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Burn-out

Hi everyone:
 
As a student and new in the field, I had a question: at the moment I'm starting to feel burnt out with all the assignments and my other personal problems. Once you are in the profession, how are you able to keep your work at work? Do you usually get emotionally attached to the youth? And if so, how do you learn to deal with everything at work, and not let it bother you at home?
 
Thanks for taking the time to read and reply to this. I'm hoping to gain some insight as to what I should expect. I'm really looking forward to this career and as stressful as it is right now I know it will be worth it. Thanks again,
 
Emily Hogenson
...

First semester can be very stressful but you will benefit the MOST from developing strategies for dealing with stress and "burnout" earlier than later.

The biggest obstacle IMHO, is learning to separate work/school from your personal life. Yes, CYW's get emotionally attached to certain clients. The goal is to not allow this to influence your work with that client or other clients and to not allow your "connection" to go home with you.

I used to force myself to do something personal as soon as I got home from work; watch a TV show, hit the gym, talk with my wife(not about work), go to a movie, etc. This provided me with a specific time to transfer from work persona to personal persona. I also made it a point to talk/debrief with co-workers before leaving work so I could deal with any related issue or stress at work rather than taking it home with me.

Hope this helps, I am sure you will do fine and be able to manage your stress and school expectations without issue.

Steve Crema
...

Hi Emily,

I can say you are not alone in your struggle :-) Managing personal wellness is always a challenge in this field.

After reading your query, I couldn't help analyzing when it is that I feel burnt out the most. Interestingly, it is NOT when youth come to me with heart-crushing disclosures or when I witness the complete chaos of many youth's lives at once. My personal outlook on life is that all humans are more resilient than we often give them credit for, and that although we talk

about optimal development, we still recognize that each youth is developing uniquely. Just as we recognize that there is no one "best practice" for all youth. I know that all of the experiences in youth's lives will shape them and that no matter what I do with each youth, all positive interactions will influence their life trajectories.

It is when I criticize my own personal practice that I feel most burt out. If a transaction between youth and myself goes off the track - perhaps I lose my temper, or I am "too busy" to find a few extra minutes for a youth who has come seeking my time - that is when I beat myself up and question my ability as a child and youth care counsellor. We are each our own worst critics (or so I have heard said). It is during those less positive interactions when I do my greatest learning and reflection.

But oh my! I can beat myself up all right! Not last week I shouted back at a youth with FASD who was screaming obscenities at me at work (in a group of yelling youth who were throwing objects around a room). I knew perfectly well that had I lowered my energy, or left the room, that the energy would have calmed, but I chose to holler-back out of frustration. The following day I wanted to stay home, avoid the youth at all costs, but when I got to work they all approached to check in with me and apologize for behaving the way they did, and I was able to do the same back.

Good burn-out prevention strategies that I use include: debriefing with co-workers, colleagues and my supervior often; making sure my days off are filled with activities I enjoy (to remind myself that my job is not all-encompassing and that there is more to me than just my job); having a clear practice philosophy that allows for recognizing strengths versus weaknesses in human nature and development; and journaling if I feel something is stuck on my mind.

Good luck in your search for personal wellness in the field.

Maddy
CYC - Youth Worker in Vancouver
...

I guess the first thing is ...you have to learn to separate. In my opinion its paramount. Now this doesn't mean we stop caring ... on the contrary. I believe that every person in our care affects us in some way ... its how we deal with that affect that matters. Some people use meditation, music, reading and art while others have a strong support network to vent their frustrations. There are many ways to stop burnout ... you just have to find your way. As for School ... This is your first semester? All I can say is, get used to it. The assignments will get tougher and so will the stress.

Look at it this way ... if you can't cope with the stress in school then how are you supposed to cope with the stress at work which sometimes is double what your experiencing now? But I can guarantee the outcome of hard work and determination will be worthwhile and you will see that this field is awesome.

Bill MacIntyre
...

Emily, I think the main focus in our field is Self-Care, this is one of the most important foundations as a Child and Youth Care Worker. It is so important to make the time to do activities that you enjoy (i.e. jogging, swimming, going out with your friends). These are the things that will make you sane.

In regards to keeping your work at work, I think it is important to process everything that happened on your shift with your co-workers or with your supervisor on your regular scheduled supervision with your supervisor. This way it really does reduce you to take work home with you.

