Burnout, Fatigue, and a Case for Self-Care
“I’m at my wit’s end.”
“I’m tapped out.”
“I don’t know how much more I can take!”
I’m sure you are no stranger to these statements. They’ve grown more and more familiar as we moved through 2020 and into 2021. It was and remains a time of great unrest and uncertainty, and the sense of despair and helplessness has become palpable.
These feelings are nothing new. The fact is we (as people, as humans) face uncertainty daily. We feel anger and fear and are impacted by all kinds of stress and discomfort. We move through these emotions, sometimes destabilizing, experiences all the while expected to fulfill our roles and responsibilities.
A salesperson smiles and greets customers warmly in the face of declining sales, a physician provides care and encouragement for a patient with a terminal illness, a parent remains loving and supportive of a teenager rebelling against them. We work through difficult situations that require more of our patience, concentration, and tolerance.
And it is work. We feel drained and exhausted, emptied of our motivation and energy.
Sociologist Arlie Hochschild coined the terms emotion work and emotional labor which refer to the efforts and strategies you use to manage your emotions to achieve a specific goal, personal and professional. Emotion work looks like the effort used by a parent to understand their child’s perspective, or of the adult children caring for their aging parents.
Emotional labor is the energy and patience used by a delivery driver to manage the stress of rush hour traffic, or the surgeon maintaining intense focus and concentration while performing a life-altering surgical procedure. Every day, we move through the routine stresses and demands of our lives, all of which require us to use our personal resources.
Like physical labor, the emotional labor of pursuing our goals in the face of trying circumstances requires exertion. And like physical exertion, we feel the effects on our bodies and our minds. Fatigue, agitation, poor concentration, anxiety are all common signs of our personal resources being drained. And like filling up our car with fuel, our personal resources also require refilling so we can keep moving.
There is no shortage of information and tips on self-care. A quick search on our digital device provides a vast amount of material regarding the benefits of mindfulness of self-care. But if you are anything like me (like most people really), having this wealth of information typically does not lead to any meaningful change in how we care for ourselves.
Awareness is necessary but not sufficient for change.
What can be done? Developing achievable goals, seeking support, and capitalizing on small successes are all part of what makes effective change possible. And while these steps might seem obvious, it’s very common to struggle to put these ideas into action. Change doesn’t happen in the vacuum of our own heads, and working with a therapist is often a necessary (and helpful) part of the growth and change process.
If you’d like to reach out to see how I can help you overcome burnout and fatigue, please give me a call at 954-391-5305. I am excited to explore how I can help you reach your goals. I offer sessions in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs.