“Do you ever get tired of being positive?” asked my friend.
“Whatever do you mean?” I asked.
“Tired of being upbeat and positive and patient and hopeful?” she continued.
Where was this going, I thought to myself. She’s not the kind that gets sad or disappointed easily. She’s a fighter, a warrior. I have learned so much from her through the years. And here she was asking me this question that seemed bizarre coming from her. To her I simply said, “Explain.”
Do you ever come across clients or students who surprise you with similar wonderings? I believe I have a few times, mostly with clients. Every time at the back of mind I’m preparing myself for the worst. But sometimes it is just what it is…a wondering. A question that sometimes is elicited naturally from a situation of circumstance. Exploring further, one often realizes that it does not have anything to do with hopelessness…it is in fact, exhaustion. Reminds me of the bell curve of stress. A little too much to the left and we are not motivated at all, a little too much to the right and it transforms into distress. At optimal levels, it has often been called eustress – the kind of stress we need to be productive. But sometimes it hits the top and it starts going into non-productive areas. Fatigue and burnout can happen to anyone.
That is where my friend was and often times we as counselors experience this with our clients as well. Working on yourself is tiring work and it can get exhausting. The key is to find where the optimal levels are for each client. One may be ready to go every single week. Yet, another client may not feel motivated at all or become fatigued because they have been working too hard. Exploring with our clients and finding that balance is super important. This might mean having some tough conversations (tough for you, because as counselors it can be difficult to observe your client being stuck); stepping on the breaks and creating as well as allowing that space for them to explore the fatigue or burnout.
Burnout may happen to us as well. Who has heard “self-care” more than seventeen times over the course of a supervision session or semester?! But it’s true! We must take care of ourselves in order to take care of others. In a panel discussion recently, that was arranged by one of my professors and comprised of professionals from the counseling field – one theme that showed up when asked about a message for new professionals was self-care. No one knows it better than individuals working in the field. Day in and day out they probably experience the same fatigue, lack of motivation, or exhaustion like what my friend was going through.
So here I was texting my friend back, trying to stay with her in her burnout mode, finding ways to try and get her back to eustress levels. It worked out eventually…She’s running a mud-race today in New Jersey! Go figure!
Jyotsana Sharma is a Doctoral Candidate, Counselor, Educator, and human being in the making. Visit her website at: www.jyots21.wordpress.com or find her on twitter @jyots21s.