I’ve always found our pervading societal views on life and death to be absolutely baffling. We hold fast to rigid and ostensibly clear-cut definitions, according to modern medicinal standards that define something “living” as “not dead” (and vice versa). Still, at the same time, these definitions repeatedly fail to capture the complex realities of human existence. As a result, we continue viewing life and death as a binary, even when it prevents us from developing the elevating understanding of our experiences that might help us reconcile our experiences and achieve more fulfilling lives.
One prime example is the inability of our medical professionals to accurately identify and treat the causes of the ongoing burnout phenomenon we are experiencing globally. This article helps to pick apart Western medical understandings of burnout and unites them through a holistic healing perspective, which I believe offers a far more compelling route to effective treatment than conventional Western medical approaches alone.
The Perplexing Case of Burnout and the Medical Community
Over four decades, and in light of current COVID-19 global events causing unprecedented work-life challenges, nations, industries, organizations, and individuals have struggled to comprehend and develop practical solutions for burnout. If you don’t currently suffer from burnout, someone you love or care about probably does.
One recent report from the American Psychological Association found that burnout and related stressors are “at all-time highs across professions,” wreaking havoc on a world already struggling to overcome a series of catastrophic events and pandemic-related upheavals. As we speak, Western medicinal authorities are grappling with the challenges of defining burnout relative to the human body. We all know that burnout is a complex syndrome, and understanding it will require us to examine it through a multinational analysis of its facets, angles, dimensions, and impacts.
Since it isn’t technically depression and it’s limited to the professional sphere of an individual’s life, doctors are at a loss for how to define and treat it. For that reason, and despite its profound toll on an estimated three in five employees, the World Health Organization has characterized burnout as an “occupational phenomenon,” meaning that it is, therefore, “not classified as a medical condition.” But that hasn’t stopped it from growing into a profound societal issue.
Burnout is now so widely experienced that it’s even included in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) and defined as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” which can manifest across three dimensions of an individual’s professional life as:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.
By defining burnout as outside the scope of medical conditions, the burden falls back on the individual experiencing it. While they have options for what to do next, the blame and the root cause of the burnout always fall back onto their shoulders.
The resulting message to individuals is that had they been good enough, strong enough, dedicated enough, or if they had just chosen a less toxic work environment, they would not be suffering as they are now. And these spiraling negative thoughts force them into a fight, flight or freeze state they can languish in for years at a time. As a society, we need something far better.
A Wave of Holistic Approaches to Understanding and Treating Burnout
Newer approaches to burnout are turning dominating prisms of understanding on their heads. Shifting research focuses are calling for applying holistic, multidimensional techniques to understanding responses versus organizational factors related to burnout.
These approaches are taking an even greater focus on individual personality and how our unique dispositions give way to differing responses to everyday stressors that lead to burnout (which include hostile workplace environments, toxic or ineffective leadership, and increasing job demands). It’s also leading to some fascinating insights into how aspects of personality, such as the role of self-regulatory personality profiles, affect one’s susceptibility to burnout. One new approach looks at burnout through the five Pillars of Wellbeing: emotional, career, social, financial, and physical. It’s given way to new methods for measuring and monitoring individual wellbeing in society. It’s helping to compensate for the shortcomings of Western medical perspectives, which place such gravity on objectivity, dissecting every ounce of reality into a classifiable unit of measure, that they fail to accurately capture an individual’s attitude towards themselves impacts their ability to meet their full potential.
The Need for Spiritual Care in the Workplace
As a holistic healer, I view our respective abilities to live life fully as existing in degrees. I also see people as multidimensional beings, for which the whole will always be greater than the sum of their individual parts. And thus, I see life and death as existing on a spectrum wherein both physical and spiritual health can be measured in degrees.
This is especially true in the workplace. For example, we can be energized, spirited, and vivacious in some moments, boldly channeling ourselves wholeheartedly into the projects we care so much about. But in other moments, that motivation and energy fade entirely, which can leave us feeling stagnate and hopeless.
Viewed from our more mainstream perspective, these two states are identical: both are fully alive. But as a holistic healer, I see such an incredible difference. And I’m not alone. Entirely new areas of burnout research are emerging around the value and power of spirituality in the workplace, which views burnout as a complex syndrome with causes continuing to evolve from our changing global landscape and which can be effectively remedied through energetic and spiritual avenues.
Studies have demonstrated the power of holistic healing in the workplace by encouraging employees to channel their feelings and experiences through a holistic, multidimensional perspective.
Burnout Treatment from a Board-Certified Holistic Nurse
As a board-certified holistic nurse, I aim to assist clients in reorienting their lives away from the underlying beliefs and high expectations resulting in their physical and spiritual ailments (like burnout). I do this by guiding individuals through the complex and challenging work of understanding how they arrived in this state and then helping them see a better path forward.
My Burn Bright Way Employee Assistance Program (EAPä) helps to ease the impact of burnout on a workplace level by assisting entire teams during leadership retreats and other opportunities to foster organizational alignment and pave the way toward lasting success. These programs offer combined leadership training with Energy Psychology and Quantum Healing sessions to meet the multi-dimensional needs of all individuals in attendance. Learn more by visiting my website or scheduling a consultation with me today!
Abramson, A. (January 1, 2022). Burnout and stress are everywhere: 2022 TRENDS-REPORT. American Psychological Association. Accessed December 2, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/01/special-burnout-stress
Dal Corso, L., De Carlo, A., Carluccio, F., Colledani, D., & Falco, A. (2020). Employee burnout and positive dimension of wellbeing: A latent workplace spirituality profile analysis. PLoS ONE, 15(11). Accessed December 2, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0242267
Gaeta T. J. (2020). Need for a holistic approach to reducing burnout and promoting well-being. Journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians open, 1(5), 1050–1051. Accessed December 2, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1002/emp2.12111
Smith, C.E., Barratt, C.L., & Hirvo, A. (2020). Burned out or engaged at work? The role of self-regulatory personality profiles. Stress and Health: Journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress, 37(3):572-587. Accessed December 2, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.3015
(May 28, 2019). Burn-out an “occupational phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases. World Health Organization. Accessed on December 2, 2022, from https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases.
Depression: what is burnout? National Library of Medicine. Accessed December 2, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279286/