Fear and Burnout

As a young therapist, I thought working for an agency was the only way to succeed. A hospital or non-profit agency that kept my schedule, found my clients, and did all the prep work for me. So, that is what I did. One day, I thought, “Why don’t I open a private practice?” Then the fear monster crept in and told me it was too hard, I wouldn’t get enough clients, and I would not be able to support myself. Sixteen years later, I honestly feel that staying in that role would have burned me out by now. Why? There is a correlation between fear and burnout. It is complex and multifaceted, but burnout can influence fear and vice versa. Understanding this relationship is crucial for addressing burnout effectively and developing strategies to prevent it. Here are some of the ways fear and burnout are correlated:

  • Fear as a Burnout Precursor: Fear can serve as a precursor to burnout. When individuals experience excessive fear, particularly related to their work or personal lives, it can trigger chronic stress. This chronic stress can eventually lead to burnout if not effectively managed.
  • Perfectionism and Fear of Failure: Perfectionism often accompanies fear of failure. People who fear making mistakes or falling short of their own or others’ expectations may push themselves relentlessly. This constant pressure to perform perfectly can contribute to burnout due to the chronic stress it creates.
  • Impaired Coping Mechanisms: Fear can impair an individual’s ability to cope with stress effectively. For example, someone experiencing fear might resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as excessive caffeine consumption, alcohol, or overeating, which can contribute to burnout.
  • Chronic Stress: Chronic stress, often triggered by fear-related factors, is a significant driver of burnout. When stress persists over a long period, it can lead to physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion.
  • Fear-Induced Physical Symptoms: Fear can manifest in physical symptoms such as tension, sleep disturbances, and headaches. These symptoms can contribute to overall fatigue and a decreased ability to manage stress, making burnout more likely.

My experience showed me the connection between fear and burnout. When I was too fearful to do what I needed to do, that fear caused me to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. When you recognize fear or when fear shows up in your life, having a toolkit of coping skills is imperative for well-being. How are your coping skills? Contact me, and let’s talk about it!

Dr. Kimberly VanBuren

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