Curbing A Sense of Burnout

At this point in the season, there is much to be done and so much to stay caught up on. Our main task here at the Belt Creek Ranger Station has been our seed collection efforts. I feel so very lucky to be able to focus wholly on these efforts as it makes me feel that much more productive at the end of a day. Carrying home many a bag filled with seed and high hopes. It seems that some other teams/individuals have been balancing a wide range of tasks throughout their time this internship. This, of course, provides its own perks as there are endless opportunities to learn within the various agencies. Whether it’s rare plant surveys, vegetation monitoring, planting for restoration, or even attending training, there are so many opportunities and things to learn!
While acknowledging this fact, I have also been incredibly content with the way things have gone at this position as far as the focus on the seed collection. I enjoy being able to focus whole-heartedly on the collection process. Having the freedom to collect any day of our work week is also incredible because it has allowed us to do our best to time collections well and I’d say we’ve been fairly successful as far as timing goes this season!
We’ve also been able to get into a bit of a groove with our collection process so we know who does what and when and how the whole process comes together to achieve the end goal. My co-seed collector and I have also been good about sharing tasks between each other, that way we are both accustomed to the entire seed collection process front to back. This is incredibly valuable for us because when it comes to future job opportunities, we will be able to confidently say to a future employer “Yes, I know how to ethically carry out the entire seed collection process, and yes, I can do so in a timely manner.”
While acknowledging the value in this, I have to admit that this part month, I hit a bit of a wall near the middle of the month. I’m not sure I can exactly pinpoint the reason, but I think it had something to do with the potential government shutdown, combined with the downturn in moods of those around me due to this potential, as well as the shift in weather with the changing seasons and the slowdown in seed collection changing our day-to-day activities.
Most likely, it was a combination of all these factors, but I think what weighed on me most heavily was the moods of those around me. I could tell that the federal seasonal employees were quite distressed at the unknown outcome of their positions into the future and seeing this in them was enough to sadden me. Not only this, but because I felt rather secure in my job as a contracted worker, I felt it would be insensitive to be my normal chirper self. I could feel in myself a lack of energy that was impacting my job performance and my confidence in my ability to do my job whole-heartedly.
In order to combat this, I tried to find a balance between positivity and checking in with my co-workers when I had the time and energy to do so. I also tried my best to focus on the aspects of my job that I really enjoy. The things I would miss if we shut down. I began to find that there are many things about this position that bring me joy!
1). Being at the mercy of the elements-sometimes treacherous but mostly exhilarating.
2). Getting to be outside most of the day and being able to use a government rig that can take you (almost) anywhere- Allows for some of the best views in the state!
3). Doing something that will have an impact for years/generations to come-having a defined purpose
4). Getting to spend time and become acquainted with plants all day!
5). The fascination of seeing new seeds-they are all so different.
6). The fact that I am physical for my job-so many people do not have this luxury and I do not want to take it for granted.
7). Working alongside passionate people!
8). Getting to watch the change in vegetation as the seasons shift.
9). ….

There are still more things I enjoy about this job, but I’m sure you get the point. Focusing on these aspects of the job instead of the potential for impending dooooom was an incredibly helpful strategy for curbing burnout during a tough time. It really helped me to frame my mind to focus on the things that make me happy. It sounds so simple, yet it can be so powerful to change your mind. So for anyone out there who was feeling a sense of dread these last few weeks, please know you were not alone! Hoping you were also able to find a strategy that worked for you to get out of any funk y’all may have been experiencing, and that you’re able to finish up your season on a good note. Looking forward to reading all about your last few weeks on the job.

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About Tori Bauman

Me? I'm just a lowly collector of seeds, trying to get by here in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forests of Montana, also know as "a land of extremes." My favorite part of the job is the identification of species. It's good fun AND strength building to carry a multitude of keys around the forest on the hunt for flowers and fruits. In the coming months, I hope to gain an understanding of the flora and fauna that can make a living in such a harsh environment.