What to Do When you Are Feeling Burned Out

Each one of us has an individual responsibility when it comes to being a member of a team. When each individual focuses inwardly first, it helps to build strong, resilient teams within our workplaces. Samuel Ashby, Director of Performance Excellence at Legacy Health in Portland, OR, says that resiliency is a team sport. During his breakout session at the Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit, he drew on his experiences of being a successful black man in America during some of history’s most pivotal and polarizing times to educate and inspire attendees.

Here is some advice he gave to help us persevere during challenging circumstances:

Fill Your Cup

When you find yourself at the point of burn out and uninspired by your work, you need to find a way to fill your cup. For some people that could mean finally using those stored up vacation days, scheduling a calendar “no meeting zone,” and actually adhering to it, not just scheduling over. Whatever makes you feel whole should actively be scheduled into your workday and your personal life. At the end of the day only you can decide what is meaningful to you, but always make time for it before it’s too late. Ashby found that his “cup was no longer low, it was empty.” Finding oneself at that point requires us to first acknowledge it and secondly, to pull the andon cord. Samuel knew he needed to find activities and behaviors that engaged and changed his mindset.

Find Your Tribe

Another way to fill your cup and change your mindset is to surround yourself with a support system who pushes you to do and be better. Find the people who understand and accept you without judgement. Connect with these people in a variety of ways, inside and outside of the workplace and around shared passions and interests. According to Ashby, “Find people who will expose you to different viewpoints in the world. Debate, argue, but most importantly, and above all, learn from one another.” Ask yourself, how can someone’s story create inspiration and set direction for me?

 Be an Ally

You won’t always find yourself as the one in need of having your cup filled and will instead need to support others. Ashby advised participants to, “be someone who is empathetic, transparent and vulnerable. To share and learn the world’s realities because this won’t just have a positive impact on yourself but will also have an impact on those around you. Those who desperately need it, those who don’t need it and those who don’t think they need it.”

When you see someone in duress, ask questions and offer guidance. While you may be rebuffed initially, in the end it lets the other person know that they are seen. And when that day comes where they do open up, be ready not just to listen but to respond quickly and address their needs.

Top of mind should first, and foremost, always be safety. As leaders we have the ability to create a safe space, not just physically but also psychologically as well. This starts at the top and trickles down through every employee within an organization. Not just within the four walls of the workplace but outside within our personal lives too. Every person is an ambassador for safety and each has the ability to transform this world socially.

We often use the phrase, “go slow to go fast.” In true definition, resiliency is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. As Ashby advised, it is a true balance in the workplace of going quickly and learning. Be slow and methodical about finding your spaces to learn, lean into those spaces and quickly soak it all up. We all can create theses spaces that allow us and others around us to learn and to grow, provide safety, and allow us to fill our cups.


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