>Emotional & Empathic Burnout

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What is burnout, when one looks at it through an empathic context? To understand that, first we must understand what exactly burnout is. There are several definitions of burnout, but this is the definition we need to focus on for this discussion: Physical or emotional exhaustion, especially as a result of long-term stress or dissipation.

In an empathic context, based off of this very limited definition, Empathic Burnout happens when an Empath suffers from emotional and/or physical exhaustion, due to the long term stress of taking on the emotions of others. Burnout can cause significant physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual damage to people. So you, as an Empath, must be aware of the symptoms, characteristics, and traits that foretell the onset of this kind of burnout.

Signs & Symptoms of Emotional & Empathic Burnout


Some of the signs and symptoms of empathic/emotional burnout are physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, shame, doubt, cynicism, callousness, failure, helplessness and crisis. The primary damage of burnout is emotional, though.

If it is left untreated, burnout can evolve in a very destructive way. It can first cause loss of motivation, ideals, and hope. It can then promote helplessness and hopelessness. This can lead to detachment and depression. And in the end, it may cause one to believe life is not worth living.

Detachment from all sides of ones life is a big part of burnout. It can affect a person’s work life, causing them to withdraw from responsibilities, procrastinate, skip work and/or come in late and leave early. Emotional burnout can also affect a person’s personal life, making them push away from all of their intimate relationships, effectively isolating themselves from their support system.

Empathic Burnout Vs. Emotional Burnout

What must be realized here, when we separate Empathic Burnout from Emotional Burnout, is that when an Empath burns out, it stems from a very particular cause (with possible secondary causes, as well). Empathic Burnout stems more from the weight of other people’s emotions shifting through them, than any other form of stress. Though the addition of excessive stress, on top of the weight of others emotions, can also be a contributing factor. The difference between the two types of burnout, is in the focus of the major cause of the burnout.

For an Empath, burnout will take on the context of drowning in a dark sea of people’s emotions. The shifting waves and currents pulling them under over and over again, as they struggle to keep their heads above water.


In this case, the burnout rises out of the struggle merely to survive intact. So even the thought of thriving, seems like a hopeless dream to reach for, much less strive toward. Thoughts of personal joy, pride in achievement, and self esteem can become nonexistent, as well. This can happen until the point where being an Empath, and doing what we do with others, becomes a chore we do because we do not have a choice. And what seems like a blessing to some, becomes a constant curse to others, like a punishment for some unknown past transgression. And more to the point, it becomes an act of giving yourself away, as a martyr, instead of helping others to heal, with both the Empath and the one being helped, finding balance.

Ways Of Coping With Empathic/Emotional Burnout


Here are some coping tips and techniques. Some of these ways of coping with burnout will apply more to a work environment than a home environment, while others will be the reverse. Some may or may not apply to and/or work for you. So as always, take what works for you and leave the rest to the ether. ^_^

1. Develop a realistic picture of yourself – know what you’re feeling and why.
2. Set realistic goals for yourself.
3. Recognize the symptoms of stress and burnout.
4. Ask for help when it’s needed.
5. Develop a structural and personal support system.
6. Retain hope.
7. Develop a detached concern for recipients of your efforts.
8. Maintain an active personal social life outside of work.
9. Take time-outs when you need them.
10. Maintain a regimen of proper nutrition and physical exercise.
11. Develop a sense of organizational involvement.
12. Be willing to accept counseling when needed.
13. Develop self-therapies such as meditation, biofeedback, or relaxation response.
14. Accentuate the positive.
15. Be informed of the expectations, scope of responsibilities, opportunity for advancement, supervision, job description, workload, evaluation criteria, benefits and salary of a job before accepting it.
16. Identify goals and evaluate accordingly both at home and on the job.
17. Maintain personal growth both at home and on the job.
18. Seek out helpful supervision for your work both at home and on the job.
19. Develop an active outside life with a variety of interests.
20. Personalize your work and home environment with meaningful pictures, objects, colors, etc.
21. Feel comfortable with yourself, set limits for yourself and know how far to become involved with family and colleagues.
22. Encourage and practice good communication skills.
23. Provide for flexible working conditions.
24. Seek out encouragement for trying new ideas.
25. Find your own “decompression techniques” such as activities like meditation or exercise that relieve tension and put you into a more relaxed state.
26. Don’t just air gripes, but look for solutions.
27. Slow down.
28. Set limits and realize that you are not omnipotent and/or superhuman. You do not have to be all things to and for all people.

This discussion is not meant to diagnose, replace, or treat depression or thoughts of suicide. If you are in need, please seek out help with a licensed professional and get the help that you need.

Emotional Burnout Links

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/burnout/wl00062
http://www.helpguide.org/mental/burnout_signs_symptoms.htm
http://www.livestrong.com/article/14719-preventing-burnout/ (burnout quiz included)
http://www.sarbc.org/ciss8.html (burnout quiz)
http://www.services.unimelb.edu.au/counsel/downloads/StressBurnout.pdf (pdf format)
http://www.stressdoc.com/four_stages_burnbout.htm
http://www.fordyceletter.com/2004/04/01/burnout-%E2%80%93-its-causes-and-its-cures/
http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200603/200603_020_burnout.cfm (burnout checklist included)

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~ by Misuchi Sakurai on April 11, 2009.

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