Category Archives: mental health

Surprise! You’re Burned Out.


   By Pon Angara, VisionReady storyteller

I know what you might be thinking: “It’s only February and you’re bringing up burnout. Why? Shouldn’t you be talking about the Super Bowl LVII? How about Valentine’s Day? Yeah, these happened just a few days ago, but burnout?”

Calm down, my friend, and BREATHE….in…and out…now, RELAX.

It’s never too early, nor too late, to talk about burnout because by the time you realize you have it, you’re already knee-deep (maybe even neck-deep) in it.

Don’t stop BREATHING….in…and out…now, LISTEN.

Let me start by saying that I’ve been burned out so many times that I’ve accepted it as a friend. I know that sounds weird and contradictory to what we’re trying to do here but hear me out. It’s not my BFF. No way! It’s a friend that drops by unannounced with a dish it wants you to try—a dish that ends up in the trash after you taste it and vow, never again—until you’ve learned to see this friend’s face as a useful warning. We all have that one friend—yes?

Do you know what burnout is?

The official definition of burnout is wide-ranging: “physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion, accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes toward oneself and others,” according to the American Psychological Association Dictionary of Psychology.

So how do you avoid this friend setting foot in your house again and again?

Know the signs. They’re mentioned in the definition above. For me, it’s when I feel fatigued in the middle of the day, even after having three mugs of coffee (I don’t do decaf). Yes, I’m sure there might be other factors causing the fatigue like poor sleep and underlying health conditions but it’s enough of a red flag that deserves at least a visit to your doctor or therapist.

Give yourself permission. Tell yourself it’s ok to take the afternoon off. Or the weekend without checking email. Schedule regular short breaks in the day like you would schedule a business meeting. It’s important enough and warrants a dedicated block of time on your calendar.

Protect your mind. Trying to be well-informed about current events and staying positive continues to be a balancing act. I’ve learned to take in the news in small doses. There’s been so much negativity that gets media spotlight throughout each day and it’s up to you to filter them through.

Keep human connections real. I’m not talking about social media. I’m talking about picking up the phone and listening to a caring voice on the other end. I still prefer in-person, face-to-face conversations that enable physical human touch that include firm handshakes and long, warm hugs.

Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten what it means to be a real human being toward others and toward ourselves. I remain hopeful that we can reverse that. You can’t create an app for that, but YOU CAN BREATHE, RELAX, and LISTEN.

VisionReady offers wellness programs that aim to counter the effects of burnout and prevent it from happening in the first place. For more information, send an email to or call (305) 791-2610.

(Real) Thoughts on Wellness

abstract art watercolor painting human meditating calm peace design hand drawn

Guest post by Jemilah Senter

A lot of people, myself included, subscribe to the notion that to love and care for others, we must first love and care for ourselves. Yet in practice, it seems that many of us, particularly in the mission-driven sector, can be rather neglectful when it comes to focusing on self-care, likely because we expend so much effort in caring for and supporting others.

Imagine that you are speaking with a client who you know could benefit from some words of encouragement. However, at that moment you are personally feeling quite negative, stressed, and otherwise not particularly positive. How difficult it is for you to make (fake) your way through that conversation? Think about how much easier that conversation would be if you felt positive and encouraged in your own skin. I think most would agree that it is much easier to project—to authentically project—positivity when you yourself are feeling positive.  

In theory it seems like a no-brainer, but in practice, it takes a lot of intentional thought, discipline, time, and often change. In other words, you must commit to self-care, and you must act on that commitment. 

To help my overall well-being, I eat (relatively) healthy and I exercise (somewhat) regularly. I have a membership at a fitness club but when I can’t make it I don’t beat myself up about it. Instead I try to get active in another way. Sometimes that’s finding a workout on YouTube that fits the amount of time I can spend. Other times I may take a walk, and other times I simply let it go with the knowledge that missing a workout or two here and there isn’t going to put me in the grave. 

I also strive to maintain work-life balance. In my role, the work is literally never ending, I can’t think of a time that I’ve been truly “caught up” with nothing to do at work. But I know that to be well, I can’t regularly bring work home or let my growing to-do list give me anxiety and keep me up at night. The work will be there, but if I let the stress pile on, I may not. So, I do what I can, attempt to prioritize, manage expectations, and accept that I can’t do it all. 

Finally, and probably most importantly, I live by the mantra “work hard, play twice as hard”. For me, that means spending time with friends and family, devoting thought and energy to my hobbies, and volunteering to make a difference for others outside of work.

Jemilah Senter is Director of Marketing and Communications at Illinois Action for Children, a nonprofit working to ensure that every child in Illinois — particularly those in need — have access to the resources to succeed in school and in life. Jemilah can be reached at