Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Grad Life and Burnout

As I may have mentioned, I am a graduate student. My field is in the sciences, and I love my work, or, at least I used to. I had great interest in my various projects, and a great love of learning. But now every morning I wake up with a fatigue that I just can't shake, with a constant feeling of being trapped and overwhelmed.

So, what's wrong? Is it my field of study? My adviser? My labmates? My personal life? No, no, no . . . and no! "So, what is my problem when other people have real issues to deal with in their lives?", I wondered. After a quick Google search of 'Graduate students and depression' I got my answer from the grad school site at UBC. I am not clinically depressed but I somehow seemed to have burnt myself out.

The 'warning signs' of burnout were listed as follows:
* Loss of interest in or questioning the meaning of your research
* Chronic fatigue - exhaustion, a sense of being physically run down
* Anger at those making demands
* Cynicism, negativity, and irritability
* A sense of being besieged
* Feelings of helplessness

"Well, that's about it," I thought. And it happens a lot, not only to graduate students, but to everyone. What's more, it seemed to have happened gradually, without me noticing it- I just started feeling worse and worse, but for no specific reason. One thing is that at least I know what's going on, and I can focus on bringing back all the other things in my life that made me happy, like dance, exercise, hiking and spending time with friends. It was a wake-up call to return to a more balanced life, and for that I am grateful.

Have you experienced burnout in an area of your life? How did/are you coping with it? Did spiritual practice help?

May all beings be happy!

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