But I’m irreplaceable!

I had my most impactful experience this year in March. As the coronavirus situation escalated, it was difficult to get things done. There was a lot to do, but nothing seemed to interest me. I felt like I didn’t have energy. Switching to remote working did not improve the situation. After some investigation, I noticed I had symptoms of burnout; I was tired, quite cynical about my work, and my work-related self-esteem was low. In addition, I stressed about whatever.

At the beginning of the year, we had talked among the board that the ability to cope would be a number one priority this year. So, I sent a message to our chair, Annika. I just wanted to let her know about my feelings, and that I was trying to reduce my workload a bit myself. I was just a little tired, nothing acute here. Maybe sometime in the future, but now there were things to do.

That was not how things turned out. Annika responded to my message by suggesting a chat. At that point, I didn’t know what to expect. During our call, Annika asked me to tell her everything that was absolutely essential on my desk. After listing a few things, to my great surprise, Annika said she would take care of or delegate them. I could take sick leave for a while starting right now and return to work half-time later. Take everything according to my level of energy. My mind was racing: But I can’t, I’m irreplaceable! No one else can do those things. I have to attend those meetings.

Now, in the autumn, I am grateful to Annika for revealing my replaceability. When you’re “just a little tired”, it’s easy to continue for just a little more. Only one more task and it’ll probably get easier. Then I can relax. Then, then, but not now. It feels radical to take a break when a flood of tasks and your own demands surround you. Fortunately, I realised my situation (in part), sent a message, and Annika dared to act.

Nothing is more important than your own well-being. Whether you had the coolest job ever (I actually adore my work a 100%) or even an ambitious study project ahead. Now, I am grateful my exhaustion was put to a stop from the very beginning. After resting and working half-time for a while, my job felt good again. Stopping gives you strength.

I know I’m not alone with these feelings. This spring with the coronavirus was certainly a tough time for many. Almost everything is remote, including people. Still, the expectation was that we should achieve all the same goals as under normal circumstances.

If you have similar feelings as I had, I hope you can take a break. You are also entitled to take sick leave from your studies. You don’t have to have energy if it doesn’t feel like you do. If your sick leave is long, you can get sickness allowance (read more on sickness allowance from KELA website), and you don’t have to watch the months of financial aid left for your degree go to “waste”. If taking a break feels impossible (like it did for me), I recommend sending a message to someone who can help you see the big picture. Whether it is a friend, a loved one, or even the chair of your subject association. In addition, you can get great help from the FSHS. It is worth talking about your feelings before they grow intolerable. Your, yes, your, ability to cope matters.

– Anriika