Preventing Burnout: Talking with Susanna Eckblad, Part II

Susanna Eckblad - Preventing BurnoutEarlier this week, we asked Susanna Eckblad a couple of questions about her upcoming workshop, Preventing Burnout.  Today, we’re following up with a few more about what she’s learned, what you can learn, and how everyone can prevent burnout.

What are some concrete tools and techniques I’ll learn in this workshop? 

We’ll be practicing techniques such as calming yoga poses, breathing exercises, mudras, and meditation and each participant will come away with their own personalized burnout prevention plan. Past participants have said they enjoyed having a safe environment to experiment with these techniques and also felt immediate physical and emotional benefits from the workshop. In terms of lasting effects, we’ve seen people make lifestyle changes. One participant from last Spring recently told me that since the workshop, she has quit smoking and is cooking a lot more.

What’s the most important “nugget” you’ve learned after teaching this workshop many times over? Can you share that with us?

Sure–actually I have two! The first is that we need to actively and intentionally take steps to change our lifestyle or mindset in order to prevent burnout. You have heard people say things like, “In order to really help others, you need to be feeling happy yourself.” And if you’re anything like me, you might have heard that and kind of secretly felt like “Uh-oh” because you know, especially if you’re a sensitive person, as many people who go into helping professions are, you’re not always walking around feeling like a ray of sunshine. But I think we do need to treat ourselves as well as we would treat the clients we are helping! We wouldn’t want our clients or students obsessing about their jobs 24-7 or not making time for friends, family, spiritual practice, or health because they are just “too devoted to the job”. And if a job is taking up too much space in your life or mind, you need to purposely expand other areas of your life or mind in order to crowd the job out a little!

The second nugget is that I believe the concept of “compassion fatigue” is a myth! When we are feeling compassion, we actually feel more present, more whole, more open than at any other time. People who are helping professionals know this intuitively. It’s not our compassion that burns us out–our compassion sustains us. It’s all the other stuff that burns us out! Ram Dass, who was part of Timothy Leary’s crew before he met his guru Neem Karoli Baba, wrote a wonderful book called How Can I Help? Stories and Reflections on Service and in this book he says “It’s not always our efforts that burn us out; it’s where the mind is standing in relation to them.” So we’ll talk more about this in the workshop.

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