How to Prevent Burnout and Increase Your Resilience

How to Prevent Burnout and Increase Your Resilience

Working with children and families can be professionally meaningful and satisfying. Caring for families who have experienced , mental health challenges, or other social needs may also, at times, feel draining, upsetting, or frustrating.

, a secondary reaction, is common for mental health and health care providers. Feelings of mental and emotional exhaustion may come on suddenly or gradually and can be a precursor to the more serious condition of burnout—a constellation of symptoms including a sense of negativity about work and lack of that can severely affect job performance.

These conditions may be especially true during periods of excessive workload or heightened personal stress, too common during the current crisis. When your plate is too full, it can reduce the pleasure you find in work and life activities. It can also impact professional efficacy, add tension to your team if you have one, or raise a conflict with patients, clients, and/or their families.

Taking care of others is a vital part of your job. However, if you don’t notice your limitations or recognize when exhaustion strikes, it's simply not possible to care for anyone else effectively. Think about the domains of wellness you talk to patients and clients about that affect the regulation of the stress response: sleep, exercise, , , mental health, supportive relationships, and getting out in nature. Try to practice self-care strategies that address each of these seven domains. Too overwhelming? Start with one and build on from there.

Placing “holds” into your calendar at regular times may help ensure that self-care actually happens. To increase awareness, you can use technology (e.., apps, timer) to remind you throughout the day to engage in self-care activities such as drinking more water, taking a walk outside, or logging onto a mindfulness app for five minutes.

Anyone can be vulnerable to absorbing the intense emotions and experiences of the people around them. For individuals working with at-risk populations, combined with long hours and heavy workloads, the brain and body can very quickly get run down. If you notice some of the red flags below occurring regularly, it might be time to re-focus on self-care.

If you work as part of a team, you may want to consider care strategies within your professional setting to manage . Feeling like an integral part of a cohesive, healthy team is, by itself, an important protective factor against stress.

Some strategies to try:

Chronic stress, if not managed healthily, can take a toll on you and your patients and clients. Over time, if left unchecked, the biological byproducts of stress can accumulate in your body and brain, affecting your health and well-being. This can leave you feeling depleted and less able to care for others in the manner you’d like. Your patients and clients rely on your , compassionate, and professional engagement. To address their needs, you must focus on your own first because you can’t help people fill their “emotional gas tanks” if you’re running on fumes.

Sarah MacLaughlin, LSW, and the Center for Youth Wellness contributed to this post. Sarah is a social worker, parent educator, and author of the award-winning, bestselling book, What Not to Say: Tools for Talking With Young Children. 

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