Thirdly, in terms of getting emotionally attached with the kids you are working with, I believe this is a lesson that will occur through trial and error. Just a little advice if you become emotionally attached to the youth you are working with you will be burnt out very fast in this. Just try to remember your purpose of getting in this field in the first place. "You can't be effective if you can't be objective".

Hope this helps.
Dave Zimmerman
...

Hi,

I too am a student at Douglas College in New Westminster BC, and have felt the exact same way earlier on in this semester! All the assignments and papers were overwhelming but I got through it. I often wondered if it was worth it, but here I am, we are in our 3 weeks of practicum, and it is definitely worth it! Burnout-- that's where one draws the line and personal wellness comes in and as for attachments, there is a fine line when working with youth, yes its hard, but this is why we are doing what we are doing-- to help, not to have the youth dependent on us.

Hope this helps!
Keep up the good work-- you are on the right track, as you wouldn't be asking these questions!

 Laura Wilson
...

Hi there,
I myself just finished a 2 year child and youth care course. You're right, burn out is everywhere, but hang tight it does get better. I think it's important to find something that is a good stress reliever for you.

My stress reliever is my 3 year old son. It can be difficult not to get attached to the youth, it's just important to keep in mind that your relationship with them is only temporary, however you're human and you do get attached if you really care about their well being.

I find for the most part I can keep my work at work but after every shift I go home and take some time to reflect on my day and what went right and what went wrong. Reflecting in itself can help you to not get burnt out too quickly. It's also good to talk to your co workers and let them know how you're feeling and maybe there is something they can do.

That's why communication is so important in this field. Hope I was able to help even a little.

 Melissa Lane
Sackville, NS
...

Hi Emily,
I am a CYC student at Lethbridge Community College as well but I am finishing up my third semester. I just wanted to tell you that in terms of your assignment load ... it gets better. I remember in the first semester, we were all scrambling and stressed as well, and once you get to know what the instructors expect and become familiar with the whole CYC approach, it all gets easier.

I am in my second practicum and have worked a little in the field. As far as taking issues home, everyone has their own method. I use humour and almost try to detach a little. Instead of focusing on the terrible things in a youth's file, I will focus on what the youth likes to do or a good part about their day. I also involve myself in programs where I can see immediate interaction and results. These groups show me how the system can work whereas I might see and focus on ways it doesn't.

I hope this helps a little!
Crystal Bernhard
...

Dear Emily,
I was going through your mail on cyc net. It's all in the heart and mind. Yes we do get physically worked out but think of the vision and goals you have set for yourself. Do not get upset about the problems and situations of others, rise above this situation. You are studying this because you know that you want to help youngsters and children. Aove all take god's help. Exchange your weakness with his strength - and then keep seeing what he can do.

 Good luck - Grace
...

Emily;

I am a recent graduate from the Child and Youth Worker program at St. Clair College in Windsor, On. I most definitely understand where you are coming from. What really helped me while I was attending college was to talk to my classmates, who were also my friends. This helped me vent my feelings and the fact that they were in the same position helped out a lot because I knew that I was not alone in feeling overwhelmed.

As for working in the field, talk to a coworker with whom you trust or confide in the people with whom you love, but remember to keep things confidential if it's with people outside of work.

It's okay to feel overwhelmed, take a break and do something that relaxes you for an hour and then work on your assignments. Ask for help from your classmates or teachers.

You can do it!

Sincerely,
Georgina Tsitsas, CYW
...

Hi Emily:
My name is Charlene Parks and I am in my second year of the Child and Youth Care Counselling Program in Calgary at Mount Royal College. I totally understand your point of view and frustrations. In class we have been taught about controlled emotional involvement with the children and youth that we work with. While we are human and attachments do occur, we do need to realize the big picture in your relationship with the child and understand that we are in a child/youth's life for a season, and it is just that.
Understanding that may have an impact on how and when we burnout. I find I reach burnout point when i am overly emotionally invested and need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. That is tough sometimes and especially to recognize that burnout may be approaching.

Ensure at the end of the day that you have wrapped up your business at work and leave it there again understanding that you are there for a time, making an impact in a child' life can't take place when you are burnt out and cant see the light at the end of the tunnel. Surround yourself with friends who aren't in the field, so that you don't regress back to talking about "work"
related things when you are together. Enjoy the time you do have off and make it count for something.

