Putting out the flames of burnout

This post is authored by guest expert / columnist, Travis Dommert. Travis is the President of IRUNURUN a performance and accountability system designed to help individuals and organizations achieve their potential and in his words, he’s an “expert in quitting”, or more accurately, understanding why people quit and helping them avoid it.  Welcome Travis!

In his recent article, The Four Stages of Burnout, Licensed Clinical Social Worker Mark Gorkin shares the progressive phases of burnout and helps people understand the steps that may be necessary to get back on track. In his “Vital Lesson on the Four R’s”, he says you are laying the groundwork for burnout if you are routinely exerting effort without getting a dose of Results, Rewards, Recognition, or Relief.

As the stress and strain accumulate, you start to experience these stages:

Phase 1: Exhaustion. Physically, mentally, or emotionally, you are shutting down.

Phase 2: Shame and Doubt. You question yourself and your abilities.

Phase 3: Cynicism and Callousness. You start to protect yourself and become critical of others.

Phase 4: Failure, Helplessness, and Crisis. The fight just doesn’t seem to be worth fighting.

Danger! What can you do about it? First, confront denial, false hope, cynicism, or helplessness. Grieve past and present losses, but turn guilt, hurt, anxiety, and aggression into productive energy. Acquire and apply skills and technology for turning problems into positive attitudes and actions.

Putting Out the Flames of Burnout

If you or someone you care about is suffering from burnout, there are some straightforward steps you can take to get reengaged and build what psychologists call, “resilience”, the ability to bounce back from difficult experiences. After all, burnout is not directly the result of stress or difficult situations; it is the result of how ineffectively you are equipped to handle them.

As the American Psychological Association (APA) points out, “Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.”

Here are 10 ways the APA suggests you build resilience (paraphrased):

1. Make connections. Good relationships can strengthen and build you up. This may require accepting help from others, an important first step in reclaiming hope.

2. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. Try to look beyond the present to how things in the future may be a little better. Even “a little better” may give you the spark to re-engage.

3. Accept that change is part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accept circumstances that cannot be changed and focus instead on what you can alter.

4. Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals and do something regularly – even if it seems like a small accomplishment – to move toward your goals. Start with something as simple as “one thing I can accomplish today that helps move me in the direction I want to go”.

5. Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can, rather than wishing they would just go away.

6. Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle.

7. Nurture a positive view of yourself. Develop confidence in your ability to solve problems and trust your instincts.

8. Keep things in perspective. Even when facing painful events, consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.

9. Maintain a hopeful outlook. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.

10. Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

The APA adds that there are other powerful methods for building resilience, including regular periods of meditation and prayer. The more you can do to build resilience, the better equipped you are to handle stress and strain…and recover from or avoid future burnout.

About the author. As president of IRUNURUN, Travis Dommert works with leaders and their organizations to help them achieve their potential through focus, consistency, and accountability. Travis is a graduate of Northwestern University and the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. To learn more, visit the IRUNURUN blog here.

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