Found My Y: Beating Burnout and Finding Joy in Work
Last updated: March 4, 2022, at 10:45 a.m. PT
Originally published: March 4, 2022, at 10:45 a.m. PT
By. Senai Doss
Growing up, it was always the expectation in my home and within my community that I would succeed. I trained hard to be on the best sports teams in high school. I studied hard to be in AP classes. I studied even harder to get into college with scholarships. I felt the pressure from family, societal and self-imposed, to be successful in everything I did, and it never felt like enough.
I’d grown so accustomed to the idea, that for a young woman to succeed she must always do everything in her power to propel herself to the next level. My internal voice constantly reminded me that I could always be better, study harder, and accomplish more. I look back now and wonder how I made it day-to-day with that dialogue continuously looping through my head. The number of daily tasks and goals that I was loading onto my plate, simply because I thought I had to, was too much. Eventually I was feeling burnt out on it all — I was solely focused on schoolwork and my future, and I felt like I’d missed moments in growing up that I was supposed to enjoy.
I’d spent so much of my life preparing to attend college, that it wasn’t until I left Washington and relocated 10 hours away to attend college in Montana when I had the opportunity to reflect on just how much I’d done to make this possible for myself. It took moving away from everything and everyone I’d known to see that I’d eaten up the idea that the less free time I had, and higher my stress levels were, the more accomplished I must be.
Discovering new passions, meeting new people, and still being able to balance school that first semester showed me that this narrative wasn’t true. Moving out of the city to a small town, surrounded by snowcapped mountains, I was able to slow down a little bit, show myself some grace, and was finally able to breathe.
That was nearly eight years ago, and I carry that feeling of revelation with me as a reminder – work hard but don’t totally deplete yourself to prove it. Instead, when those feelings of burnout and inadequacy sneak up on me, I take it as a reminder and give myself a few moments to honor my personal accomplishments. Listing the things I’m proud of, writing myself a thank you note (it sounds strange but it’s a kind reminder that you’re doing amazing things for yourself every day), or treating myself to take out are a few ways I show myself appreciation.
These practices have held me accountable for actively acknowledging the fruits of my labor, and not taking any step of the journey for granted. The best thing I learned for myself, it sprouted from my burnout and the pressure I felt to be a successful person. I’ve worked for the Y for nearly four years and greatly appreciate the organization’s ongoing acknowledgement surrounding women in the workplace and burnout. It’s a wonderful feeling to be validated and supported by your workplace!
As we move forward recognizing Women’s History Month and those who came before us, knocking down barriers and paving the way, we should be celebrating ourselves as well, give yourself that grace.
Senai Doss is the Membership Director at Meredith Mathews East Madison YMCA and has a passion for philanthropy and fundraising. She is currently enrolled at the University of Washington in the Fundraising Management Program.
Found My Y is an occasional series of reported stories and personal essays from the people in and around the Y who weave the fabric of our communities. From sharing fun anecdotes of levity to the grand moments when we learn something bigger about ourselves, stories are our history and a gift. Have a story to share, or want to nominate someone for our next installment, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Found My Y."