When Burnout Happens…

by Nancy Brook on September 18, 2017

It’s no secret that those of us who take care of others get tired. And you don’t have to be a medical professional to be part of this elite group; mothers do it every day, without pay. Professional caregivers, family members and counselors. Coaches, clergy, firefighters….the list is long. And we do it, because we are called to do so. Taking care of others is part of our identity, part of our DNA. It is what we do. Until one day we are depleted. Exhausted. Worn out.

Burnout is more than a bad day, though. It is a real phenomenon and common among healthcare professionals and caregivers. It is a syndrome that can affect many aspects of your life, your thoughts, your actions and may very well have physical manifestations as well. Headaches, stomach pains, generalized anxiety or low energy are common symptoms. The feeling of being completely depleted, under appreciated or unable to sleep are not unusual either. Burnout syndrome is a state of emotional and physical exhaustion brought on by excessive and prolonged stress. The interesting part is that while you are experiencing these symptoms, you may not fully understand why.


So many of us recognize when we are tired or feel like we are at the end our our ropes. ¬†Often, we don’t recognize that what we are experiencing is actually burnout. I personally experienced this earlier this year. I knew I was tired, but that was easy to explain. I knew I was juggling many responsibilities, and I knew I was struggling to keep many balls in the air. But I never considered that burnout was a possibility. Being familiar with the symptoms may help each of us more easily identify burnout when it occurs.

So, how do you deal with burnout? First, taking a honest look at the way yoUnknown-1u have been living and working. Evaluating the hours that you spend at work, reviewing your sleep schedule and your diet. Caregiving for others without taking good care of yourself is a prescription that just doesn’t work well long term. Speaking with a counselor, spending a few minutes outdoors in nature, or connecting with a friend can help. Managing self care is not easy, but it is critical. Taking care of ourselves makes a difference, although it does not always come easy to all of us. The old saying “put your oxygen mask on before putting the mask on your children” is true. Without your own health and well being, it is virtually impossible to take care of others with the love and patience we want to. As a trusted mentor once said to me, “Self care is never selfish”.


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