Be Well | Identifying Burnout

Written Monday, February 22, 2021 by Dr. Traci Cipriano, Co-chair of the Lawyer Well-Being Committee

February can be a difficult month during the best of years.  The holidays are behind us, spring is still several weeks away, and darkness falls by 6:00 pm.  It is cold outside, and if you are not a winter sports enthusiast, the pull of the couch can become stronger than the pull of the gym.  

This year, February may feel even more challenging, as we close in on the one-year mark of pandemic life. The COVID-19 pandemic has been going on for so long that pre-pandemic plans, goals, strategies, and ideas may seem outdated. Our work lives are still disrupted, the usual forms of winter indoor entertainment and socializing are for the most part still unavailable, and we are limited in our ability to distract ourselves from winter doldrums by planning a vacation. You may find yourself sitting in front of your computer working all hours because the pre-pandemic activities and responsibilities which allowed you to take a break are still on hold.

When was the last time you checked in with yourself?  A daily self-check helps us to stay attuned to how we are feeling and behaving, and can help us to recognize early warning signs of burnout.  Burnout has been conceptualized as having 3 components:

  1. Exhaustion
  2. Depersonalization, or emotional detachment; and 
  3. A diminished sense of personal accomplishment, feeling ineffective or inadequate.

Ask yourself, “What do I need right now?”  and “What can I do about it?”  How do you feel physically?  What is your energy level?  How are your memory and concentration?  How are you feeling emotionally?  Recognizing and acknowledging how we are feeling and what we need are the first steps in self-care.  We must become aware of our needs before we can begin to take steps to address our well-being.