Here’s what to do.

Vacation is not supposed to feel like another stressor rather than the break you needed and earned.

That’s how vacations felt for me before I quit my burnout job back in 2019. I had to do so much work to prepare the program for my absence, even with the support of my colleagues. Then when I got back, I had things to catch up on, problems to solve, and reports to complete with short deadlines.

Was I doing work wrong or was I doing vacation wrong?

Whatever I was doing, I was doing my best.

I do wish, though, that…

In this third piece arguing against the idea that it’s possible to “care too much” in care work, I suggest that you keep caring for others, but care for yourself, too.

I have talked about the concept of “caring too much” in care work and the idea that this “caring” leads to bad boundaries and burnout.

I don’t believe it’s possible to care too much. Rather, I have argued that suffering emerges from over-investment in the futures we imagine for our clients, and from over-investment in work itself. The third problem I address in this series is the issue of under-investing in ourselves.

I don’t mean getting our nails done or a day at the spa, although these indulgent acts of self-care are part of it.

I mean moving through your…

We should care about people, not productivity.

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash, and marked up by Audrey Batterham.

In my first reflection on whether it’s possible that care workers could “care too much,” I argued that it’s not the feeling of care that’s at issue, but the attachment to the futures we imagine for the people in our care.

Now I call into question how much we care about work itself.

Our culture in North America is too invested in work, and that sets up workers for poor boundaries and eventual burnout. Hard work is expected, celebrated, and moralized as if our worth is tied to our productivity. Indeed, work ethic…

There’s a thing care workers say in our field sometimes, whispered with a grave shake of the head behind a colleague’s back: “Oh, so-and-so is over-invested in the clients. It’s great she cares but she cares a little too much.” It never felt like the right take, but when I went home with a hurting heart, sometimes I thought maybe I cared too much as well.

For the last two years, I have been studying and reflecting on how workers can stay in care work without losing our well-being. Caring too much has not emerged as one of the issues.

I was worrying and projecting. Now I’m better at staying in my boundaries.


Footprints in the sand to be followed. Photo by Mier Chen on Unsplash

I burned out big-time a couple of years ago. I was so anxious, even when with loved ones, even when on vacation. During a recent swim in Georgian Bay, I noticed that I was much more able to be in the present moment, to relax. To get to that moment, I rested and I put in work to heal and improve myself. I gained insight into the ways that I contributed to the burnout cycle. Now, I can recognize the agency I have in my wellness and happiness. …

Create Space for Joy by Cutting Stressors

Photo by Andrijana Bozic on Unsplash

Developing my expertise in burnout prevention, intervention and recovery started with my own recovery. On leave from a job working with young substance users, I turned to podcasts, articles and books to try to figure out if there is an alternative to the social workers’ burnout cycle.

I am so grateful for the resources I discovered: Laura van Dernoot Lipsky’s Trauma Stewardship, Emily and Amelia Nagoski’s Burnout, for example.

Such good resources. Be in the present moment, they suggest. Radical acceptance. Good nutrition and exercise. Compassion for self and others. Relaxation practices. Social connection. Do something creative. Complete the stress…

How I used my feminism as an excuse to avoid personal change

Image of me, Summer 2020

As a social worker, my feminism has helped me help people. But I have also let my feminism get in the way of helping myself.

In feminism, the story we have about individual suffering is that it often relates to the person’s social environment and trauma history. It’s usually not a problem with behaviour or choices or brains, but a problem with social inequity. We analyze the pressure of gender roles, the gendered violence women and trans people experience across their lifespan, and the ways that sexism creates barriers to health, career growth, and equity in heterosexual relationships. …

Emotional invalidation is a form of gaslighting. Here are some examples of how this might look in the workplace, and how to do better.

When a worker gets emotional at work, colleagues and bosses may make things worse by invalidating their feelings and perceptions. Sometimes this is intentional gaslighting, but other times this happens due to discomfort with emotion, or deficits in emotional intelligence. Either way, it creates an emotionally unsafe environment.

Here are some ways workers and bosses gaslight their employees through emotional invalidation:

1. Passing Tissues When a Worker Cries

Tough stuff happens at work, so people might cry at times! An aggressive customer, an inappropriate comment by a colleague, being passed over for a promotion — these are just some examples…

Reaching toward justice and supporting Black mental health at work

Push has come to shove when it comes to justice for Black people. This is not just politics; this is a workplace issue. This is a moment in which workplaces must do the long overdue work of aligning anti-racist values and ethics with our practices. No more calls for “patience”; no more “change happens slowly” — the pace of change (and many examples of regression) is costing Black lives generally and Black employees’ mental health. In part, this is an issue of emotional justice, a term coined by Esther Armah and discussed beautifully by Yolo Akili. Emotional justice refers to…

To truly be anti-racist, white folks need to take a stand against the institution of policing.

White people: before you go defending cops and criticizing Black protest, remember the protest slogan, “No justice, no peace.”

As Ijeoma Oluo argues, it’s not enough to be non-racist; white people need to be actively anti-racist. Refusing to hold space for Black anger and making excuses for police officers is a failure to be anti-racist.

Multiple cities around the United States are alight with righteous rage about the murder of George Floyd. Solidarity protests are happening all over the world. Here in Toronto, we are protesting the suspicious death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in the presence of four police officers. …

Audrey Batterham

Audrey is an educator, counsellor, and curriculum developer running her own business in Toronto. She writes about social services, mostly.

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