Good luck with your program down in Lethbridge and I hope this helped!

Charlene Parks
...

Hi, my name is Nicole Leduc. I am currently finishing my first semester of Child and Youth Care at the Lethbridge Community College. I have the opportunity to go to Africa for my final practicum in the winter 2008 semester. However, even though I know this would be a life-changing experience for me that I would greatly enjoy, many have told me the smartest move would be to stay in the area in which I hope to obtain a job after I graduate. This is because the practicum is 10 weeks and they usually end up hiring their practicum students. Any advice on the subject would be greatly accepted.

Nicole Leduc
...

Emily, It has not been easy for me , but it is getting better. I have been in the field for only 4 months. I find it a bit scary because as a drug counsellor for teens at a long term rehab, I hear so much terrible things from my kids, and I actually can find it almost normal to hear about the tragedies in their lives. Of course there are many times I go home and cry,or worry about a teen at work. I think you need to remind yourself often to not think about work when you leave. After 4 months, it is getting easier. I also feel that if we don't keep the compassion and empathy for our young people we will not be able to help them. I guess there is a balance and only time will help you find yours. Best of luck Emily, and God Bless!

From: cmcewen
...

You are correct in that it is very easy to get emotionally attached. However in my opinion, the youth will respect you more if you do not get overly attached. Put yourself in their shoes for a second. How do you suppose you would have felt if a total stranger started immensely caring and worrying for you? Probably quite uncomfortable. As a Care provider, you have to be aware of responsible caring and overly caring. Having said this, I did have to take time off of work a while ago because I was getting burnt out due to caring to much (beyond my responsibilities). When I decided I was ready to come back, I made myself a promise to not get overly involved and to leave work at work.

Something you might want to tell yourself is the following: "If I let myself get overly involved, all my training and experience will go to waste as it will only cause burn out."

Furthermore, if you make an effort not to get emotionally too involved, you will usually always be full of energy, and as a result, you will be able to do more for the clients. Remember, these clients are just that (clients) they are not your own kids. 90% of clients will not want you to treat them or think of them like your own kids. They just want you to care for them on a professional basis.

(Getting overly involved is truly something you should make a point of refusing to do, because it is not in your job description.) You will have no reason to feel guilty for this, only proud due to allowing yourself to remain sane.

From: Mister Home Chef
Youth Worker for 18 years.
...

Hi Emily
I am a second year student in the CYCC program at Mount Royal College in Calgary.

I have sincerely enjoyed the challenge of my program. Like you and others I have been stressed and overwhelmed by school. We as child and youth workers have not chosen the easiest career in the world, that's for sure! Being exposed to and having to hear about and think about the difficult and disturbing side of humanity can leave you feeling drained and defeated. One thing I have learned from my program is the importance of self care. We are no good to others if we are not good to our selves first. Last week we had a lecture on vicarious trauma. Some key points that I took away from that lecture were the importance of knowing yourself. Not only your thoughts values and beliefs, but signs of stress, burnout and emotional strain.

Having healthy relationships with the people in our lives is a good way to deal with the difficult times in our career. Rest and relaxation are also key. Rest consisting of a good amount of sleep, a healthy diet and quality time to yourself (what ever is possible in your personal life). True relaxation beyond watching TV or "vegging out" could be yoga, deep breathing or anything that turns off your mind for a while. Debriefing about your day or talking to a good friend (without breaching confidentiality) or someone who understands is a healthy way to let go of your day before you get home.

There are so many ways to deal with "burn out" the important thing is finding what works best for you.

Take Care.
Elisha Heary
...

Hi Emily,
How does anyone deal with burning out? Well, I guess for me it's a matter of prioritizing what needs to be done, and making sure it gets done hopefully before I don't have any choice but to do it! Don't wait 'til the last minute to do your assignments - I know when I've done that my stress level goes up, up, up and it impacts everyone around me. I remember when I started college (many moons ago) it sometimes felt like there were not enough hours in the day, but before you know it Emily, just by putting one foot in front of the other each day, it's done and you're done. Try not to carry your burdens, each day is a fresh start for you and your clients.

Emily, I've been fostering adolescent females for sixteen years now, believe me - they all grow up, they all move on, and they are all impacted by the work we do at some point in the future. We may not see the changes while we work with them Emily, however if we remember that our interactions today are significant in their future, perhaps we can be at peace somehow. Keep in touch, and good luck with the balancing act. Didn't you know a prerequisite for this field is to be a juggler?

