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Posts Tagged "burnout"

Care of the Carer: Preventing Burnout and Maintaining Performance

Posted on April 10th, 2013 by julie

Are you in the Human Service Industry?  Do you care for your fellow man in some way? Professions such as, firefighter, police, ambulance officer, nurse, doctor, mental health professional, aged and disability care all fall under these categories

Let me say straight out: these are special people. They give and give and give and often they give more than they really have to give which sometimes leaves them burnout.

Now “burnout” is a term that has been around a very long time (since the 1970’s) and as often happens, we become desensitized to commonly used terms and often brush them off particularly if it applies to us. But I can tell you burnout is alive and well in the workplace (and it is not solely the ownership of the caring professions but for the purpose of this article that is what I am talking about today)

When I was in private practice, I would sometimes see up to eight clients a day for counselling. I always said it was like sitting an eight hour exam but it just kept on going day after day, week after week. One week, I worked with two women who had been raped. At this time of my life I had 3 young children and had become an expert in not taking my work home. But this week was different. I found myself thinking about the sad situations of these lovely young women. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was burnout and if I was suffering in this way my performance was as a consequence compromised

So What is Burnout?

According to Wikipedia, “burnout is a psychological term for the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest.”

Maslach and her colleague Jackson first identified the construct “burnout” in the 1970s, and developed a measure, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, that weighs the effects of emotional exhaustion and reduced sense of personal accomplishment

Maslach and her colleague, Michael Leiter, defined the antithesis of burnout as, engagement, characterized by energy, involvement and efficacy, as opposed to burnout which is characterised by exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy

This in turn can affect job performance, physical health, mental health and relationships

As you can see, it would be much easier to prevent burnout rather than try to repair it

So let’s have a look at:

10 Steps to Prevent Burnout and Maintain Effective Performance Within the Helping Professions:

1.       Watch for your personal warning signs –

Your unique radar that tells you something is wrong within you system. This can be physical, behavioural, mental, emotional or relational. The sooner you catch these signs the better as the longer you let it progress the greater the possibility that your self awareness will diminish. It is common to have others pointing out the changes within you while you are busy denying these changes

2.       Know and implement your personal and professional boundaries

Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated by others or simply to protect ourselves from a busy work and life schedule.  They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others. Their presence helps us express ourselves as the unique individuals we are, while we acknowledge the same in others.

It would not be possible to enjoy health, peak performance and healthy relationships without the existence of personal boundaries, or without our willingness to communicate them directly and honestly with others.

To learn more about this important topic read my blog:

“Organisational Skills for Busy Professionals: Developing Personal Boundaries in the Workplace That Save Time, Energy, Money and Relationships”

3.       Develop cultural intelligence

Here cultural intelligence refers to both the organisational culture you work within and the various ethnic and socio economic groups you work with.  Culture is always about “the way we do things around here”.  If you are at odds or incongruent with the culture you find yourself working within, it will take a toll on your mindset and wellbeing. We need sensitivity and the ability to adapt our behaviour to perform effectively while still being true to our own values and identity

4.        Understand your professional identity

This can be particularly difficult if you are new to your profession. It does take time and experience to develop. My suggestion would be to put it on your awareness radar and make it part of your professional agenda to pursue this.  Understanding and then being true to your professional identity will allow you to stand with feet firmly planted when the storms come to blow and blow they will

5.       Have a clear role definition

This is clearly linked to your professional identity but role definition translates more into what you do rather than how you see yourself.  Role definition gives clarity and with that comes confidence and assurance. Are you trying to be all things to all people? Of course this is not possible and simple revisiting your role may clear this up

 6.       Have both a preventative and crisis stress management strategy

Yes, they are different! Self care is truly about putting into yourself on a regular basis so you actually have something to give out. Crisis management is for those unexpected times that life and work can throw at us

For more on the topic of self care have a look at my blog:

“Achieving Work/Life Balance: The Secrets to Vitality and Success”

7.       Build your resilience

Resilience is a wonderful term that at its most basic means: “bouncing back when the going gets tough”.  Let’s face it, work and life does not always go the way we want it too. When times get tough, the question is always: “which road should I take, the road to being overwhelmed or the road to bouncing back?”

If you are interested in increasing your resilience skills then you may like to read my ebook:

“Thriving Not Just Surviving a Life Crisis: How to Bounce Back and Find Happiness Again”

8.       Monitor your self confidence and self esteem

When our self belief is down, our confidence goes down. When our confidence is down it is more difficult to make decisions, enjoy life, communicate our needs and protect yourself. Do a quick confidence check every so often just to know that you are on track

9.       Know your limits and your strengths

Knowing your professional limits will protect both yourself and your client. You cannot be all things to all people and you do not need to be.  Knowing your strengths allows you to give the best of yourself to others. If you are not sure about these things then ask a trusted colleague or your professional coach or supervisor

10.   Regular supervision or coaching

The helping professions can be lonely and taxing. When you make a mistake, it can have grave consequences for your client and most of us take this very seriously.  We need the opportunity to debrief after events and strategize before certain situations. Coaching or supervision gives you someone to bounce off, to give you another perspective, to learn from, to download with. Why wouldn’t you cultivate this very important relationship?

You may be wondering what I did when faced with burnout in my personal story that I shared previously?  Well I took rather drastic action and downsized my private practice. I knew myself and knew the warning signs were severe for me. My non negotiable was taking work home and I was determined to protect my family from my work. As life would have it, taking care of myself and my family led to other amazing career opportunities

If you would like further help for yourself or your organisation or to attend my upcoming course see below:

CARE OF THE CARER: PREVENTING BURNOUT AND MAINTAINING PERFORMANCE

  • Personal and professional boundaries
  • Preventing vicarious trauma
  • Role definition and professional identity
  • Knowing your limits: Know your  strengths, manage your weaknesses
  • Resilience Building
  • Preventing burnout

 Just email me for further information at julie@sigmamindset.com  or phone 0430186415

Until next time

Julie Spain