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Mindsets of Mentally Tough Helping Professionals

Recently a friend told me that she was burning out at work because she was crazy busy. My advice to her: create a mentally tough mindset. Helping professionals often show mental toughness while providing support in a difficult situation. Their formula for success: be cognitively flexible; have a positive attitude; maintain boundaries; be connected with others; maintain a sense of humor; be optimistic; understand job satisfaction; and be self-compassionate. What you can learn from mentally tough helping professionals is to recognize the signs of burnout, the contributors to burnout, and how to get mentally tough to deal with it.

For the most part, if people feel detached from their job, lack motivation or enthusiasm or get angry over the smallest things at work, and are mentally exhausted by the end of the day, they are burning out. Managing relationships with coworkers and staff conflicts can contribute to burnout.

Supervisors or managers also contribute to burnout by not: being accessible or transparent; creating a sense of teamwork; offering positive feedback; recognizing an employee’s strengths; and having reasonable expectations. Supervisors can be critical, show favoritism and may not offer supervision. Moreover, no one wants a boss who talks more than he or she listens.

Employees need adequate training for their position and to be offered learning opportunities on the job. Burnout can occur when employees are not offered new employee, low performing, or high performing mentoring programs. Rapid workplace changes, downsizing, time pressures, and job security are problems. People don’t have a balanced workload when they are asked to take on many new tasks while still doing the old ones. What’s more, they are not paid enough for all the work that they do. In spite of all these factors that contribute to burnout, a variety of solutions to this dilemma are found in a mentally tough mindset.

Mentally tough helping professionals have cognitively flexible mindsets. They are able to rethink the way they think when they have no input in decision-making. They have control over their attitude and try to remain positive in spite of the fact that they often do not have the resources to do their job well. Generally, they are in control of their actions and emotions while in the workplace. In spite of many interruptions throughout the day, they maintain their boundaries. They achieve job satisfaction by finding meaning in their role and believing in their agency or organization’s mission. They know how to keep their sense of humor while remaining optimistic.

Besides, they often connect with friends, family members or their faith community and seek out co-workers and supervisors who share similar workplace values. They are self- compassionate. If they are not appreciated for what they do, they are kind to themselves and focus on their character strengths rather than their weaknesses. The key point is that a mentally tough mindset goes hand in hand with a spiritually tough mindset. Is it time for you to work on both?

Barbara is a leading authority and best-selling author on managing burnout, secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue, and vicarious trauma. As a nationally recognized keynote speaker, she motivates audiences to build their resilience and create work-life balance. Her programs help leaders and teams manage workplace chronic stressors and get over burnout at work.

Barbara's newest book, "But I Didn't Say Goodbye: Helping Families After a Suicide", is available now on Amazon -

• Three weeks prior to giving birth to triplets, her father died by suicide. Her story was featured in the Emmy award winning documentary, Fatal Mistakes, Families Shattered by Suicide narrated by Mariette Hartley. Many employees are grieving personal loss. She offers programs for leaders on lost productivity and performance while managing grief at work.

• As a sought-after keynote speaker who has presented to over 500 groups since 1991, including corporations, state and national associations and non-profit organizations, Barbara offers work-life balance strategies for leaders to implement right away. With clarity and humor, her speaking engagements are designed to give audiences powerful and practical strategies of work-life balance, wellbeing, and self-care that can be implemented immediately.

• Barbara is a Board-Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress and Diplomate with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. She received a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Master of Arts degree in community health, with a concentration in thanatology, both from Brooklyn College.


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