Today we have an excellent post written by a Cystic Fibrosis Health Activist, Katharine. Katharine shares her thoughts on burnout and writes about just how many aspects of life are influenced by the burnout that can come with living with a chronic illness. She also offers a unique perspective that so many in our community can relate to – Health Activist burnout – when managing your condition and leading your health community at the same time can just feel like too much. We often hear that “there just aren’t enough hours in the day” but what about energy – is there enough energy in your reserve to take on all these elements at once? Check out what Katharine has to say. –Amanda
Dictionary.com defines “burnout” as “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.” I know we’ve all been there. Burnout can happen to me because of numerous things: work, family, responsibility, friends, money… the list goes on. And for Health Activists burnout can be nearly impossible to avoid.
I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 16 years old – pretty late in the game for most CF patients. And at 27, I’m still not used to the regimen that comes with this disease.
I’m finding that when I stay on top of my treatments and am taking care of myself, it’s easier for me to get frustrated with normal life occurrences. I get upset faster, erupt quicker, and just generally become sour. That’s not a me that I’m very fond of. (And I’m sure my boyfriend – and others around me – don’t enjoy it, either.)
While keeping up with my meds makes me feel good… and productive… and less stressed about CF, everything else is harder to balance. Work, gym, friends, etc. Thus, when one of those goes a little haywire I tend to freak out more easily.
It’s as if all of my energy is focused on taking care of my CF so I have nothing left when something else becomes difficult.
Unfortunately, burnout seems to come easier for those of us managing a chronic illness. Once I started doing my daily treatments and therapies, I found myself reaching the point of burnout much faster.
One evening, after a particularly trying day, I came home planning to make a nice dinner. Surely, spending some time in the kitchen will help me unwind, I thought. But 20 minutes later, when the fish started burning, I found myself throwing a pan across the room as I dissolved into a puddle of tears. I immediately got mad at myself for overreacting, which didn’t help the situation.
It’s taken a while, but I’ve realized the first thing to do when I reach the point of burnout is to be kind to myself. It’s normal, human even, to become overwhelmed by life. Add in dealing with a life-threatening illness and a person is bound to snap.
It’s how you take care of yourself before and after that point that can make the difference. These days acupuncture has helped a great deal in stopping me from reaching burnout. It’s reduced my stress level dramatically, and given me an hour each week that is just for me.
I’ve also taken up yoga, which I think has contributed greatly to an overall sense of peace and perspective.
When I see myself heading toward burnout it can be all too easy to fall to pieces and throw a pity party, but I know that’s not productive. I’m learning to allow myself those moments every once in a while, because they’re bound to happen. If other things are temporarily put on the back burner, that’s okay. Perfection isn’t the goal. The most important part is that I’m doing the things necessary to stay healthy.
Connect with Katharin:
On her blog: From A to Pink
Burnout happens. This was the general consensus we came to after our awesome Health Activist Tweetchat on Tuesday. Like flammable objects beginning to ignite, burnout takes on many forms in its infancy. As one moves progressively closer to the “burnout zone” – many similarities arise. And, like kindling, once you’re burning – it’s not easy to stop. But we did our best to look closer at the process, zeroing-in on what burns out Health Activists, and how we can rise from the ashes – a bit charred but stronger.
First up – we talked about what “burnout” actually is.
Wikipedia told us that burnout is: “Burnout is a psychological term for the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest.”
We learned: burnout is easier to come to when you’re living with a chronic illness. We wondered what the difference is between depression and burnout – if there even is a difference.
Then we honed-in on what burnout means for the Health Activist community in particular. As patient leaders and those active in social media (something that leads to its own breed of exhaustion) – how does burnout happen to bloggers and community leaders? Here is a rundown of what we came up with…
Causes of Health Activist Burnout:
- Feeling the pressure to post consistently
- When you’re “out of ideas” or creatively “stuck” – like writers’ block
- When you want to talk about more than your health
- Feeling like your voice isn’t being heard
- Feeling as though you aren’t making a change (or can’t tell if you are)
- Losing sight of your goals
- Not feeling understood
- Lack of motivation and others’ willingness to participate
Symptoms of Health Activist Burnout:
- The inability to post consistently
- Abandoning your blog or social network without notice
- Changing the subject when writing to more general topics (avoiding talking about health)
- Fewer Facebook updates
- Loss of accountability
- Lack of motivation and your own willingness to participate
“Cures” for Health Activist Burnout:
- Take time to do things you enjoy
- Make sure you have someone to turn to
- Take care of yourself before the world
- Activists need to be activiated, motivated, and encouraged, too. —AndreaHardaway
- Peer-support helps, as does training in self-care and the risks of compassion fatigue —itsthebunk
- Have a creative go-to or idea-bank where you save up for a rainy (burnout day) (this one was mine!)
