My marriage to Jessica, creator (and coach) of Burnout Institute, was challenged in the most difficult way possible but is stronger than ever. We spent about a year recognizing she was experiencing burnout, and subsequently PTSD, taking the first steps towards recovery from burnout, and rebuilding our lives both as individuals and as a couple in her post burnout months. While she (and I) are still recovering and have a ways to go, we are both becoming more introspective about the journey I went through as someone supporting a person going through burnout. To other partners dealing with this difficult, lonely, and long road, I have some tips I’ve learned along the way:
#1 Build a tribe
You can’t carry this burden alone. I did. You have to recreate your own support system, as you don’t realize how much you rely on it until you don’t have your 50 percent of the support system in your marriage to lean on. You have to have somewhere you can put down the burden, and it’s not with your partner who is struggling. One of the Burnout Institute’s initiatives is to help those going through burnout, and their support people, to have a community to help them validate emotions, and recover together.
#2 Encourage your partner to see a therapist regularly
Sometime I’d have to tell her “Go tell Robert (her therapist).” A combination of therapy and medication got her through burnout, not me. While you are the most important in their lives, a therapist may have more impact. It takes multiple people giving advice and support from multiple angles to inundate the person with positivity and a clear path forward.
#3 Analyze the systematic burnout our society encourages
If you ever find yourself as the youngest person at the table in a corporate setting, you are a candidate for burnout. People in those position work harder than ever to prove their worth, at a cost. It’s the perfect storm for any high achiever who wants to do great, be great, or help in a great way…it’s a gasoline-soaked forest and someone comes in with a flame. You get little “treats” along the way to keep you addicted to the journey upward: promotions, money, status. It’s a poisonous road. If you are in a work environment or mindset like this, you have to get out before your story and Jessica’s are the same.
#4 Listen and believe they will come out on the other side
Your partner needs you to see they will recover even when they can’t, and even when you aren’t completely sure yourself. You have to be positive on days you don’t want to. You can’t tell them to shut up when you can’t hear it one more time. You have to honor your decision to be their partner, even on the dark days. You have to be all in or all out, as partners can do a lot of damage if they aren’t careful with their partners in their most vulnerable time. You want to protect them, and you also have to respect their situation, and the process.
#5 Get a change of scenery
In my full story about our journey through burnout, I share that a trip to Paris during the darkest days really jump started my wife’s early inspiration to build a new future for herself. Getting out of town together was exactly what we both needed to gain perspective on the trajectory of our lives, and for Jessica to truly be inspired by the art, fashion, people, food and life. It doesn’t have to be Paris, but a quiet retreat into nature, or a visit to a new city somewhere else in your state can be just as effective to change their view, and to reinvigorate your ability to support your partner.
#6 Give them a community to relate where you can’t
There are limits to what a spouse can do for someone suffering from burnout. A community of supporters, and a burnout coach, are key to recovery. Everyone plays a significant, and different role in the journey, and you can’t play all the roles at once By helping your partner sign up for The Burnout Insititute’s recovery program, you are providing support in the areas you can’t do yourself. To learn more about Jessica’s coaching program and her important work with other burnout sufferers, click here.
Written by Jessica Walther, CEO of Itivate