Diane Rapkoski
Pickering, Ontario
...

Emily,

My name is Krista and I'm a student at Mount Royal College, finishing my second year of the two year Child and Youth Care Counsellor Program. I enjoyed reading your response because I can relate to your concerns.

There are three exercises that you should make a part of your life style that will solve your concerns; self care day, talking out personal issues, and debriefing with co-workers after each shift.

An important key to dealing with being burnt out in school/work is to always take a "Self Care Day" anytime you feel you need it. A Self Care Day is a day to do what makes you relaxed. It's a day to put everything aside in your life and take time to yourself, to heal yourself from being burnt out.

In regards to dealing with personal issues, it's very important to talk about your issues with friends, family or even a professional. Once stepping into this field, many professionals are faced with underlying issues that they didn't even know they had, and are required to deal with them before counselling others. Remember, this is completely normal; everyone deals with personal issues when entering such an important career.

Answering your question, on how to leave your work at work and not bring it home. I find that it's effective to talk and debrief your thoughts and feelings after each shift, at work, with your co-workers. By doing this, you're expressing your thoughts and feelings and letting them out, before going home. There will be many times when you're at home, constantly thinking about work. When this happens you need to relax your brain and keep yourself busy.

Once you've become in the habit of taking personal self care days, talking out personal problems, and debriefing with staff after each shift, you will do just fine in the field. There will be times when you become very burnt out in this filed, but if you practice these three self care exercises on a regular basis, you will deal with being burnt out and won't take your work home with you.
Keep your head up and remember that when you're in the field, you can change the lives of many children and youth!

Krista Lauren Chahley
...

I think the key to dealing with burn out is balance. I know that when I don't take time for myself I feel overwhelmed much sooner than when I balance all of the things that I have on the go, I schedule in hours (or even 30 minutes) in my week when I am not dealing with people issues, work issues, school issues, husband issues, and I just do something fun and relaxing, or I listen to music or journal, something that is about rejuvenating my spirit.

I know that I am in this field because I naturally have a tendency to help people, but you have to be able to separate your need to help people

and your need to keep your body and mind functioning. I think that the most important thing you can do as a CYCC is learn to say no. DO NOT let people interrupt and step into that "self care" time, the minute you do that you are saying that they are more important than you, and you cannot be effective in what you are doing if you do not value yourself. Value yourself and your time enough to say no, not now. Even if it seems mean, or if it seems like they really need you. The truth is YOU really need you. YOo are the only person who is going to look after you, and if you don't look after yourself, you are going to burn out. It will not be a matter of IF but a matter of WHEN, so take care of yourself so that you can take care of others. MAKE THE TIME, FIND THE TIME, USE THE TIME.....

Lara Hooge
...

Emily, The worst is almost over!! I've come from LCC and am finishing my second practicum right now. ORGANIZATION is key: if you don't know where to start, start with the easy parts first. I find that finishing one thing before moving on to another helps. Prioritize, make as many lists as you can. Trust me I felt very burnt out after that hard semester, (they try and weed out the weak ones first!) If you can get through it you'll be fine next semester GOOD LUCK!!

Heather Abbott
...

Hi Emily Hogenson,

I'm Carmela Fruncillo and I too am in Child and Youth Care. I am in my second year at Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alberta. Burnout, what a scary word. Your fear use to be my fear as well. However, further in your education you will be taught many stress relievers, such as drawing, reading, warm baths, speaking to someone and/or self care. Self care is huge in this field. It is very important to be sure your needs are met before you are able to help others with theirs. Self care can be different for everyone. This could be spending the day reading your favorite comics, going for a long relaxing walk, getting your nails done, or taking a long bubble bath. Self care is all about you and your wants and needs.

