Soaring electricity bills, a war in Ukraine, drying up rivers in Europe and deadly heat waves. It’s fair to say it’s been a tough summer. All of this has happened as we move through the world on this small island. As we go through September it is a time of school, a time when we should be recharged.
All the people I’ve spoken to lately are anything but charged. While we’ve seen the easing of pandemic restrictions relatively recently, many of us are now facing a variety of new challenges.
Maybe it’s that climate of fatigue, but I’ve thought a lot about the nature of readiness and the nature of fatigue. Many entered 2022 exhausted after the last two years of uncertainty caused by Covid.
In fact, last year software company HRLocker reported that more than half of its full-time employees in Ireland suffered from fatigue. The survey found that those aged 18-24 and 25-40 were the most affected.
One would hope that with the easing of restrictions and working from home things would become more relaxed. Instead, the talk is of burnout. But what is burnout?
The Health and Safety Administration describes it as feeling like you have no energy or commitment to your work. It often comes after a period of intense performance that leaves you feeling overwhelmed. Common signs are that you feel tired or drained most of the time, feel helpless or defeated, and are cynical about things that were previously of interest.
It can affect anyone, and taking a break or reorganizing your schedule can help combat it. I can confirm that. After a longer period of work earlier this year, I took a few days off in London to enjoy a city trip. I came back fresh and ready to embark on 2022.
However, employers are now faced with new problems in the form of “quiet termination”.
This essentially encompasses the trend among employees towards a better work-life balance. In many cases, it is not about giving up the job, but about setting healthy boundaries.
The idea of a healthy work-life balance isn’t new, but seems to have gained traction with a weary global population.
September is a time marker in the grand scheme of life. It signifies the end of summer and the beginning of the creeping evenings and the eventual return of winter. We all need to make sure we are prepared for the storms this winter, both physically and emotionally, that will befall this island.
The war in Europe is expected to continue, and with it the energy crisis, which is already causing great concern to families and businesses. In times like these, our healthy routines help us in the face of great uncertainty.
A walk, run, or visit to a sacred place can give us the space we need.
Taking a break can make a big difference. For me, walking across the country in the afternoon looking at the cattle is a respite from a hard day at the computer. I know I’m privileged to have this opportunity and I’m enjoying it. The cows and sheep can do me as good as a weekend in Clifden.
I’ve adopted a new routine over the past few weeks to prepare for the coming winter. I read a short text by John O’Donohue or maybe the Dutch spiritual writer Henri Nouwen.
John’s work spans so many areas, from love and loss to grace and gratitude. I recently stumbled across this wonderful poem of his, and it is for anyone enduring on the front lines of work and stress.
For someone who is exhausted starts like this:
When the heart rhythm gets hectic,
Time takes the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
In the head like an endlessly increasing weight.
Describing the tiredness and pain we all feel, John notes how we “have traveled too fast over wrong ground.” There’s something profound about this reference to false ground, because when we’re tired, it can all seem like false ground that wasn’t worth walking over.
John concludes by saying:
Stay away from those who are upset in spirit.
Learn to stay around a relaxed person
Who thinks they have all the time in the world.
Gradually you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far in slow time.
I love this reference to “slow time”. We all have to accept that in the coming winter. There is so much we cannot control in the coming months, but we can value and treat our time as precious.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/take-strength-from-the-stillness-of-time-when-winter-storms-and-war-disturb-our-peace-41974331.html Draw strength from the stillness of time when winter storms and war disturb our peace