November 4, 2012

Reflections on Burnout and Disillusionment

BurnoutThe problem with chronically over-extending oneself, at least for me, is that it inevitably leads to periods of burnout. I've been in one such period for awhile, but I'm finally starting to come out the other side of it. I would really like to reduce periods like this in the future. My problem is a combination of having too many interests, wanting to be helpful to others, and being rather lousy at setting limits. On a good day, this all seems to work for me. I am energized, enjoy helping others, and capable of managing all sorts of things. Those are the days I seem to thrive without any external motivation. But then, I inevitably seem to take on too much and get to the point where my performance suffers as a result. Then the energy drops, and it doesn't seem much fun anymore.

I share this because, while I've been feeling disillusioned with the atheist movement lately, I suspect that the problem is more about me than it is anything about our community or movement. I've heard from some of you that you have felt less interested in being a part of the atheist movement due to atheism plus and freethought bullies controversy. I can relate. I've felt this way too. The thought, "If this is what the atheist movement has become, I'm not sure I want any part of it," has occurred to me a number of times. At the same time, I feel like I'm the one who needs to take the blame for how I've been feeling. After all, I'm the one who keeps making poor decisions about how I spend my time.

When I started blogging back in 2005, I recognized that it was a distraction that would leave me with somewhat less time for other activities. I told myself that I would stop doing it if it became something I no longer enjoyed or if it was getting in the way of things I'd rather be doing. It was supposed to be fun, and I was determined that it was not supposed to feel like work.

There have been a few points along the way when blogging has started to feel a bit too much like work, leading me to entertain the possibility of hanging it up. But I've never quite reached the point of doing so, and I'm not there yet. I suppose I know myself well enough by now to realize that no matter how disillusioned or burned out I may feel, it will eventually pass.

I think I may try to identify the things related to blogging that I enjoy the least and that are the biggest contributors to burnout. I've never given this much thought before, but it seems like it could be helpful. Maybe if I know what to look for, I'll be better able to avoid it or at least figure out how to deal with it more adaptively. It is at least worth a try.

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