Helping professionals are long known to be at high risk to develop the burnout syndrome. However, research is scarce when it comes to investigating early career professionals. Not only does burnout affect individual providers, clients and patients are also adversely impacted. But what exactly is burnout and how can we avoid it?
Burnout is a complex topic. For the sake of this article, burnout will be referred to as a syndrome of:
- 1) Emotional depletion – feeling depleted, frustrated, tired of going to work, hard to deal with others at work;
- 2) Cynicism – being less empathic with patients and others;
- 3) Detachment – detached from work, seeing patients as diagnosed /objects/ sources of frustration;
- 4) Low personal achievement – experiencing work as unrewarding, ͞going through the motions.͟
Generally, burnout develops in response to chronic occupational stress. We are more likely to experience emotional depletion when job stress is high and personal autonomy is low. Frequent contributors include finances, debt, anxiety, and poor work-life balance(U. Volpe et al. 2014).As helping professionals it is important to know when we are approaching burnout and how to respond accordingly. How do we know when we are ͞burning out?͟ Five signs to pay attention to include:
- 1) Impulsive and reactive behaviors
- 2) Failure to return calls or write notes
- 3) Muscle tension or headaches
- 4) Alcohol and /or substance abuse
- 5) Compassion Fatigue.
Naturally, helping professionals will occasionally experience one of the above. However, if any of the symptoms are persistent it is time to take some action. Addressing burnout can be tough sometimes. First, it requires realistic recognition and overcoming denial that one may be affected. Other steps that have proven helpful include:
- 1) Exercise, sleep and proper nutrition
- 2) Creating a mandatory schedule
- 3) Unshackle yourself from technology
- 4) Seek supportive relationships
- 5) Engage in hobbies (outdoors if indoors most of the time)
- 6) Set boundaries – learn to say ͞No thanks͟
- 7) When in doubt use HUMOR!