Is there an antidote to burnout?

Be proactive. Debriefing after the fact is all well and good, but people who thrive as caregivers or first responders put things in place ahead of time. Over decades they gradually build more and more elements of well-being into their lives. Those who go down dark holes to help people (literally or figuratively) need lifelines in place before going down that hole. The most resilient caregivers have the strongest lifelines—healing connections they can hold onto when times are tough. These connections are best when they protect and nourish all four domains of the whole person: physical, social, psychological and spiritual.

In our latest program Oxygen for Caregivers: Guarding Against Burnout, Sustaining Compassion we help you and your team restore such connections. They are one of the three pillars of resilience we build together in this program. You can learn more about it here…

How can I be compassionate
with difficult people?

The key is to turn a difficult conversation into a discovery conversation. Better to be curious than furious! Or, as Parker Palmer puts it, “when the going gets tough, turn to wonder.” For example: “I wonder why they are acting that way?” This is a lot easier said than done, so practice is necessary. No one wants to have a difficult conversation, but we all have them, so becoming more skilled in these situations pays off in a big way.
At some point in your interaction there will always be a choice point, a moment when you can choose to escalate or run away from the tension. This is the instinctive fight or flight response when we feel threatened. There is however, a third option, the choice to engage with the other person and find out more about them. Then we regard the situation as a challenge rather than a threat. This one move reduces our own stress, gives us more information about the other person’s needs and goals, and helps us think more clearly about how to proceed.

The AiC program: Compassion in Action: Being Effective in Emotionally Difficult Conversations builds this capacity to engage effectively when the tension rises.

How can I teach compassion?

Treating people with compassion is a teachable skill, but you can’t teach it by lecture, sermon, or by simply telling people what they to do. AiC has a seven-step compassion cultivation process that is built into all of our programs. It begins with making compassion visible. This is the first step to making compassion teachable because everyone sees and understands a good example. Then they need to talk about it, and the art of facilitating this group dialogue is the second step.

What can I do to get a
constructive conversation
started about burnout or
compassion fatigue?

The topic of burnout often looks like a third rail that no one wants to touch. The danger of the conversation deteriorating into an ain’t-it-awful, griping and blaming session seems too likely. But, if we stick our heads in the sand and pretend the problem isn’t there, then what?
When a conversation gets stuck, skilled facilitators will use a “third thing” to unstick it. So it’s not just you and me facing off with opposite viewpoints, there’s a third thing to talk about instead. You can use a poem, a story, a video, a photograph—something that’s related to the topic but doesn’t take sides. A well-chosen third thing will create new perspectives from which to look at the issue and allow the conversation to deepen into more meaningful territory.
The video-based programs we produce function as third things that help teams address hard-to-talk-about topics.

Our program Oxygen for Caregivers: Guarding Against Burnout, Sustaining Compassion, stimulates a constructive conversation on the topic of burnout, compassion fatigue, and self-care.

What can I do
to inspire the volunteers
at our meetings?

AiC has developed many videos and articles – on DVD and online – for inspiring compassion. Inspiration often comes from seeing and hearing others of like mind and heart share stories and insights to the challenging work of caregiving. There are DVD-based programs, articles and references to great work along with videos designed to give soul-nurturing breaks on this website. Feel free to join our blogs & conversation, link up with others who have forged paths through today’s complicated care-environments.

Are there others like me?

Possibly not, but others of a caring nature are caught in a similar situation. Not able to express themselves fully or being worn too thin by tasks and obligations. Become a member of Adventures in Caring’s tribe, find and communicate with those who have walked the path before you and those who found solutions, sometimes eternal, sometimes if only briefly. Connection to others is key.

How do I refuel myself?

Stop. Take a break, reconnect with something natural and healing. Spend time with a loved one. If you only have a few moments to spare, perhaps a poem, inspirational article, music or art can offer recreation.