June 19, 2020 • By Dennis Beaver
When you just saw that word burnout, how did it make you feel? Has the stress of working under what for many of us are completely different conditions due to COVID-19 caused you to worry more than usual, to feel maxed out, frustrated?
James Eischen deals with that question daily with people from every corner of our country.
Based in San Diego, California, where he practices healthcare business planning/corporate and real estate law, Eischen discovered, “A talent to help people open up about the things that were not only worrying them, but which posed significant danger to their physical and mental well-being, both on the job, at school, and now, greatly amplified with burnout linked to what COVID-19 has done to the country.”
Eischen is a nationally recognized expert on avoiding work-related burnout, lecturing to lawyers and health care professionals across the country and providing insights via his online learning channel, www.loftylearning.com.
“A global mental health crisis has been caused by our response to Covid-19,” he observes, adding, “Yet, there is a great deal individuals can do which will help mitigate the consequences. However, we need to understand what we are seeing. We must be able to identify burnout and deal with it at the earliest possible stage.”
What is Burnout?
“Burnout differs from stress,” Eischen is quick to point out. “Stress is often equated with anxiety, and is burdensome, but burnout is where we reach a level of detachment. We experience a loss of motivation, our connection with others – and we lose ourselves. Burnout is identified by the World Health Organization as an occupational mental health syndrome.
“It results in enormous damage on the job, school, and at home. The good news is that there are time-tested tools to help mitigate or avoid burnout.”
A Road Map to Burnout
Eischen lists several factors which contribute to burnout and apply to many occupations, “And especially to lawyers,” he underscores. He lists these:
(1) A loss of control over the nature of your work and the enjoyment it had been providing.
(2) Perceived unfairness with your job, including a lack of recognition.
(3) Most importantly, the feeling that your work demands are not aligned with your personal values. This is something that a high percentage of lawyers face on a daily basis, making them incredibly unhappy because they do not believe in what they are doing and are not practicing the kind of law they want to.
“Attorneys experience substance abuse at a higher rate than other professional populations which is often the result of feeling they have prostituted themselves, doing what they do for the money and perceived job security. They feel trapped by golden handcuffs. This in turn leads to burnout.
“But no amount of money sufficiently compensates for doing something you do not believe in. The vast oversupply of lawyers has made a mockery out of the judicial system where much ‘legal work’ is done just to generate billable hours, and so many lawyers know they aren’t helping, but are harming their clients financially and emotionally just to put food on the table.
“Lawyers who are headed for burnout detach, stop caring, and are part of an infection in our legal system,” he strongly maintains. “This means they cannot reach their potential or fully serve their clients.”
What are the tools which address burnout?
Eischen believes that we start out on a path towards burnout by not understanding ourselves and how our minds actually work.
“Our minds are terribly complex and under the right circumstances, are receptive to being fooled by false evidence,” he notes. “With the right blend of negative thoughts and experiences, the results are cognitive distortions and logic fallacies which lead to twisted thinking. This blocks our ability to understand the world around us and ourselves. Our minds have innate limitations to comprehend reality as it really is.
“Mindfulness and meditation greatly assist in undermining the negative impact of these cognitive distortions and logic fallacies. Meditation allows our mind to sit still, to think without the distractions of ordinary live, to perceive a sense of calm, and to achieve greater insight into our own intentions and the world around us.
By using mindfulness and meditation techniques we can hopefully achieve mental clarity to rediscover who are and what our purpose in life is. Mindfulness is the effort to achieve focus and attention in our everyday lives no matter what we are doing, the synonym for it is focus. Mindfulness is engaging in the world as it is.
Eischen concludes on a positive note:
“When you get clear about your purpose you can then work towards ensuring that your work is in alignment with how your see yourself in the world. This defeats burnout.”
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.