My day job is managing a shelter for domestic violence and sexual assault victims. I am also in the final leg of my journey to obtaining my marriage and family therapy license, hoping to one day bring my passions together and counsel families recovering from trauma. I am also a wife and mother of three.
A couple weeks ago, I noticed that my “lines” were becoming really blurred.
I was exhausted, and felt like crying (and I sometimes did) whenever a crisis would come my way. I love helping people, so naturally, I could not figure out what was wrong with me. Then, I happened to look at my calendar and realized I had not taken a day off since my dad’s funeral in June. I was exhausted and burnt out. It was time to take a hard look at my schedule and put some boundaries into place.
If you can relate, read on for some strategies to maintain balance in your life – especially if your line of work has you caring for others.
Preventing Burnout: 5 Practical Tips
1.Taking breaks is mandatory
It sounds basic, but build in breaks to decompress. In my case, I am really bad about working through lunch. I arrive early, and I often work late or respond to crisis calls after hours. Since my schedule is not “typical,” it becomes more important for me to stop and take lunch breaks, or to schedule a day off once every few weeks.
2. Pencil in activities that you enjoy
Find something you love that is not related to your work. I was an avid runner, but that has been increasingly hard on my body lately. My daughter’s dance studio is offering adult classes every Friday, and I am going to start attending those weekly classes.
3. Nurture your support network
All my energy was being focused towards work, and my other relationships were being put on the back burner. I took a few days off work, and spent time with my husband, kiddos, and friends. It is amazing what being with your circle does for your mental state.
4. Assess your job and responsibilities
Perform a job analysis. Determine what is expected of you and what you can reasonably accomplish. In my case, it is not my boss that puts unrealistic expectations on me. It is me. I feel like I need to be doing all the things to support my team. I am working on saying, “I do not really have the capacity for that right now, but I know someone who might…”
5. Balance your tasks
If you have been providing services that have taken a mental or emotional toll on you, switch to a less complex or emotional task. If I respond to several crisis calls in a row, I have been exposed to quite a bit of secondary trauma. It is time to switch to another task and let someone else man the phones for a while. Just transitioning between tasks that require “more” from us to tasks that require “less” from us throughout the day can help mentally recharge us.
Further Resources on Burnout
If you found this article helpful, check out these additional resources on preventing burnout.
The Lily-Jo Project’s article How to Self-Care as a Carer: Advice from Counsellor Natasha Page
The Lily-Jo Project’s resource on Anxiety and Stress
Positive Psychology’s article How to Prevent Burnout in the Workplace: 20 Strategies
Mind Tools’ article Avoiding Burnout – Stress Management Training
HBR’s article 6 Causes of Burnout, and How to Avoid Them
Finally, here at The Lily Jo Project, we recognize that being a support for those with mental health struggles or simply being a support for others while you have your own mental health struggles can be very challenging. We offer a variety of mental health content on our website (www.thelilyjoproject.com) that can be of assistance.
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is the shelter manager for a family crisis center in the United States, as well as a counseling student and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com) – her area of passion is helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is currently in the process of obtaining her counseling license as a marriage and family therapist. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of seventeen years, and together they share three children, aged twelve, nine, and seven. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, walking, and biking.