When you are struggling with burnout, it can seem like a mentoring relationship is just another responsibility to fulfill on top of an ever-growing list of obligations. However, it is not just workload, but also a lack of a sense of fulfillment, community, and alignment of values that develops feelings of burnout overtime. Because of this, burnout cannot be treated with just rest. Developing a mentoring relationship can serve to build a sense of community, re-center values, and reflect on your long-term goals… things that are all critical when looking to fight the cycle of burnout. According to Yale University research, sustained burnout can have an impact on the executive function of your prefrontal cortex, leading to long term challenges such as difficulty concentrating that continue to perpetuate burnout. Therefore it is not just essential for your job, but healthy for your brain to put aside time to fight burnout. Here are some ways that effective mentoring can help to do that:
An open conversation with a mentor about current commitments, priorities, and goals can serve to guide you to determine what is most important to you in your life. Through a mentoring relationship, you can speak more openly about factors that may be impeding on your workplace efficiency, such as a feeling of disconnectedness or commitments in your home life. Mentors can help you to identify your deeper, underlying values and determine which commitments are most in line with your values, therefore helping you to set boundaries around commitments which are not aligned with your long-term goals.
It is easy to let the cynicism caused by burnout guide your perspective on the community that you’re a part of. Whether this is a work community or an academic community, feelings of disconnectedness toward your community, as well as the feeling that no one is there to help you, can continue to perpetuate burnout. In face of increasingly hybrid or remote workplaces, it is harder to develop the sense of community needed to feel connected to your work. With SUMAC, however, remoteness is no barrier to connecting with a mentor, either internationally or closer to home. Developing a strong mentoring relationship can show that there are people who consider you a part of their community and want to work to help you thrive, with a sense of purpose and belonging, in that community. This can help to find the sense of purpose and relational fulfillment needed to fight burnout.
It is human to experience burnout every once and a while. Most likely, your mentor has also experienced their fair share of burnout. However, they may have more time and experience coping with it. A mentoring relationship makes their experience available to you. Whether it is through self-care tips, stress management practices, or reconnecting with a sense of purpose in your work, a mentor is likely to have a wealth of knowledge gained from their own experience. They can also hold you accountable for implementing these strategies through checking in with you every step of the way.
Burnout is especially frustrating because it tends to be a self-perpetuating cycle, and is a lot more complicated than the common advice to simply take a break. However, the good news is that there is a lot of hope for those struggling with burnout through the process of mentoring. If you want to learn more about the science behind burnout, here’s a helpful resource: