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  • Writer's pictureBrian Patterson

Burnout Extinguishers

According to studies of Australian psychological health care workers, mindfulness has a significant impact on the stress levels of these professionals. “Four mindfulness facets, non-reactivity to inner experience, acting with awareness, describing and non-judging of inner experience were significantly negatively correlated with burnout.” (di Benedetto & Swadling, 2014)

The study focused on several behaviors health care workers might turn to alleviate stress. Many, such as family relationships, had a negative impact on stress levels, although slightly. The authors identified self-awareness and a sense of humor as, if not relieving stress, providing resilience in stressful times.

For myself, now being middle-aged (plus), I find that life stressors are magnified. Many skills are waning and even the ones that remain vibrant are sometimes inadequate for the task at hand or unnecessary in contemporary society. For example, online learning and the technological proficiency required to perform all the tasks often elude me. (I am a digital immigrant not a native!) Taking care of aging parents, dealing with their memory care facilities, caring for a disabled spouse, working full-time and doing online classwork can be quite stressful. Whenever I forget something, I have the fear that dementia creeping up on me.

To deal with the levels of stress that I may be experiencing, I have three tools that I access:

1.) My relationship with my wife of 41 years is very restorative. Her grace and care for me helps me disregard any stress in other areas. She loves me even though she knows me!

2.) The concepts of Choice Theory and Reality Therapy from Dr. William Glasser are my mindfulness techniques. Choice Theory teaches that all behaviors are attempts to meet one or more of the five Basic Needs so when I began to tap that behavior system, I analyze which need is not being fulfilled and search for an effective and responsible alternative. There are two questions I ask myself, “Whose behavior do I control?” and, “Is what I am about to say or do going to bring us closer together or drive us further apart?” When I do that self-analysis, it usually reduces my stress. My stress usually indicates that I am feeling like I have no control and the questions help me regain a sense of control. I can’t control my circumstances but I can control my responses.

3.) A sense of humor. Understanding the Choice Theory concepts and not attempting to control others helps me look at life and see humor in situations and in myself. I can laugh at me on a regular basis.


Di Benedetto, M. & and Swadling, M., (2014) Burnout in Australian psychologists: Correlations with work-setting, mindfulness and self-care behaviours, Psychology, Health & Medicine, 19(6), 705–715,

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