Dream Job Overload: When Doing Work You Love Leads to Burnout

Stress.  It’s the number one cause of health-related issues in the US. And the number one cause of stress for most Americans?  You guessed it – WORK! (according to NIOSH.)

Recently a listener to my SIRIUSXM radio show contacted me to share her concerns about stress and work.  Mary Anne Cowen, a nationally-certified massage therapist, is trained and experienced in helping others de-stress.  Yet she found herself falling prey to burnout. According to Mary Anne, (and I agree) having your dream job involves recognizing your stressors and setting boundaries so they don’t overtake you.

Read below for Mary Anne’s story of how she made her dream job sustainable by saying no to others and yes to herself…

I thought, I can’t do this anymore.  I had just lost my beloved 17 year old Jack Russell Terrier Auggie. The last 6 months of caring for Auggie had left an already depleted body, mind and spirit completely empty. I was in a job that I hated. I felt my life was in a downward spiral. 

That’s when an article on massage therapy caught my eye quite by accident. I thought, “that’s something I can do!” I researched and called the two schools in my state that taught massage therapy. One called back. I went to visit the school and everything in my core was saying do this! I listened and went on to operate a successful private practice for 10 years. 

However, during that time I didn’t learn how to say no to helping others de-stress and unfortunately worked (and stressed) myself into the ground.  Yes, the massage therapist burned out.  I closed my practice, not knowing what I was going to do.  

After some time off, I reflected back and realized that I had to say yes to myself. By that I meant take care of my mind, body and spirit.   I soul searched further, asking myself questions likes the ones Maggie poses on her radio show: What do I know? What are my skills? What’s my passion? (That came directly from Maggie when I called in…seriously.) 

I kept coming back to massage Therapy.  That was when I got a call from someone offering me another job as a massage therapist.  I took the leap to go back to doing work I love but it’s different this time.

The company I work for may push my limits with client load but I have learned to say no respectfully yet assertively.  Getting my own stress under control has been liberating.   I’m even re-opening my private practice aptly titled: My Balanced Blend Massage. What’s different? I’ve learned to say no to others and yes to myself!

Though she condensed her story for us here, Mary Anne’s career journey has taken her through the better part of the last 15 years.  She says that journey helped her realize that she needed to be her own boss and trust her own instincts.  Though she still cares about providing great client service her whole approach to business is different and exciting because it’s sustainable and not stressful.

If you’re one of the many Americans finding work stressful, tune into my radio show this Friday (Sept 24th, 2010) 4p ET/1p PT on SIRIUS 112/XM 157.  I’m joined by work life fit expert Cali Yost.  Call in at 866-675-6675 with your questions.  Cali will share actionable strategies for getting the flexible schedule and time freedom you need to have a career AND A LIFE. Mary Anne will weigh in with her comments and you can too!

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