I was experiencing, um, trying to drive change that ultimately wasn't going as fast as I wanted with.

[00:17:14] As a part of this journey, I talked to other people at the company. I knew somebody in the company who was away from the company for several months. And I wanted to know, you know, what their experience was. Did you find that the leave helped? What was really the turning point for you? And then the thing that they said to me that stood out was...

[00:17:40] One, they felt the same as me, which is that they got to a place where they were angry all the time about what was going on. Not necessarily that super mega toxic things were happening. It was just like, why can't you meet my standard of [00:18:00] quality as a person? So upset about all the things happening and probably made worse because

[00:18:07] our company and our coworkers are great. Our mission is great and we love the work. So why are we so angry? Um, my coworker got to this place and for him, when he took the time off, he said that he felt like his frustration meter was finally able to go down. To reset. And he was able to come back with a renewed perspective or a reset mood meter.

[00:18:37] Um, and renewed expectations, right? It's not worth putting energy over here because XYZ. And in that case, his leave for as long as it was, was great for him. And because I related to his story, I was like, do I need to be on leave for three months? And that both [00:19:00] excited me. Um, the level of transformation that I could achieve in three months, but also terrified me because I am on a team whose work that I really want to see through. Whose coworkers I really want to get to that finish line with and whose progress will be hindered by me leaving.

[00:19:23] So it was hard, but in the end I ultimately decided to go on the leave and I was supported by my personal support system, my therapist, my doctor, but also my manager, his manager, and all of my coworkers, right. To summarize this part, that is to say that burnout can be caused by multiple things. And especially in this pandemic time, it is compounded by other things that are beyond your control.

[00:19:57] Like the pandemic. [00:20:00] Like the fact that you have to work from home, like the fact that you have to be in the presence of your children who demand your attention and your job and a whole bunch of things. So let's move on to a leave because I don't think many people know about leaves. And the only reason that I know about the type of leave that I've taken is because I am taking it.

[00:20:24] And I've talked to people recently in and outside of my company who I feel like this issue of burnout and mental health in the workplace is really mysterious, really clouded. They lack answers. They lack knowledge. So I want to give as much as I can, not as a self-proclaimed expert or anything, but just somebody with lived experience, right.

[00:20:51] In Ontario employees are entitled to paid leave an unpaid leaves. And some of them have a [00:21:00] requirement where leaves only can get access to those leaves after you've worked with an employer for X amount of time. Some examples of paid leave that unfortunately people have experienced are like bereavement leave because somebody has died in your family for something like three days or longer.

[00:21:19] If your employer is awesome, they will pay you to take that time off, to get things in order, right. To grieve. Another common one is parental leave when you and your partner have a child in whatever, which way, um, you can take the time off. It is paid up to some percentage of your earnings. But also I said that there's unpaid leave.

[00:21:48] Now, when I first embarked on this journey of getting the leave that I had was unpaid, unpaid and not job protected. Now because I have a good relationship with my manager and my manager's [00:22:00] manager, who is also my former manager, they reassured me that listen, technically it is not job protected, but we are not going to let you go.

[00:22:11] That is not a concern that you should have. And I wholly believed them. Okay. Now, what's also true is that if the company had to, they can cut you. Okay. No matter how badly your manager and manager's manager want to keep you there, if you know, heaven forbid something were to happen with the budget at your company and they needed to cut people.

[00:22:46] Well, if they can cut me with my no job protection, they will. And so I wanted to protect myself against that, right. By the un- from the unfortunate circumstance that might happen. [00:23:00] Right. So what does that mean? In order for me to get job protection for my leave, I had to change it to what's called a medical leave, right.

[00:23:11] In that case still unpaid, but it would be job protected, meaning that they, your employer would have to reinstate you. To your role, not necessarily the team that you were on and the project that you're on, but they have to reinstate you to your role in my case, full-stack developer two um, or the equivalent somewhere in the company.

[00:23:37] Okay. Meaning the money will keep flowing when I return. In order to get a medical leave, you need a health practitioner, preferably and strongly recommended your doctor. You'd have to get a medical leave and that certainly goes better, if you have a good relationship with your doctor now to [00:24:00] get that medical leave.

[00:24:01] I, on my end, I was like, okay, well, I've been going to therapy, uh, for my stress and all that stuff. Um, can't my therapist just write the note. But apparently what I was told is that, um, if it's just a therapist note, there's a possibility that more paperwork were need to be generated in order to have, I guess, a strong enough case for you to take a stress, leave medical leave and so on.

[00:24:34] So I didn't want to have to go through all of that. So I was like, doctor. I have a situation. I am experiencing burnout and also spoiler, possibly experiencing depression and anxiety or something. Maybe not necessarily diagnosed, but those symptoms because... hey, surprise, I don't really feel [00:25:00] joy anymore. Now.

[00:25:02] Anyway, I was able to talk to my doctor and my doctor ultimately agreed to writing me the. Saying I recommend that my patient takes five weeks off to recover and they will be reassessed on a certain date. Now I do want to say heads up, your doctor might resist. Like if you come in there with a preferred amount of time off, they might resist and give you less or they will give you more.

[00:25:35] It depends on their assessment. But if you can have a conversation with them to get the appropriate amount of leave for you, given your situation, I did experience some differences and the amount of time that I needed off. So just something to be aware of. So I got five weeks off and I'm going to be a [00:26:00] reassessed, something like five days before I come back.

