Burnout Q&A with Eileen McDargh

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Eileen McDargh is the CEO (Chief Energy Officer) of The Resiliency Group and author of seven books, including Burnout to Breakthrough: Building Resilience to Refuel, Recharge, and Reclaim What Matters.  She sat down with Dr. Mollie Marti to discuss burnout and resilience. 

Here are a few highlights:

What is burnout?

Burnout is not a new word. It was actually coined back in the 70s by Dr. Herbert Freudenberger. I think his original definition is exactly what it is, “Burnout is to wear oneself out by excessively striving to reach some unrealistic expectation imposed upon by yourself or society.” It’s the notion of being stressed to the max. In 2019 the World Health Organization declared burnout basically a global pandemic. Burnout isn’t just limited to the United States, it’s everywhere.

How do you know if someone is burnt out? What are common symptoms?

The symptoms range from exhaustion to being disinterested in the work that you used to love to lacking a sense of humor to finding yourself unattached to people and places. Feeling irritability that you never thought you would have before. The symptoms are rather wide but at the end of the day what you’re basically saying is “I don’t want to do this anymore. I’ve had it.”

How are burnout and resilience related?

If you think about resilience as being energy management, and if I’ve just depleted all my resources which is what burnout is then how do I get those resources back?  What will give me energy? What depletes my energy? It’s only until we step back individually, as well as organization, to say what is going on. 

What are the components of energy management? 

The four components are adaptability, agility, laughability and alignment. Adaptability is the willingness and the ability to step back and say, “in how many different ways can I respond to this situation?” When we think we only have one way, we’re stuck. Requisite variety says the organism with the greatest number of responses to any given situation is the one that survives. 

Energy management means a willingness not only to ask yourself but to go out and seek help from other people, “What do you see? How’s another way that I could respond to this?” Energy management also means searching for intelligent optimism. Intelligent optimism is where you take what face value looks horrible and reframe it in a way that allows you to see some other possibilities.

What can you do to become aware of and manage burnout? 

The first thing is to take a timeout. You have to stop, look, listen and breathe. Even if you take five minutes and breathe. Think, “Okay, what matters right now in this place? What can I do as an individual?” And of course there’s a correlation with nutrition, sleep and exercise. Those are just a few exercises that can help to slow you down and refocus yourself. 

Check out other blog posts for more resilience resources.

Check out Eileen’s Resiliency Matters TV episode for more burnout, wellness and recovery tips. 

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