Burnout occurs when a person has experienced prolonged and excessive stress. It builds up over time, and the individual may find themselves:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Physically and emotionally exhausted
- Isolating self from others
- Forgetting why you do your job, de-motivated
- Questioning themselves
- Experiencing an increase in illness/aches and pains
- Having an increasingly cynical and negative outlook
Does this sound like you, or anyone you work with? While many of us feel some of these things from time to time, if it is all-encompassing it may be burn out. The good news is, there are things that can be done to treat and to prevent burn out.
If dealing with distressed young people is a regular part of your work, then you can’t help but take some of the emotion on board. Healthy individuals working with those who are in distress or crisis will experience the threat, or flight/fight response – this is normal. As you may be aware, this is a physiological reaction involving a number of stress hormones, and it can be very useful if you are facing a physical threat. Even in day to day situations, this response can help us to perform better. However, if you are exposed to this response on a regular basis without relief, it can become problematic, affecting your physical and emotional wellbeing.
10 Tips for Preventing Burnout:
- If you’re already burnt out, take some time to rest and recuperate. Some of the tips below will be helpful as you do this, but if it’s overwhelming then chances are you will need some time off work. Ensure you see your GP or seek help e.g. from your Employee Assistance Program (after all, you would recommend that a young person seek help when highly distressed, so practice what you preach).
- Take time to understand and process your emotional reactions to your work. For example, use journaling after difficult or distressing interactions.
- Put in place debriefing mechanisms – if they are not there as part of your organisational structure, organise like-minded colleagues you can debrief with whenever needed.
- Take breaks between clients (even if they are short ones) to allow you space to process and be present for the next person.
- Practice mindfulness – in whatever form works for you.
- Establish and maintain your professional boundaries. Knowing and communicating where and when you can be contacted, and the extent and nature of your relationship with clients/colleagues will protect both yourself and them.
- Take time to understand yourself. Through the process of journaling, reflection, supervision or other practices, seek to understand what provokes a reaction in you and why. Also, what gives you joy or meaning?
- Stay connected – maintain your relationships with others, both inside and outside of work.
- Access regular supervision. Ideally, this will be easily accessible through your workplace, but if not, consider ways to put in place regular peer, group or individual supervision that helps you reflect on your emotional reactions to your work, and maintain your own wellbeing.
- Put some more joy into your life. This is not about ignoring or distracting yourself from emotional reactions, but to give your brain a break and to heal you emotionally. This builds your resilience to deal with the difficult things.
– Ann Evans