There is something called the "Three R's": Rest, Relaxation and Relationships. You must be sure to have enough rest; just like a day at work, or a day at school, it can be extremely tough when you didn't have enough sleep the night before. Be sure to get enough sleep every as well as eating healthy. Making sure you are eating right ( veggies, protein, and lot's of water) will help your body and brain function properly so you will have enough energy to get through the day. Relaxation basically means doing nothing but breathing. Taking deep breaths and solely focusing on breathing tells your mind and body that you are relaxing and
worry free. Emily, everyday about four times a day, breath in (taking four seconds), hold it for four seconds and then release taking four seconds. I was told this a couple weeks ago and I'm already noticing a difference. It gives me a minute to concentrate only on breathing, so my body is super relaxed. Last but not least, Relationships. Having healthy relationships is huge in life. It is very important to have supportive people in your life when you are dealing with many people and their many problems. Some days it will feel like your clients are sucking all the support you have right out of you. So it is very critical to have people
in your life who are optimistic, friendly, supportive and understanding.

These are the people you can turn to when you have a bad day, or when you need a positive boost for what may have been a very sad, pessimistic day. Taking care of yourself Emily is crucial in our field. We are here to help others help themselves, so in order to do our part successfully we need to be strong and healthy. We need to be sure to have enough rest, relaxation and carry on healthy relationships.

I think, only with time will we learn to separate work from personal. I think we are taught different techniques of stress and self care, however I think that only with time and experience will we be able to truly separate ourselves from this emotionally draining career and our own lives. Find any stress relievers that are good for you and practice them often as well as keeping up on the self care. There are times in my practicum I catch myself very hurt, worried, and concerned about something after I leave for the day. So what I find works for me (as abrupt as this may seem) I remind myself that it isn't my life. I have to remind myself
that whatever I did today I think I did it out of my best knowledge, there is nothing I can do now to change what I did or said. I need to remember that they are their own person and they end up making the decisions and choices that effect them. Emily, once you further your education and experience you will build confidence in yourself and I really think that will help with the fears you have. I hope this helped.

Good luck and take care,

Carmela Fruncillo
...

Emily,
As you are finding out, all you have to do is to mention that you are experiencing burn out and emotional confusion, and you will receive buckets of prescriptive and constructive advice.  I am not new to the professional field. I have a long history in the field; and I have done many  excursions into the subjective, ambiguous, and sometimes painful worlds of burn out, job dissatisfaction, professional discouragement, role confusion, emotional conflict, and many others including just plain old overworking/ overextending myself.   What you have said about yourself in respect to your newness to the CYC field seems at the surface to be so absolutely normal that it is so easy for anyone to identify with what you are experiencing and questioning. Consequently, you are receiving lots of helpful advice.... but, for all I know, there may be other more personal issues that may be playing in this situation.

This is why my primary response to your concern is to first hold myself back from giving you prescriptive advice, but instead to ask you whether you are getting good clinical supervision from your work site and from your faculty.
In my opinion, if you want to "handle" the emotional demands of this line of work, then get a wide assortment of advice and select those items that you choose to use for yourself; but if you want to learn and grow both professionally and personally, then you should be getting (and using!) good clinical supervision so that you can learn how to explore and examine these issues, particularly if they influence the quality of your work and professional learning.  I hope that this is the case in you receiving supervision. If not, then I would (yes, here I go with some advice giving) demand it. Asking for supervision is not a sign of weakness but an indication of professional awareness and commitment. 

Mark Greenwald
Retired CYC educator and supervisor
...

Emily,

I am sorry to say that you can take the work home with you and get emotionally attached. You are an empathetic person are you not? I would think that is why you are wanting to pursue this path.

The main thing I remember from my CYC instructors is that you can only do what you can for the time you have. Meaning you will have a lot of theories and jargon thrown at you, as well as issues and stories you may not believe can be possible in this day and age. My suggestion to you is take care of yourself first and use this educational time to get to know who you are and what will be your stress reliever, outlet, vice, whatever you want to call it.

Basically you will take in the book stuff and apply it to your ideals ans keep what fits for you. As for burnout, and personal problems, well those feels do not go away until you come to understand your issues and your personal process. This may take reaching out to others. You can create a support system of peers, friends, instructors and even professionals. We were taught that if we were not able to put our issues aside "in the moment" then how can we fully support another.

Does that make sense to you Emily, if not you can email me and we can chat further.

One more thing, in your school time explore the many areas you can apply your skills. Find your passion, be it an age group and or a type of facility you are interested in working at and explore your possibilities. You can do informational interviewing, practical work experience or volunteering.

I hope this has been helpful, I find it helpful to get me refocused too because we need to be flexible at times and change with our circumstance. Also give yourself a break once in a while sometimes your best is just being there.

Take care.
Kelly House
CCW Georges Vanier Elementary

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