“Tires will smoke when you reach the point of volatility or vaporization of the materials in the tread compound,” says Goodyear race-tire engineer Robert Bethea (as quoted in Huffman, 2011).
I know where all the statistically genius minds went but never mind the association of standard deviation and variance with volatility. This isn’t a composition on research and evaluation, so for the other 98% of you out there, keep reading. This is actually your invitation to take a vacation this summer.
Why? To avoid the smoke. After all, one thing caregivers, therapists, and race cars have in common is the potential for burnout.
There is often a distinction made between burnout and compassion fatigue. Burnout is recognized as being more predictable, as it occurs over time, and is less treatable. Marked by chronic stress, irritability, low self-esteem, and exhaustion, burnout symptomatically resembles depression and anxiety. Compassion fatigue on the other hand, can happen suddenly and is associated with a shock or stress reaction to helping or desiring to help others. However, similarly, compassion fatigue can result in chronic physical and emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, somatic complaints, irritability and difficulty sleeping. Both burnout and compassion fatigue occur in situations where the susceptible individual is caring for or desires to assist a person who has experienced trauma or is experiencing emotional distress. Therapists, lawyers, and nurses are among the individuals who should be concerned with self-monitoring for burnout.
Essentially, in a mental health setting, therapists are subject to burnout if they are affected by their clients’ stories outside of work. In order to prevent burnout, workloads must be manageable, vacations and time-off must be observed, and sleep should be monitored; journaling as well as exercise are also preventative measures. As a medical or helping professional, it is necessary to collaborate with peers, mentors, and supervisors throughout one’s career vice simply when a problem is identified. These long-standing relationships in themselves may very well be the best preventative measure against burnout. Isolated environments such as private practice increase susceptibility to the aforementioned and other ethical hazards. Simply put, notwithstanding your experience, or how well you do your job, a level of vulnerability exists. No matter where you are in your career, it is always a great time to assess the measures you have in place to protect yourself and those you serve. The less supervision you require, the further removed you become from your formal training, and the more isolated you are from peers—the greater the risk.
So before your office is filled with smoke and you completely breakdown all of your grey matter, take a moment to evaluate the conditions—your condition and those around you. Be encouraged to create and sustain an atmosphere that is conducive for your work, and concerning the signs of burnout, remain vigilant.
Huffman, J. P. (2011, February) Burnouts: An Appreciation. Retrieved from http://www.caranddriver.com/features/burnouts-an-appreciation-feature
Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC, and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.