by Kristina Kauffman
How to Avoid Burnout
An old proverb says, "If
you choose a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life."
section addresses minor job burnout, it does not address clinical
depression. Those whose symptoms are more severe should
seek medical help or counseling. Some times depression can
be a symptom of a more serious illness, and its treatable symptoms
should not be ignored.
a neat diagnostic category that you can find in the psychiatry
books," according to Michael H. Gendel, M.D., associate clinical
professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Health Sciences
Center, Denver, Colorado, and a psychiatrist in private practice.
"At this time, there's a lack of hard data and diagnostic
research behind the burnout idea. The right studies and prospective
studies haven't yet been done." Nonetheless, Dr. Gendel
believes a diagnosis of professional burnout (PBO) can be made
on the basis of three main symptoms:
Who will burn out and
who will stay fresh and balanced is a multi-pronged question, according
to Dr. Gendel. Some executives seek out and thrive on stress, pressure,
and long hours, whereas others quickly reach the point of diminishing
returns when the workload becomes oppressive. So being under stress,
while often contributing to PBO, does not necessarily predict who
will burn out. The development of PBO is tied to a number of
factors, including genetic predisposition, environment, experience,
business type and management, and lifestyle choices.
- Detachment (especially
from clients and staff)
- Exhaustion (physical
and especially emotional)
- Loss of satisfaction
or sense of accomplishment
is more likely to occur (Maslach 1997) when:
lack control over what we do
are not rewarded for our work
experiencing a breakdown in community
aren't treated fairly
dealing with conflicting values
guideposts help to avoid, or overcome burnout:
of choice and control
sense of community
respect and justice
and valued work
way of looking at this suggests that we should be concerned if
you feel that:
have neglected aptitudes.
are not having enough fun.
of us grow up with the idea that work is serious stuff.
While we might take our work seriously, this does not
mean we have to be serious about it all the time.
An interesting test of this perspective asks what your
salary would be if it were determined by the amount of
fun you have in your work life. Students learn best
when learning is fun. You should allow yourself
to have fun too.
is not enough safety and affirmation. Feeling that you belong
is critical. Trust matters. Research suggests
that it is very important for women and minorities. Institutions
and colleagues who are sensitive to this provide important
work occurs in the wrong rhythm. Departments that value
your contributions will want you to teach when you are at
your best. While this may not always be possible (remember
that student needs come first), you should feel comfortable
mentioning that you are a morning or night person and will
do your very best with a schedule that reflects that.
are getting too old to teach effectively. While health
and aging may limit our abilities to teach and may end our
careers, just feeling out of date can be a sign of burnout.
In a study of 150 people aged 65 -102 by Gerontologist Lydia
Bronte, more than half said that they had what they considered
their most productive years after age 50. More than
1/3 said that their most important achievements happened after
burnout, reinvent yourself every few years (the seven year model
presented in the boundaries and balance reading is the absolutely
longest period of time you should go without significant change).
Develop or renew your vision and sense of purpose so that there
is a feeling of coherence and consistency between your work and
your beliefs. Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence,
among other works, says that there are 13 traits that he finds
in his personal heroes. I suspect that nearly every faculty
member has many of these traits. If you are nearing burnout,
you've probably buried these characteristics. Let these
traits surface in your life by taking a risk and trying something
new, challenging, or just plain different. The traits include:
make your own path
and bruised: just think how much you have learned from
your failures, celebrate that
from the past
even cocky in a way: know that life is ever changing and relish
- Audacious and a
- Larger than life,
paint life with broad brushstrokes
experience nearly every faculty member who has taught for 20 years
or more has experienced at least a little burnout. Do a
bit of research on senior faculty and see who appears the most
optimistic and approachable. They might just be your best
confident about your burnout concerns (even very minor concerns).
Often simply acknowledging your concerns and sharing them with
someone who really understands can be the first leap toward recovery.