Day: October 6, 2011

#HAchat Recap: All About Health Activist Burnout

Burnout happens. This was the general consensus we came to after our awesome Health Activist Tweetchat on Tuesday. Like flammable objects beginning to ignite, burnout takes on many forms in its infancy. As one moves progressively closer to the “burnout zone” – many similarities arise. And, like kindling, once you’re burning – it’s not easy to stop. But we did our best to look closer at the process, zeroing-in on what burns out Health Activists, and how we can rise from the ashes – a bit charred but stronger.

First up – we talked about what “burnout” actually is.

Wikipedia told us that burnout is: “Burnout is a psychological term for the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest.”

We learned: burnout is easier to come to when you’re living with a chronic illness. We wondered what the difference is between depression and burnout – if there even is a difference.

Then we honed-in on what burnout means for the Health Activist community in particular. As patient leaders and those active in social media (something that leads to its own breed of exhaustion) – how does burnout happen to bloggers and community leaders? Here is a rundown of what we came up with…

Causes of Health Activist Burnout:

  • Feeling the pressure to post consistently
  • When you’re “out of ideas” or creatively “stuck” – like writers’ block
  • When you want to talk about more than your health
  • Feeling like your voice isn’t being heard
  • Feeling as though you aren’t making a change (or can’t tell if you are)
  • Losing sight of your goals
  • Not feeling understood
  • Lack of motivation and others’ willingness to participate

Symptoms of Health Activist Burnout:

  • Fatigue
  • The inability to post consistently
  • Abandoning your blog or social network without notice
  • Changing the subject when writing to more general topics (avoiding talking about health)
  • Fewer Facebook updates
  • Loss of accountability
  • Lack of motivation and your own willingness to participate

“Cures” for Health Activist Burnout:

  • Take time to do things you enjoy
  • Make sure you have someone to turn to
  • Take care of yourself before the world
  • Activists need to be activiated, motivated, and encouraged, too. —AndreaHardaway
  • Peer-support helps, as does training in self-care and the risks of compassion fatigue —itsthebunk
  • Have a creative go-to or idea-bank where you save up for a rainy (burnout day) (this one was mine!)
  • Write when you can write
  • When you can’t write – say so
  • Take technology vacations – turn off the phone, the laptop, and take care of yourself. —NataliaElizaBea
  • Burnout is easier to handle by stepping away or interacting with community members you’re close with. —joltdude
  • Being reminded that it’s okay to put some things on the back burner. Perfection shouldn’t be the goal —KatharineS84

So the question is – can burnout be stopped beforehand or can it only be fixed or dealt with after it happens?

  • Not sure there’s a cure – it’s a cycle… Burnout needs to be dealt with proactively, before it happens. It’s much more difficult to recover afterwards. —tmana
  • I think burnout can be slowed down but not stopped before it happens. —joltdude
  • I think you can perform “burnout maintenance” by doing a few things a week just for yourself. Sometimes burnout is unavoidable, though. —NataliaElizaBea
  • We see active members announce they’re taking break from support groups because of burnout. Then they return, sometimes months later. —teaminspire
  • I think burnout is inevitable at some point – we’re human. But things can be done to make it easier and lessen the effects. —KatharineS84


Then we discussed the best ways (I think) for avoiding burnout – trying to stay steeped in the opposite – your enthusiasm for and energetic focus on your community and Health Activism.


How Health Activists can stay enthusiastic and inspired to lead (such GREAT ideas here from folks):

  • Try something new!
  • Use other media, pics, people, and outside sources to inspire yourself
  • Make connections with someone else in the community. Help each other stay motivated and inspired. —KatharineS84
  • Mentor someone and/or find someone to mentor you. —itsthebunk
  • Don’t be all health all the time.
  • Share other parts of yourself so you feel less pressured to deliver the same thing. —KatharineS84
  • Health Activists need to find/connect with newcomers to the Health Activist community. Their energy and enthusiasm can keep us going! –MiriamsHope
  • Keep your main goal in mind – remember WHY you’re a Health Activist.
  • Banish perfectionism. Keep it real. Share support with selected peers. Take breaks. Ask for feedback. Change the subject sometimes. —itsthebunk
  • When you feel most inspired – make a note or save the correspondence. Come back to this when you self-doubt or feel burned out. (mine)
  • Activists engaging members in off-topic (non-disease) discussions can help. Fave foods, pets, “bucket list” discussions. —teaminspire
  • It’s key to remember how many lives you are impacting. We GEt to make a difference and we’re not alone. —AndreaHardaway


Such great ideas! And I’m sure there are more. What are your thoughts on these topics?

Check out some great tweets in the Storify recap here:

Ready To Learn More About WEGO Health?

I’m ready to work with a Patient Leader

Send this to friend