Today I met with a colleague of mine, who also is on sick leave, for burnout. Turns out, there are quite a few people I know struggling with this feeling of being overwhelmed by responsibilities.
It seems that the people who are really invested in their work are the ones who get burnt out. If only I could learn to let things go, I’d be free of worries and stress. At least that’s what I’ve heard.
When did it all start?
I’ve been “working on” this for some time now. In January, just after the winter break, I went to the family doctor to ask for help. She sent me to the company doctor, and the ball started rolling from there. In mid-January, I officially called in 50% sick, which is a bit crazy, even I have to admit. Because how can you be 50% sick?
What is 50% sick?
Yesterday, at school, the HR manager stopped by the desk I was sitting at (alone, quietly in open space where I wouldn’t be disturbed by colleagues’ chitchat in the teacher’s room.) When she asked innocently how I was doing, a rant followed, pouring out of my mouth, which surprised me. I thought I felt calm and collected. Apparently, not so much.
“Well,” I said, “Firstly, it’s my daughter’s birthday, and here I am at school, but let’s say that’s just something that I can deal with. The fact is that while I’m only supposed to be working 50% of 28 hours – that’s 12 hours a week, right? But in fact, there is no way in the world I can work for only 12 hours, at my job.”
This is what I’m allocated for 12 weekly hours:
- Teaching / mentoring students for 7 hours a week.
- Planning lessons, communicating to students in advance about their obligations, organizing things related to classes. (Just today I spent 2 hours doing this, for a lesson that the students themselves will be teaching next week!)
- Internship supervision of 2 students (though yesterday I got an additional third student who I promptly handed back)
- Weekly ‘quick check’ of my students, to see if they did their pre-class work or not, (otherwise I’m not supposed to let them into class).
- Correction work of my all my 60 students’ portfolios, which includes a lot of resit correction work (shame on me for failing them the first time). (Calculate: 15 portfolio resits X ½ an hour for each one.)
- Answering emails. (10 to 20 on average per day)
- Dodging questions about the Coordination tasks that I used to do before I called in sick.
- Worrying about those questions…
- Making sure that someone (but who exactly?) is doing those jobs that I’m not doing right now.
Example of something I can’t (easily) let go of:
I developed a new course, and included in that course development was a Grading Matrix, which last year already, I delegated to colleagues to prepare, based on a new method we are using for Internships as well, “Evidence Based Practice.”
I do believe in this method, but it’s not easy to implement. Some resistance has been expressed – more by staff than students, but the number of resits indicates that students didn’t ‘get it’ either. Therefore, it was decided, in my absence of the past month and a half, to rethink this grading matrix. Before it was finalized, my head of department kindly sent it to me for my feedback.
And, because this course was originally ‘my baby,’ of course, I take a look at it and see that while it’s going in the right direction, there are a few ‘tweaks’ necessary to make it a better working document.
My department head asks me if I can help out the current team with this, and I agree, while negotiating that she will take me off a different task, in return.
I contact the team that’s working on this project, but they, (I guess they don’t want to disturb me), kindly tell me “Don’t worry, we’ve got this.”
But do you think I can let it go? NO WAY! I fear it will be ‘ruined,’ ‘wrong,’ ‘irreversibly damaged.’ Guess what the name of the workshop I’m teaching my students next week is called?
Yup: Trust and Delegation.
Isn’t that a laugh?
I don’t trust (enough) and I can’t delegate (well enough, yet!).
And here I am, writing about this, still feeling it eat up my stomach with stress, instead of doing some painting or dancing or yoga.
It is NOT easy.
And I don’t know how to do it, without feeling like a total loser and failure.
But I’m trying.
I’m self-reflecting, going to therapy, doing some yoga and painting.
I worked for only 2 and half hours today (It’s not one of my two days of work, but y’know, I’m doing my best!).
How do you all cope with work/life balance? Any tips? Ways not to be so black and white about it?