Burnt Out and Can't find my MoJo - (Dec/14/2013 )
I've been debating whether to post or not, but here goes............
I've been a senior tech for the past 10 years working for several big labs. I'm a good tech with strong worth ethics, my PI's have all valued my contributions and treated me well. My most recent position fell prey to the US funding slashing and everything has come to a screeching halt at a time when we were on the verge of several awesome accomplishments. I have fortunately found a new position that starts in a couple of months but is only going to last for a year or two. I find myself under a forced vacation collecting unemployment and seemingly suffering from the emotional loss of my projects that remain unfinished. (A lot of woulda, shoulda, coulda going on, even though my brain knows I did all that I physically could) Thankfully, I have a new job with a great PI to keep me afloat while I search for another more "stable" position. My former PI was able to talk with friends and find others with a little extra money to help me out. (Pretty awesome feeling )
After giving 200% for extended periods of time, taking little to no real vacation time except when I'm too exhausted to continue and am forced to take time off to rest, I fear I have reached the point of no return and am totally fried - burnt out.
I know that this is my fault, I'm driven and pick up the slack for slackers in the lab, I am so passionate about the projects I undertake and never say quit.
My biggest concern is that I just can't find my mojo and jump into the new lab job with a new project. I want to be reading, cracking the books, taking online tutorials and the like to get ready for the new job, but can't seem to even go near my books. (Well, I did go in and look at them in the bookrack a couple of times). It's also hard to go full speed on the new job, knowing that it is only temporary.
I should be enjoying this "vacation" but find that I am so overwhelmed that I'm not doing anything, which brings on the guilt.
Would love to hear from other lab peoples on how they've handled/recovered from burn out or how they've managed to prevent it. My life is so out of balance when I'm working, no time or energy for anything but work, and then it gets hard to drag my tired butt into the lab. My new lab will have a good group of people and I'm hopeful that there will be a better balance in the lab.
Its great to know someone like you who is always geared up for work and never calls it quits. It is guys like you who lift the team up during difficult times and I am sure that you will do well in the new lab.
Since you have all that years of experience behind you, you know what it will be to go to a new lab and start a new project. (I may be wrong here but) I think your only concern is that it is not 'permanent' and probably, sub-consciously, you are wondering if it will be worth putting in all your energy into this new project, when you can see a clock counting down your time in the lab, even before you begin.
I would suggest two things
1. Forget about the limited time you are going to spend in the lab. Even 1-2 years is a long period of time in the lab. You can accomplish so many things and so will your PI. May be he will get a new grant or join a bigger institute and take you with him and then you need not worry about all this at all.
2. After you begin your next project, start up something new for yourself. Take up a hobby or develop an interest away from your work. It is quite clear now that you do not need any inspiration to go to work, you enjoy your work and you will do it anyways. What you really need is something that will give you a break from the work, something you can look forward to after you return from work, during weekends or when you casually take a vacation. Initially, this might demand too much out of you but you have the energy to cope up with it. So, you will do well. Taking a casual vacation will also help you rest and relax and give you time to think about other things important in life.