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How can we prevent or manage burnout?


Part 2 (make sure to read part 1!)


The good news is that we know that you can recover from burnout, compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. Obviously, it is better to avoid it all together, however we can make environmental and lifestyle changes to avoid or minimise the impacts.

The first thing to remember is that in our work WE are the tool.  It is you that engages with a client, using your skills and bringing your knowledge, capacity and compassion to work.

This is the powerful message from Stephen Covey, author of the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, who talks about sharpening the saw. Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – YOU!

It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.

It’s the stuff we all know we need to do, the stuff that comes under that mystical heading SELF-CARE.

Just an aside…. I hesitate to use the term ‘self-care’ because it can feel like yet another thing that we, as overstretched workers, have to try to fit into our days. It can be used as a way of transferring the responsibility that organisations need to have to the impacts of the work their staff do, back onto the worker. I prefer sharpening the saw!

Covey says making sure that you are looking after yourself in all these areas is the key:

  • Physical: We all know what this is…. Move your bod! Move it in anyway that you can.
  • Spiritual: This is about your purpose in life. It is the core of who you are and why you do what you do. It’s your values and your WHY. It all depends on you and what you find spiritual. I always find connection with nature spiritual. I also use what I call bedatation (instead of meditation). I start my workday and weekends with a cup of tea, a book and look out of the window at the trees. No rush. Just a bit of bedatation, it works wonders for me!
  • Mental: This is taking your brain somewhere else other than work! Doing something that gives you an opportunity to relax and disconnect. Research shows that brain waves change when we are focussed on an activity like art, reading, crochet, gardening, gym or listening to podcasts. Especially ones that make you think or laugh (My dad wrote a porno highly recommended for good giggle!). Rest your brain. And feed it with healthy food. And keep it hydrated.
  • Social emotional: We are all social creatures. We feel more complete when we have deeper and fulfilling relationships. So, make sure to spend time around those who inspire you and those that you love. Get involved in your community, have a street party, connect.

Where can you start?

What can you commit to?

It’s not selfish or self-care… it’s sharpening your sword!

That’s the start.

Start thinking of those areas of your life and doing what you can to restore yourself in them.

Let’s sharpen your SAW!

My next blog will be about the things we can do at work to maintain our resilience in our roles.

Author: Sue Campbell Ross, Able2

Photographer: Alexander Bailey/Unsplash