[00:26:05] That day is supposed to be Monday, October 4th, I guess what happens is that with your leave, if you're a doctor, you can take off a for a a medical leave. You can take off as much time as you can, up to the amount that your doctor says. Right? I suppose that if, if you get reassessed and, um, everything is good, you can go back.

[00:26:32] But if your doctor said. I recommend two more weeks, four more weeks. You are able to extend your leave and keep receiving job protection for when you return. And I believe the maximum amount of time that a doctor can prescribe you to take off via medical leave is 52 weeks. There's a bunch of different time [00:27:00] periods.

[00:27:00] There's like critical illness. There's like. Uh, the type of leave, if you're taking care of a sick child, what I do now is you can take up to the amount that your doctor prescribes there may be a cap. Um, I don't exactly know what the cap would be for me and for all the types of medical leave or leaves the exist because not all of them apply to me.

[00:27:25] I haven't looked up all of them. I'm really only concerned with the ones that I have, but. As long as your doctor supports you, then there's not really much that your company can say, if it is necessary for your rehabilitation, your mental health recovery. Something that concerns me a little bit about my burnout situation is something that I've read on Twitter and it has to do with how long burnout [00:28:00] actually last.

[00:28:01] Here is the tweet. It says, if you're describing burnout as something that can be fixed with a vacation, that's not burnout. Burnout lasts months or years or forever, and fundamentally affects your ability to deal with life. This tweet is something that really scares me because it means that I may not be better at the end of five weeks.

[00:28:29] I also can be better at the end of five weeks, but it scares me that this is something that will, that, that is something that you just have to persevere with and are reminds me of a perspective that another coworker gave me before I went on leave. And they said maybe we just have to, they're kind of experiencing the similar thing to me as well and experienced the same wall

[00:28:57] after a couple of years into their jobs in the [00:29:00] past, they said to me, maybe we just need to learn how to be okay with struggling. And there's a part of me that the naive part of me, the part of me that understands that the people that I'm talking to are more experienced, might know something more than I do.

[00:29:19] And maybe that's the truth. Maybe you have to learn how to deal with a job. That has parts of it that you don't like, not necessarily a job that you hate, but a job that has ugly parts of it. And then there's the part of me that wants better from myself and from the people around me and from the world.

[00:29:42] And I'm just like, why do I have to suffer? Like, why can't the world be better? And I find that I also oscillate a lot between those two things and I'm trying to figure out a way to move [00:30:00] forward so that I don't get burned out again, a small way, uh, that I've done that is to, and I'm going to talk more about this, uh, in some other content that I'm going to create about burnout.

[00:30:14] Like for example, I might do a talk with Shine Bootcamp. It's like a speaker accelerator. About burnout and the short-term and long-term ways that you can deal with it. But one way that I'm possibly dealing with it is by taking my passions, I guess you could say, or the things that I'm trying to drive change for and putting them, channeling them in a way that's more effective.

[00:30:48] For one, the change that I want to see, but also for my energy management, here's an example. I've been trying to push for better DEI at my company as an individual. But [00:31:00] the truth is I do not have the power. I am not an executive, nowhere close. I'm not even a manager. Okay. I'm not on a committee, partly because I don't think they would amount to anything

[00:31:12] if I was on a committee. But I don't have the power. And there is a quote by, um, a DEI consultant. I would say that I wrote a webinar that I recently attended. There is a quote that I really relate to about this. It says, regarding wasted work, start quote, if you are not in a position to affect change, like as a leader, you can do all the work you want to do,

[00:31:37] if leadership is an onboard, it's going to be for no reason. And then you would have wasted your time and got burned out. Okay. So in order to deal with that part, I, and it's in part a coincidence because it's not like I went seeking for this opportunity. It presented itself to me and I was able to grab it, [00:32:00] but I.

[00:32:03] I saw a job posting for a part-time content writer position for a talent development agency in the us that centers, its work around equity, equitable talent development, diversity inclusion. And I applied for this job. And on the one hand you could say, well, you're just piling on more work and that's going to add to the stress maybe.

[00:32:28] But also, I felt like if I applied for that position, I would have a greater chance of impacting the workplace. Maybe not necessarily my workplace, but the workplace to be better than it was. And you know what I got, I got accepted and I wrote an article about, you know, five medium sized businesses that have effective DEI programs and how you don't need to have all the money

[00:32:56] and all the resources to start making a change. Start [00:33:00] making the workplace better, more equitable, more diverse, more inclusive. You don't need all those things. You just need to do something and keep doing those things and keep being committed. I wrote it, it was a prompt from the company, but I wrote it.

[00:33:20] To help people do something about it. And also it helped change my perspective. It helped me realize that - well not realize, but like remind me that I can't expect a hundred percent right away. And then that way it really took the stress out of the change that I was trying to advocate advocate for and drive that is to say maybe.

[00:33:45] Some of the things, some of the stressors in your life, you can channel somewhere else, achieve the same things, but not in the same ways. And that could in time reduce the level of burnout or stress that you're experiencing, but maybe it's [00:34:00] other things. And they're worth exploring today. We talked about burnout, burnout, and some things I learned along the way.

[00:34:10] I'm hoping to create more content about burnout and about mental health, about therapy, about the workplace. And I'm hoping that it will help demystify these things, this time of great stress for people. This panzerotti so that they can come out of it even stronger than before. I hope you all have a great day and I will see on the next episode,

003: Burnout and Things I Learned in Therapy
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