When the Flame Starts to Flicker

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on breathing and, through the wonders of blogging, connected with Melissa Page Deutsch, MS, CCC-SLP, CPCC.  I was fascinated with her journey from SLP to personal development coach and asked her to share a post with my readers.  Her topic, burnout, is a critical one for all the fabulous helpers out there.  Please be sure to read these tips, visit her site and take care of yourself.  You deserve it!

flame matches

At every ASHA convention I’ve attended, and I’ve been to a lot, I love seeing my fellow helping professionals. Even without our lanyards, we’re easy to spot on the street, don’t you think? We have good haircuts, good hygiene, and clothing that includes something funky (but not too funky) to express our individuality.

We exude an exhilarating sense of possibility, along with an eagerness to learn something new that will have a positive impact on our patients, clients or students. We are energized! Yes, we are on fire!

And boy, do we need that energy when we return to the job. Why? Because our day-to-day routines ask a lot of us. And because, as the literature bears, people in the helping professions are at high risk for burnout.

But, friends, we cannot afford burnout, either personally or professionally. The toll on our mental and physical health, not to mention our finances, is too high.

What to do? Read on and learn to recognize some of the signs of burnout and ways to prevent it from snuffing out your joy.

flame wilting flower

Signs of Job Burnout

Are you experiencing any of the following on a regular basis?

–         Depleted energy and motivation for work

–         A sense of cynicism or futility on the job

–         Irritability with co-workers and those we are supposed to be helping

–         Changes in eating and sleep patterns

–         Feelings of not being seen or appreciated for what we do.

Is it me or is it hot in here? External and Internal Causes of Job Burnout

 Burnout can be rooted in environmental factors or in personal traits, or in a mix of the two.

Workplace triggers:

–         Unrealistic workloads

–         Monotonous OR extremely challenging work

–         Dysfunctional work environments

–         Lack of recognition

Personal characteristics that put us at high risk for burnout:

–         Perfectionism

–         Pessimism

–         A high need for control

–         Difficulty delegating

If you recognize any of these signs, take the possibility of burnout seriously. And act. .

Preventing Job Burnout

–         Take care of your health. Now is the time to treat yourself with TLC. Get some exercise and fresh air. Eat well. Go to bed at a decent hour. Just committing to these three habits will contribute immensely to your resilience and energy to effectively deal with the challenges facing you.

–         Reach out. Seek emotional and tangible support from your colleagues. Adapting a template from a coworker for daily, weekly, and discharge reports at a rehab hospital where I worked increased my paperwork organization and cut back on my stress immeasurably.

–         Discuss your work concerns with your supervisor. See what can be addressed in the way of hours and caseload.

–         Incorporate mini-breaks throughout your day. Consider being still and listening to your breath for six complete cycles of inhalation and exhalation. Take a short walk.

Ultimately, I think, the seeds of burnout can be traced to exhaustion, disillusionment, and a perceived loss of personal power.  Reclaiming our power and finding our voice to advocate for ourselves can re-ignite our enthusiasm for the work we do.

flame blooming flower

Final Thoughts

Creativity. Intellectual stimulation. Independence. Helping others. Making a real difference in the world. These are the values that drew me to the field of speech-language pathology over 20 years ago, and more recently, into the arena of personal development coaching. What drew you to your profession? What do you love about this work?

Numbness, frustration, and burnout are ways our inner voice lets us know that we are violating values that are important to us. What are the core values that are integral to your sense of self? In what way is your work an outlet for the expression of your values?

As with any meaningful relationship, we’ll have our hard days and our easy ones in the workplace. A strong foundation, based on self-awareness and intentionality, supports us through the inevitable challenges we will face.

When we make choices aligned with who we are and what we value, we exercise our power and embrace our worth, the ultimate antidote to burnout. Work that honors those values that are important to us supports us to live a life of integrity. And to keep the flame alive.

Online resources to learn more about burnout:



Melissa is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach and a speech-language pathologist. She has presented nationally and locally on navigating mindful transitions in one’s personal and professional life.  Please contact her at (757) 408-1279 or [email protected] for inquiries or to arrange a free 30-minute sample coaching session. Or visit her website, www.yourinnervoice.net, to learn more about personal development coaching.




This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Mary Huston

    Great post. As a school-based SLP and a single parent, I’ve been very aware of burning the candle at both ends. It’s hard to do what we do…but it is so very rewarding. I hear all the time of SLPs being abuse at their place of employment, taking work home and spending hours and hours doing it…and all I can think of is where will they be in 5 years.

    I decided to be proactive in reducing my burnout risk. I don’t take work home. ever. I schedule time during the day and I stay until 4:30. If it can’t get done, it can’t get done. Period. I don’t do laundry at work – and I don’t do work during home-time. That’s my rejuvenation time. I also started to do something just. for. me. (Novel idea, right???). I’m now on my second year of piano lessons and I make sure to take at least a 1/2 hour of “me” time for my practice every night. It’s fabulously rejuvenating.

    Going to bed early…eating right…exercise…relaxation…those are all necessary for good mental as well as physical health. We have ALL – everyone one of us – worked way too hard to get where we are and we have way too many clients that need our help to overextend ourselves and become unable to help any of them. I view it the same as the oxygen masks in the airplanes. If the oxygen masks fall, we need to put our own on before we put on the kids. That’s because we can’t help them, if we’re not breathing ourselves. The same goes with our work place and mental health habits. We can’t help the clients unless we are taking care of ourselves first.

    1. admin

      Yea, Mary! I think your taking the time to feed your creative side with piano lessons is FABULOUS! And caring for ourselves is a lesson we need to teach our children as well. When I’m feeling totally frazzled, but would still push myself, I try to stop and think, “is this the expectation I want to set for my kids (especially my daughter)?” Often framing it this way makes it a little easier to step back and say, “it’s too much. I’m done for now.”

      1. Melissa

        Mary, you are inspiring! You set a great example for your children, your students, and your peers. I especially love your claiming and celebrating “me time.” Why do we find it so hard to prioritize that? Thank you for showing us how you do it. I completely agree with you and Kim on how invaluable those boundaries are for keeping us sane and fresh.

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The views expressed in this blog are my own and are intended to inspire other speech-language pathologists in their own practice. If you are a parent, teacher or other educator, these ideas are not intended to take the place of treatment by a certified clinician. Read full disclaimer here.