Burning Out

Once upon a time, when we talked about burnouts, we meant a very specific group. You might recognise them from various films set in high schools that suffered from particularly aggressive clique problems. Usually this group could be observed lounging around, talking it easy,  laughing to themselves. The very epitome of ‘chilled.’

Like this young lady here.

burn out girl from the movie Mean Girls

Did you recognise her? She went to North Shore High School, known for their mathletes and their Mean Girls. Can you find where you would have sat if you went to North Shore? To be honest, I would probably have been in the library, or, like Cady, seeking shelter elsewhere.

Cady's Map to North Shore High School
Cady’s Map to North Shore High School

That was 2004 and we have come along way since then. ‘Fetch’ finally happened and the meaning of ‘burn out’ has changed completely. No longer are those branded as burn outs too chilled to function, instead they are those high-achievers who don’t know when to slow down.

This is a blog about museums, specifically my adventures in them. A large part of those adventures consist of my work in museums. I, like many of my museum-y colleagues are absolutely passionate about the work we do. We take everything the sector, the government and the public throw at us and make magic happen.

And when we finally make that magic happen?

We’re told to do more with less. This is something I am facing rather acutely, as I have mentioned before. 

If you’re not sure if you might be approaching burn out, have a read of this article from Psychology Today, or simple give it a Google. I’m not going to lie, these symptoms really resonate with me, and at least some of them are likely to strike a chord with you too.

Like many people who work in museums, I have several jobs. Well, 2. It used to be 3 – I’m clearly getting better at saying “no”. Actually, no, I don’t think I am. The current Record Holder for Most Jobs out of people I know is a member of one of my teams, who currently has four jobs.  Four. To make ends meet.

Not only is this a nightmare when it comes to Official Paperwork, or describing what it is you do for a living, it is *exhausting.* Not only does all this work lead to a burn out, but it makes it very difficult to get a position where you can apply for that Dream Job that means you can cut down to 2, or, dare I say it… 1 role?

And even then, there’s no guarantee that the pressures you’ll face there (whether internally or externally imposed) won’t make things difficult.

One key strategy I see time and time again to help people avoid burning out is to “work with a purpose beyond a pay-cheque.” Let’s face it, museum folk, we do this already. We work in museums because we love them and we believe in the power they have and the good that they do.

Yes, we love our museums – but do they love us back?

Everyone who faces, or even approaches, burn out finds their own ways to cope.Personally, I’ve found running helps, as does a bit of Yoga – those endorphins really do make a difference. Or even.. time off!

There also exists a plethora of How to Prevent Burnout articles out there if you’re not too sure where to turn. If you are on Twitter, give Tamsin Russell from the Museums Association a follow, she’s full of all sorts of wisdom.

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