We live in a time-starved world where many helping professionals are stuck in a state of fatigue and frustration as they try to manage their time and energy at work – and burnout has become the norm.
The Burnout Cycle
The cycle of burnout is a syndrome that has physical, psychological, and spiritual components. It shows up as chronic physical exhaustion, cynicism, self-doubt, professional inefficacy, and uncertainty about one’s purpose and direction in life.
The Resource of Time
Time is a resource that we all have a relationship with, and as human beings, we only have so much time and energy to give. When we feel like we’re always running up against the clock, with little to no energy to spare, we run the risk of chronic tension, anxiety, depression, and a decrease in the quality of our relationships.
As a result, we can feel overwhelmed and powerless. We lose touch with our aspirations for being a helping professional, and we work on overdrive, pushing ourselves to our limits to stay on top of what already feels impossible. The uncertainty of how much longer we can sustain this way of being and working diminishes any sense of hope for change.
Before I got into the helping profession, I worked as a Fisheries Biologist in Alaska. For ten years, I lived remotely with very little access to technology. The demands of my job were dictated more by the seasons and weather patterns than anything else.
I learned valuable life skills such as grit and resilience and a connection to something much more significant than myself that I can’t even explain. It became my inner power source, a real source of strength and inspiration that fueled my career aspirations at the time and helped me manage the physical demands of my job and the psychological impact of living remotely.
When I left Alaska and returned to the lower 48 to pursue a career change in healthcare, I had to go through a reintegration process. This process required me to learn how to manage my time and energy in a world where everything seemed to be moving so fast. I no longer felt like I had an abundance of time and pulled in several directions at once. As a result of the increased work demands, It forced me to learn new skills and strategies to survive, so that I didn’t drain my primary power source.
Although I believed that every new step was a challenge and an opportunity to be empowered, I lost touch with my aspirations. As a result, my primary power source got drained, and my grit and resilience weren’t enough to keep me from getting caught in the cycle of burnout.
I’ve been there many times and didn’t even know it, because I thought it was just that I wasn’t strong enough or smart enough or competitive enough to make it work. I thought that simply changing the environment that exposed me to situations where burnout was likely – would be enough for me to recover, but this wasn’t enough. I knew I had to find a way to plug back into my internal power source, to restore the energy that I’d lost.
Here are the 3 STEPS that I took to break free from the cycle of burnout.
- The first thing I did was increase my self-awareness so that I could be more conscious of how I was using my power and spending my time and energy. Our self-awareness is the first step towards changing anything.
- The second thing I did was learn to focus on the right things. Fortunately, I had a mentor who taught me to focus my attention on only two things in life to be successful. First, focus your attention on what you are good at and passionate about that adds massive value to others and a generous income for you. Second, when you’re not doing that to unplug entirely, relax and rejuvenate so that you can get your energy back.
- The third thing I did was learn to eliminate the things in my life that robbed my energy. It can be powerful to identify the things in your life that are draining your energy. It could be your environment, a relationship, or feeling ashamed or guilty about something. Whatever it is, seek professional help to create a plan to eliminate these things so you can plug back into your power source and fully recharge.
Breaking out of the cycle of burnout and getting onto the right path towards resilience is essential for helping professionals who feel stuck in fatigue and frustration from trying to manage the demands of their job. If you are a helping professional experiencing signs of burnout, I want to encourage you to get support.
Claim the Lead
Healing begins when we can reclaim our power, own our time and tap back into our highest aspirations. Then we can do our life work feeling powered up with an improved sense of wellbeing and overall higher satisfaction in our work life.