Two Tips for Handling Burnout
Thank you to Dr. Davana Pilczuk of The Human Performance Group for this article. Dr. Pilczuk is an award-winning kinesiologist who specializes in human performance. She is a speaker, writer and consultant for Fortune 500 companies, sports teams and small businesses.
If you are experiencing a lack of concentration, inability to think beyond tactical activities and find yourself randomly feeling sad, anxious or utterly unmotivated, you are not alone. You are experiencing the effects of emotional overload. Let’s call it “pandemic brain,” and most, if not all of us, are suffering from it at some level. Deathcare professionals are certainly no exception.
It’s not you . . .
First off, there’s nothing wrong with you. Your body and mind are experiencing something very common, but on a grander scale. This cocktail of highs and lows, focused, unfocused, motivated for a day, then blah for four, is all happening due to the constant stress we have been under for over a year. For months, we have been hit with a scary pandemic, racial unrest, job loss, crazy politics, work from home, school from home, don’t touch your face, hurricanes, fires and freezes.
For the last year, I have felt like Joe Pesci in the 1992 movie ‘My Cousin Vinny.’ When pressured by his girlfriend to discuss marriage, Pesci famously retorts “Lisa, I don’t need this. I swear to God, I do not need this right now, okay? I’ve got a judge that’s just aching to throw me in jail. An idiot who wants to fight me for two hundred dollars. Slaughtered pigs. Giant loud whistles. I ain’t slept in five days. I got no money, a dress code problem, AND a little murder case which, in the balance, holds the lives of two innocent kids. Not to mention your BIOLOGICAL CLOCK – my career, your life, our marriage, and let me see, what else can we pile on?…Is there ANYTHING else we can pile on here Lisa?!”
What you are experiencing, my friends, is burnout.
What is burnout?
Burnout is when we lose meaning in our work, while simultaneously experiencing mental, physical and emotional exhaustion as a result of long term, chronic stressors.
What it feels like is:
- a negative outlook on life or towards work,
- more frequent illnesses and ailments,
- lack of motivation, detachment from your work,
- detachment from personal relationship and
- lower than normal productivity levels.
Plain and simple, stress wears us out. COVID-19 has been MORE than enough to drain us, but now with more and more things piling onto the mix, we are flat. We feel devoid of happiness, drive and mental clarity.
Tip 1: Focus on tactical work
When we are burned out, high level strategy work is difficult. And when we are faced with true threats that can hurt us (like covid), our brains are focused on that threat until it goes away. Accept that right now, until these threats start to subside, our brains and bodies will not be performing at their best. If you find yourself crying, feeling irritable or unable to start or complete tasks, accept that you’re at capacity and your whole system needs some TLC.
Ease up on yourself and others when it comes to producing the visionary creative stuff right now, like inventing an innovative new embalming method or creating that in-depth five-year plan. It’s going to be very hard to do. Instead, focus on the day-to-day stuff for now. If stress is really high, only plan your life a week or two out, or even one day at a time. Its too hard for the brain to plan or focus on long term initiatives when it feels stressed. Therefore focus on the now, and once the stress starts to subside, THEN look further out.
Tip 2: Practice self-care
Accept that you are burned out. It isn’t a defect in you. It’s just that your mind and body have been going too hard for too long. Turn off the news and social media. No need to spike your adrenaline all day long. Next, find activities to refill your tank. Walk, play cards, watch a funny movie, laugh, but do things that will make you feel good again. Then, start taking much better care of your body. Drink more water, start eating better, layoff the alcohol and focus on getting sleep. Poor selfcare is a key factor that contributes to burnout, so start taking better care of your body now.
Burnout is real and often hard to recognize in ourselves, so ask friends and family if they’ve noticed any differences in your mood or behavior. There are varying stages of burnout and it’s good to know where you currently fall.
Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to know more about burnout or if you’d like a fun class on bouncing back from burnout for you and your team.