Burnout is all too common for mental health professionals. The long hours, emotional labor, and lack of adequate compensation can slowly drain our energy and passion. Many of us enter this field eager to help others, only to end up feeling depleted, disillusioned, and stuck on an unsustainable hamster wheel.
After college, I was eager to make a difference and poured my savings into a graduate degree. I found employment at a company where initially, through dedication, I earned several promotions. However, over time things started to changed and successes started to stall despite my hard work and long hours.
For years I felt supported in my growth, eventually leadership changes, the hardships during the pandemic, and personal obligations made it harder and led me to feel undervalued and overworked. My contributions went overlooked even as I put in 60+ hour workweeks. No matter how much I strived, I constantly felt anxious it wasn’t “enough” anymore.
This mounting pressure and lack of appreciation led me down the path to burnout. My early excitement waned into exhaustion and feeling unsupported. I knew things had to change despite the years invested in this company and the love for my team and mission. It was painful and still feels like a loss to this day.
Something I learned a long the way is that my focused dedication to one company, I had neglected other aspects of my life. My physical and mental health suffered. I had no work-life balance and felt constant pressure to prove my worth. I realized this tunnel-vision approach was unsustainable.
The turning point came when I started diversifying how and where I directed my energy. I expanded into consulting, teaching workshops, and launching my own business. Finding professional outlets beyond just my day job brought new excitement and knowledge. Volunteering for nonprofits reminded me of the bigger-picture impact I could make. And carving out time for my family, hobbies, and self-care allowed me to refuel.
No longer putting all my eggs in one basket was liberating. My sense of purpose and joy returned. I discovered that when I relied on one company alone to meet every professional and financial need, I set myself up for disappointment. Their limitations became my own.
By cultivating multiple fulfilling outlets, I gained freedom and flexibility. I lessened the pressure on any one role to solely sustain me. The various opportunities together empowered me to create a mosaic career that honored my skills and values.
The diversity also mitigated burnout by allowing natural breaks and changes of scenery. Consulting one week, teaching the next, volunteering later – it kept things fresh and engaging. Any tensions or frustrations in one area were counterbalanced by the positives in another.
Most importantly, I stopped tying my self-worth so tightly to any one company’s validation. How they judged my contributions didn’t define my impact or talents. I realized that over-investing in outside approval often led to resentment when outcomes didn’t match my high expectations.
As mental health professionals, we have so much to offer that can’t be measured by promotions or compensation alone. Our influence extends far beyond any one job description. By spreading your effort across multiple meaningful pursuits, you can thrive on your own terms – not just your employer’s.
Focus on diversifying your time and energy to honor your skills, needs, and humanity. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Allow yourself space to refuel your own wellbeing, not just care for others. You deserve professional opportunities that spark your spirit as well as your intellect. With balance across outlets, we can sustain our passion for helping others over the long haul. Together, we can support each other in reducing burnout – and instead ignite renewed purpose.