Banishing Burnout

I want to talk about a topic that is garnering lots of attention, but still lacks clear solutions – burnout. It’s on the rise, affecting an astonishing number of Americans with symptoms like mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion, decreased productivity, feelings of dread, and increased likelihood of being susceptible to illness. 


Frequently we hear about burnout being related to the workplace, and it certainly is. A poll conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that upwards of 52% of people reported feeling burnt out at work. However, I think it’s more helpful to take a broader perspective, and consider that workplace overwhelm is just one part of the burnout puzzle. I have personally found that it’s also the mental load of being a parent, the hundreds of activities to not only organize for my family, but to also to be present for. It’s the desire to want to stay connected to friends and family who are important to me, which requires regular communication, planning and time spent together. It’s the responsibility of giving back to the community through volunteering to causes that I hold dear. It’s the need to carve out time that is just for me and my own wellbeing and development. 


Earlier this year, I felt myself teetering on the edge of burnout. Cue the imposter syndrome – I’m a LIFE COACH, I help people get out of burnout, how could I have let this happen!? Well, I suppose I am only human after all. I share this to illustrate that I do this work for a living, I practice what I preach, and I’m still not impervious to experiencing burnout. 


As a care-giver both in and out of the office, feeling emotionally connected to others is crucial for me – it gives my life purpose and meaning. When I noticed myself feeling emotionally depleted, I knew something had to change. 


I admitted to myself that I had pushed too hard, said “yes” too often, and miscalculated my time and energy. In hindsight, it’s a pretty honest mistake, and simply acknowledging my feelings felt like it lifted a weight. As our Medical Director, Dr. Frock said in a previous blog post – “it’s important to normalize and validate burnout so that you don’t spiral deeper into those feelings. Reminding yourself that it’s probably okay to feel what you’re feeling, and to bring some commonality to the situation, ‘If 100 people were put in this position, how many of them would likely feel the way I feel?’ Often, the answer is that 95+ people would feel the same way.” This all reiterated that I’m just a well-intentioned human doing the best I can to make the world a happier place. 


Next, I turned to my trusty tools. My favorite time management tool is the Eisenhower Matrix, which helps bring so much clarity and space to the never-ending to-do list. Framing my tasks this way is an instant stress relief, and I was beginning to see more clearly.


But, here’s where the big mindset shift happened. I regrounded myself in a quality over quantity approach that I had been veering away from little by little. How would my plan for the week change if I were to focus on the top 20% of my tasks that were most rewarding – financially, emotionally and mentally? It’s not a perfect science, and sometimes you can’t completely delete the bottom 80%, but it helped me to reframe how much energy I needed to spend on less critical tasks. Scheduling blocks on my calendar for those bottom 80% tasks, helps me to be able to create more space to focus on the 20% that truly mattered. 


All of this has cleared space for me to reground in my why personally and professionally. It has allowed me to feel re-energized, inspired, purposeful and connected to the bigger picture. Life has a way of teaching us lessons over and over again, and reminds me that no matter how much I am in the ‘teacher’ role, the role of student is perhaps the most important. 


7 Steps to Minimize Burnout: 

  1. Name what you’re feeling
  2. Normalize and validate it
  3. Bring commonality of experience into your perspective
  4. Prioritize your life/workload, delegate and delete 
  5. Asses – What are your top 20% most rewarding tasks?
  6. Schedule intentional time for the other tasks, and don’t let them creep into your top 20% time. 
  7. Reground in your Why



Couples Therapy: Not Just for Rough Patches

Choosing to go through life with someone by your side is a wonderful thing, but that doesn’t mean relationships aren’t hard work. Couples therapy is a great way to strengthen or rebuild your connection, navigate tough times, and check-in to nip issues in the bud before they become a problem.  


Think of your relationship as a car and your therapist like a mechanic. You’re not going to wait until the wheels fall off before taking it to a mechanic, right? You’re going to go for regular oil changes and tune ups so that the car can keep running smoothly without you being blind-sided by problems. And if the wheels do come off? Well, then it’s definitely time for some overdue maintenance and repairs.


We spoke to The Happy Hour therapists Amy Jackson, LCSW-MPH, and Jeannette Diddens, LCSW, to get the inside scoop on couples therapy.


1. Who can benefit from couples therapy? Is it just for married or premarital couples?


AJ: It’s my opinion that EVERYONE could benefit from couples therapy! It’s so crucial to get a baseline of effective communication, understanding and friendship to promote a long-lasting relationship. Of course, those who are suffering relationship wounds (i.e. infidelity, substance use, and other trust issues) would benefit from a longer duration of sessions and intervention. 


There’s also no reason to wait until something goes wrong- even dating couples can see positive results from a neutral third party perspective on their most common relationship conflicts. In fact, it’s protective to have early intervention and practice in communication.


JD: I love it when I see a couple come in for premarital therapy. They learn some tools before big life events happen, so they can be prepared for what’s to come. 


2. What are some common issues or topics that you see in couples therapy?


AJ: Other than the common issues of trust violations (infidelity, dishonesty about substances or money), a loss of connection is a big issue I see. Friendship is central to the health of a relationship, and it’s also the easiest aspect to fall to the wayside with the busyness of life. One thing I love working with couples on is how to reconnect to your partner and rebuild that friendship- once fondness and admiration are re-established (Gottman’s theory), couples are better able to engage in productive conflict resolution. 


JD: I used to say I was going to write a book titled  “Sex and dirty dishes”, because for a while I saw a trend of couples arguing about those 2 topics. The frequency of intimacy and the distribution of household chores seem to come up often. What lies beneath that is loneliness in their marriage or feelings of not being valued. 


3. You both love the Gottman methods and theories – what’s so great about it?


AJ: I love anything research-based and practical, and Gottman’s theory delivers so many great exercises and tips. I also find it to be approachable for people who are new to therapy, which is a big plus for people who may feel hesitant with vulnerability. 


JD: It’s the best that we have as far as 50 plus years of data from couples counseling. You can’t argue with data. 


4. What can I expect in a couples therapy session?


AJ: I like to get a thorough history of the relationship and always want to incorporate what actually works in the partnership. It’s so easy to get bogged down by the stress and turmoil of the day-to-day that I find it helpful to investigate what connection is still there (whether it be past or present). After gaining a thorough knowledge of the couple, I like to give ample time to both parties to explore their biggest issues in their relationship, and ensure each partner feels heard. I am also a big proponent of homework for couples therapy. There’s only so much that can be accomplished in a 50 min therapy session; the couple is on the hook for the hard work of rebuilding their connection. 


JD: I am a strengths based therapist, so I start with identifying their partners strengths. I try to set a great foundation in the room so we can all come to an understanding of why it is, we care enough about each other to be in couples counseling.  


5. Can couples therapy help people who are in the process of divorce (or already divorced) co-parent more effectively?


AJ: 100%. The communication issues don’t go away once you divorce; in fact, unless some of the resentment and hurt is worked through, more suffering is inevitable. I can help couples come up with a plan that works for both of them while centering their children’s needs. Children are just innocent bystanders in a relationship dissolution, and it’s crucial that their lives are as undisturbed as possible with the foundation of a co-parenting plan. 


JD: Yes. Couples therapy can play a valuable role for individuals going through a divorce in several ways. They learn how to communicate better, they can gain co-parenting assistance and they can gain more understanding of themselves to take to their other relationships. Overall, I think it also provides closure for each person going forward.


If you’d like to learn more about couples therapy, give us a call at the studio, 615-953-3934, or book online.