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Behind Shaking Shutters: Navigating Career Transitions after Burnout

Written By: Adrianne Reiners


The shutters that had been closed for weeks were shaking. Violently. 


I was in the center of the room, bundled up in a hoodie and blankets in my cozy chair, falling asleep in the same spot where I’d work all day, every day trying to navigate a way to open the shutters at some point. 


But for now, I had to stay in the dark. I felt the pull of comfort in the darkness as I looked at the small streams of light coming through the cracks in the shutters I locked up weeks . . . or maybe months ago. 


I only get up to quietly scurry to the bathroom, somehow worried I’ll disrupt the growing layer of dust that covers the mantel. I gobble up chicken nuggets because they are the least time-consuming meal to make. My biggest decision outside of work is which sauce combo to dip my nuggets into; Buffalo + Ranch or Mayo + BBQ. 


Up until today, this process of waking, working, and chomping down nuggets has been a seamless experience. But today, the shutters are shaking and streams of light flicker throughout the room. I feel the swell of tears building up behind my lower eyelids and my heartbeat has never been louder in my skull. 


The shutters snap against the wall at the opposite rhythm of my heartbeat. My palms are so sweaty as I try to keep working and my thumb slips off the spacebar. A slow drip of perspiration crawls down my lower back, tickling my senses and I finally look away from my laptop screen with eyes as big as dinner plates. Overcome with indecision . . .


Should I cover the windows with curtains and blankets? Or, open the shutters to see what’s outside?

 

If you resonate with the sense of dread, fear, and intense panic described in the above scenario, it might be time to burn it all to the ground and start over. 


The shutters banging against the house are a metaphor for your value system screaming that something is out of alignment. When this happens, it’s usually a sign that it’s time to make a change. 


Let’s start with the most obvious - if you’re feeling suffocated and overwhelmed by work to the point that you’re meal planning based on what is the fastest frozen food item to put in the oven, you’re likely well beyond the early signs of burnout. 


If you’re in this place, it’s time for a well-deserved break. 


Work with a trusted friend, partner, or professional to help you develop a plan to take that break. It’s scary, but you need to step away and it’s important to have the plan to do it. 


Your skills will still be skills after the break. 

Your knowledge will still be valuable after the break. 

Your talent will still exist after the break. 


When you’re taking a break - rest.


You need to rest in order to function. Rest and sleep are not the same thing. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can rest: 

  • Reading a fiction novel

  • Multiple naps per day

  • Staring at a blank wall and allowing your mind to be empty

  • Going out to get coffee with a friend

  • Soaking in a tub with bubbles, a scented candle, and a relaxing playlist


Once you start to see a world without shaking shutters, listen to your value system. 


You have something within you that drives you forward. When your value system clashes with what you spend time doing, it’s usually telling you something important. 


Mine was telling me that my inner child - the small, six-year-old, kindergarten me was feeling abandoned by my blind motivation to perform. I squeezed my inner child into a tiny shoe box in the back of the closet and expected her to stay quiet. 


 With your freshly tuned value system, build systems that support your ability to thrive.


You’ve read it once, you’ll read it again. Boundaries bay-bee! 


What makes you feel good in the morning? Stop skipping it!


What helps you take a lunch break each day? Set yourself up so it’s available every day.


What would make you feel ‘good’ about wrapping up your day? Do that thing and shut the computer off. 


Now that you’ve started building support systems, you get your very own, “Choose Your Own Adventure Goosebumps” book. 


Do you want to go back to doing the same work you were doing before? Or, are you ready to transfer all your skills, knowledge, and talent to doing something new?


Go back to what you know if . . .


  • You loved the type of work you were doing and want to keep growing in that field or industry

  • You are thrilled by the impact you get to make on the world

  • You’re highly specialized and considered an expert in your area of work


Take your lessons learned and your new systems to support you to shine as the expert you are! Grow your career and make the impact you dreamed of making all along. Believe in yourself enough to know you are worth boundaries and balance and your productivity is not a measure of your worthiness. 


Transfer skills and start anew if . . .


  • You feel your muscles tense up thinking about working in the same field or industry

  • Your mouth goes dry thinking about that pace of work, regardless of the impact

  • Your break has led you to a new mindset of curiosity and wonder


Know that deep within yourself you can learn anything. With so much information at our fingertips - online courses, customized trainings, and your ability to be curious, nothing can stop you but yourself. You’ve established a new way of existing in your body, so honor that and find the role that still uses your skills and talent but in a new space with unknown possibilities. 


Listening to your body and mind simultaneously is key to determining whether it’s time for a small pause to rest or a full break where you require deep rest and recovery. 


Most importantly, you’re not alone. 

Personally, I’ve suffered from extreme burnout and re-written my career life multiple times. I changed jobs five times in the last five years, and I’ve bounced between retail, restaurant, SaaS, and automotive industries. I’ve worked with companies of 11 people and companies of 5000 people. 


I opted to “go back to what I know” in the restaurant industry twice and those periods of my life and career served me well as I developed new skills and welcomed growth.


And I’ve transferred skills to start anew a few times too! Like when I realized 12-hour days on my feet were becoming too much and I leaped into SaaS and learned about a whole new world of startup culture. I made lattes and mochas for five years before I flipped the script and changed oil through a fast-service oil change business, and I gained some new skills and thick skin there too. 


Every step of the way, I’ve listened to my body and my value system and although I’ve hit bumps in the road, I’ve always landed on my feet. 


And so will you. 


 


Meet the Author

Adrianne Reiners

Adrianne Reiners is a chicken-raising, hobby farm-building, operational generalist living in the forest of northern Minnesota. Her self-proclaimed tagline, "I didn't spend thousands in therapy to be silent," is what fuels her vulnerability - an effort to help others to be encouraged to live life as their true and authentic self.




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