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Burn-out or New Beginning?

After 25 years working with seniors in CCRCs in activities, there are days when I think, "what else can I do for a job?" and then there are days where I know I am in the right place. I think, no matter what the job is, after while everyone feels a bit burned out, but it is what you do next that matters the most.

To be perfectly honest, for me there are a few things that I do when I am feeling burned out as the activities director in my independent living retirement community. Some of these ideas may work for you, and some may not. Here is what I do, in no particular order, and not necessarily each time that I feel I want to quit.
  • Admit that I am have a feeling of burn-out. It's the way I feel. I own it and move on. I don't push it under the carpet or to the back of my mind. I try to address it and grow from it.
  • Should I stay or should I go? If I am not sure, I start looking for another job. Somehow I feel that if the next job opportunity was out there for me, then I would have to get serious about taking the next step. Also, I believe that if I don't find my next job that it was a sign that I should stay where I am. There is a good feeling knowing that I have taken a step, by looking for another job, to determine if quiting is the right decision for me or not.  I always have a choice.
  • I talk with other professionals in my field. I am lucky enough to have two co-workers in "sister-communities" who go through similar issues in their community. We remind each other of the positives of the job, offer each other solutions to problems, and encourage each other to step up our game, so we don't get bored. Find someone who you can relate with on a professional level. Look at on-line community groups such as Yahoo's AD Community, Activity Chat, or on FaceBook the Recharging Retirees Page. Of course there are actual groups who meet on a regular basis in your area too.
  • A new challenge, a new twist on an old activity or theme event, a totally new addition to the calendar, etc. means that you are learning and growing. Don't let yourself get bored or stuck in your comfort zone. You are the leader, and though the residents may not think they want to try something different, if you are confident in presenting something new, and they have developed a good foundation of trust with you, they will give it a try too. How cool is that! When you grow, they benefit. How can you feel burn-out when you are growing and providing new experiences to those you serve? You can't!
  • I think to myself that if I am not happy in my work, that the residents that I served probably are, or will become, unhappy with me and my work too. If I can not give the community something to get excited about at least once a month, then it is not fair to them. Holding onto my job as activities director just to have a paycheck affects the residents negatively and that is shameful. When I think like that, I press myself to get out of my comfort zone and try something new.
  • Don't be afraid to try something new. I've arranged outings and programs in the community that I feel will be popular with the residents, and they are not. I say to myself, and to the residents, "you don't know until you try," and with that attitude, the residents appreciate the effort, creativity, and the bravery that it takes to present it to them. It is a learning opportunity and from some residents and/or staff, I get "props" for trying. Not a failure really.
"To fight fear, act. To increase fear - wait, put off postpone." Motivational Writer and Coach, David Joseph Schwartz
  • Take a day off. Make a long weekend by taking Friday, Monday or both off if you can. Take a real vacation and find inspiration, or just get away from the office to recharge yourself.
  • Get new ideas by opening yourself up to what is around you. What is your city doing? What is the local school doing? Is there a special event at the mall or the casino in your area? Did you hear about a unique entertainer while reading the newspaper? What have you seen on the Internet or TV? When you go through all of these (and many more) ask your self these questions: Would this be of interest my community's residents? And, how can I make this work in my community? Where there is a will, there is a way. It may not fit in right away, but somewhere down the line, it might. (For me, I love the ideas of having food trucks come to us, but so far, it has not been of interest to the food trucks because we don't have a large enough population to make it worth their while financially.... and at this point, we have not opened our property up to the outside community...... but sooner or later, I'll come up with something good and it will be worth the wait for everyone involved.)
  • I have learned to say NO when I need to to protect myself from taking on to much. I usually feel it necessary to  provide a good explanation with my no..... (IE doing things right, well, timely, successfully, etc)
  • I have started to ask for help from residents and staff. As a one person department, (which is a positive for me), this is difficult for me, but an area that I am working on..... personal growth. It helps reduce burn out for me and gives others join in providing something fun and positive to the community (which, I think is the main positive of the job of activities director!)
  • I evaluate my home-life. Are there stressors that I'm bringing into work with me? Am I getting enough sleep?
  • I recall all the positive reasons why I selected my job, my profession, in the first place.
  • I spend time with a resident who I really enjoy. It is personal and valuable to me.
I hope these thoughts help you when you need them. It takes a special person to work in this field. Some say it is a calling. All I know is today, in this minute, I can not think of another job, at another place, that I'd rather be. I am thankful...... not burned-out.
"Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally." Journalist, David Frost

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