I am thirty-five years into my career, and I love it, most days. Preparation for writing this post caused me to ponder the reasons this is so. I fell in love with the information about what makes people behave as they do. I soon realized that most of us enter the field because we are somehow wounded. Ultimately, we meet at a crossroads whereby we choose to do the work to heal, or we learn labels to cover our pain and perpetuate dysfunction. However, it’s important to think about preventing burnout in this field.
Some of the greatest among us are the wounded that have healed. We do not have to be perfect, but we must be very aware of our imperfections so as not allow them to negatively affect our clients. I’d like to share “my recipe” for having a successful and less stressful career as a clinician. Here are some tips for preventing burnout.
- Remember to whom the journey belongs. Being present as others heal and grow is both rewarding and positively reinforcing. However, I must always remember to whom the journey belongs. I am merely a facilitator sharing bits and pieces of information, insights and wisdom that can be helpful in steering the course. I can take credit for neither “success” nor “failure.” It is not even up to me to define these terms.
- Maintain a healthy sense of curiosity. I remain equally curious regarding new research and techniques in my field of practice, the many cultures of the world, and what or whom I may encounter. Recent research utilizing brain imaging has shown that curiosity and learning keeps the brain placid and enhances wellbeing. Learning can be as simple as learning a new route to a familiar destination, listening to a new piece of music or reading a book. I am grateful to continue to learn from and work with other clinicians in our field.
- Release the need to be in control. A major part of my journey has been doing the work necessary to release the need to control. Growing up in a dysfunctional family and working in dysfunctional organizations, I developed a strong case of codependency and perfectionism. Experience, a few bumps and bruises, a few really good therapists, and 12-step work led me to the realization that there is little over which I have control in this world; “thank goodness.” This realization has been freeing. It has left me with the energy to love and do the things I love. I am free to be present with others and respect who they are without judgement.
- Be true to yourself. Awareness of self is essential in practicing this principle. At a recent Kolmac School program, Dr. Michael Truncale of the Retreat shared an exercise where one identified personal values and considered how much time and effort is committed to living according to those values.
One must know and accept oneself – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I believe this is the key to not only preventing burnout and depression, but to living a fulfilled life.
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