It’s been awhile since I wrote about burnout, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about it.
I think about burnout whenever I see exhaustion, instead of mere fatigue, on the faces of my students, most of whom haven’t even started their careers yet.
I think about burnout whenever I reflect on my own work life, and how I’m able to work very long hours, many times, without undue stress, because I get to control the parameters, and choose the issues, and decide the tactics. It’s a daily reminder that burnout isn’t related to actual work effort.
And yet burnout continues to plague our profession and, especially disturbing to me, to stand as a barrier between social workers and the social activism on which their voices are so needed. We know that, if every social worker lifted his/her voice about the injustices we see every day, things would start to change. And we know that burnout is a part of the reason why we so often don’t.
So I read with great interest the sections in Soul of a Citizen related to burnout, and I’ve been talking, even more than usual, with my students and colleagues about what burnout looks like in their own lives, more urgently, how we combat it.
Here are some of my thoughts, collected from these sources and percolating in my brain for the past couple of weeks (or maybe even months!). What I’d love is to hear from you all about burnout–how do you recognize it, how do you resist it, how do we restructure our professions so that we reduce it?
It’s essential that we dedicate some of our collective wisdom and energy to this struggle, not just because we care about the well-being of individual social workers and the future of our profession, and not just because we know that clients suffer when their workers are burned out.
We must address burnout because it hinders our activism, as individuals and as a united force for social justice.
And none of us can afford that silence.
My most recent thoughts on burnout:
Please, share your stories. What burns you out? How can social action combat this? And how do we grieve, together, the many hurts in this world, so that, again together, we can really begin to heal (p. 243)?