- Write when you can write
- When you can’t write – say so
- Take technology vacations – turn off the phone, the laptop, and take care of yourself. —NataliaElizaBea
- Burnout is easier to handle by stepping away or interacting with community members you’re close with. —joltdude
- Being reminded that it’s okay to put some things on the back burner. Perfection shouldn’t be the goal —KatharineS84
So the question is – can burnout be stopped beforehand or can it only be fixed or dealt with after it happens?
- Not sure there’s a cure – it’s a cycle… Burnout needs to be dealt with proactively, before it happens. It’s much more difficult to recover afterwards. —tmana
- I think burnout can be slowed down but not stopped before it happens. —joltdude
- I think you can perform “burnout maintenance” by doing a few things a week just for yourself. Sometimes burnout is unavoidable, though. —NataliaElizaBea
- We see active members announce they’re taking break from support groups because of burnout. Then they return, sometimes months later. —teaminspire
- I think burnout is inevitable at some point – we’re human. But things can be done to make it easier and lessen the effects. —KatharineS84
Then we discussed the best ways (I think) for avoiding burnout – trying to stay steeped in the opposite – your enthusiasm for and energetic focus on your community and Health Activism.
How Health Activists can stay enthusiastic and inspired to lead (such GREAT ideas here from folks):
- Try something new!
- Use other media, pics, people, and outside sources to inspire yourself
- Make connections with someone else in the community. Help each other stay motivated and inspired. —KatharineS84
- Mentor someone and/or find someone to mentor you. —itsthebunk
- Don’t be all health all the time.
- Share other parts of yourself so you feel less pressured to deliver the same thing. —KatharineS84
- Health Activists need to find/connect with newcomers to the Health Activist community. Their energy and enthusiasm can keep us going! –MiriamsHope
- Keep your main goal in mind – remember WHY you’re a Health Activist.
- Banish perfectionism. Keep it real. Share support with selected peers. Take breaks. Ask for feedback. Change the subject sometimes. —itsthebunk
- When you feel most inspired – make a note or save the correspondence. Come back to this when you self-doubt or feel burned out. (mine)
- Activists engaging members in off-topic (non-disease) discussions can help. Fave foods, pets, “bucket list” discussions. —teaminspire
- It’s key to remember how many lives you are impacting. We GEt to make a difference and we’re not alone. —AndreaHardaway
Such great ideas! And I’m sure there are more. What are your thoughts on these topics?
Check out some great tweets in the Storify recap here:
As you may know – we’re focusing on burnout this October. Why not join us in discussing this important topic? You can delve into the idea of patient burnout (when self-care can be taxing) or the concept of Health Activist burnout ( when leading a community and creating content gets tough). You create amazing content and we would love to feature it!
Have you already written about burnout? We’d love to highlight your post, video, or discussion here on the WEGO Health Blog this month. Drop us an email at email@example.com and share a link to your post.
Or, if you’ve got an idea for a post you’d like to write – be a Guest Blogger for October! Send us your idea and we’ll work out the details.
Looking forward to hearing from you 🙂
Join us today at 3pm ET for our Health Activist Twitter Chat – kicking off our new #HAchat schedule and our theme for the month of October.
Since the month has just begun – let’s chat about that nagging, yet tiring cloak we’ve all felt upon us. Burnout.
What does it feel like to be the burnt, broken match – unable to reignite? What causes your energy to start draining and the burnout to start setting in? How can those of us who lead online communities, blog, tweet, Facebook and communicate so often – find a necessary break?
No matter what form your burnout takes on – this will be a great discussion to have. We’ll spend our first #HAchat talking about burnout and move on to another topic next Tuesday.
After hearing from folks about our Health Activist Twitter Chat – we’ve decided on a brand new schedule (and plan)! We hope you’ll be able to join us as often as you like and that this will give folks many opportunities to jump in and connect, across conditions, with Health Activists and the topics that are relevant to (and fun for) online health leaders.
Join us every Tuesday afternoon at 3pm ET on Twitter (as always, we recommend the awesome tweetchat: http://tweetchat.com/room/HAchat) using the hashtag #HAchat.
We’ll remind you Tuesday mornings and tell you what we’re going to chat about. We hope you’ll tweet along, lurk, and invite your community members to come by and share their thoughts! No matter where you are on your Health Activist journey – we’ll talk about things that impact everyone: patients, bloggers, health social media users, caregivers, friends, and advocates.
Here’s what our October #HAchat schedule looks like (so you can add a calendar reminder like I’m going to):
Tuesday, October 4th at 3pm ET
Tuesday, October 11th 3pm ET
Tuesday, October 18th 3pm ET
Tuesday, October 24th 3pm ET
Tuesday, October 31st 3pm ET
And because we know how busy everyone is – we’re going to start the chats at a quick 30 minutes each. This way, we’ll propose 3 topics (T1, T2, T3) to discuss and get some great conversation started. Then, hopefully folks can continue to chime in throughout the rest of the day. Let’s inspire each other, get great discussions started, and spark future blog posts together. And be sure to check here on the blog every Wednesday for a recap!
Got an idea for a chat theme or a few topics you’d love to pose to other Health Activists? Tell us in a comment, tweet, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