Langley Air Force Base, Va. — Some of the very things we enjoy during the summer can also wear us down. Juggling work, family schedules, vacation times, and outdoor squadron activities can take a toll. The chronic engagement of these activities can cause stress, fatigue and eventually summer burnout.
According to the American Psychological Association, burnout is defined as an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.
Working in the Air Force can be many things: fast-paced, compelling, and demanding. In addition, longer days and sizzling temperatures, on or off of the flight line, can directly contribute to feelings of weariness.
Not to mention the mental and physical demands of readiness training, unit physical training, or any other continuously strenuous activity. For those reasons, the military lifestyle can easily lead to burn out and begin to affect our work.
I am of the mindset in that whatever I lack in skill or talent I will make up for by work ethic until I reach my end goal. So, for years I arrived early to work, stayed late, worked weekends, and ignored extended family– all the while obsessively worrying about my performance and my career.
Looking back, it’s obvious that my lifestyle wasn’t sustainable. I clearly displayed a workaholic’s badge of honor. Before I knew it, the choices I was making were leading to a classic case of burnout.
There are many ways to fend off summer burnout before letting it overcome you. Whether you feel the effects coming on or just want to avoid the initial onset of symptoms, try taking steps to keep you at your best.
Do something relaxing each day that lets you forget work to prevent the lull of redundant day-to-day activities from taking over. Take a short walk, grab a bottle of water and disconnect. Not staring at a screen and stretching out a bit, even for just a couple of minutes, can be beneficial to your mental well-being.
Sometimes, after completing a major project, I feel temporarily burnt out. Often, before fully recovering from one monumental obstacle, I begin preparing to take on another. Because of that, it is best to remember take a break and, if need be, take some time off before moving on to the next challenge.
When work becomes so routine that it regularly feels tedious or it seems as though you can complete all of your tasks with your eyes closed, burnout may not be far off. As comforting as it might be to keep delivering the same material for a steady product, it’s not a good way to keep a healthy state of mind.
Find something outside of work that you are passionate about that’s challenging, engaging and really gets you going–whether it be a hobby, fitness activity, or volunteering in the community.
Another sign of burnout may be when we no longer see the amazing opportunities in front of us. Those opportunities may be exposure to new technologies, training or education, providing fellow Airmen with extraordinary career broadening experiences or even just being able to accomplish the mission in a unique location. If you feel yourself losing sight of these things, then the battle against burnout has already begun.
If you are easily distracted by the typical grievances inherent to the work Airmen do, that same distraction might be a sign of something deeper that you need to address in order to recharge the interest you once had in your career.
Burnout can have negative effects on your health, happiness, and job performance. It is a very real threat against being your best, which is exactly what Airmen need to be.