The Idealist's Survival Kit: 75 Simple Ways to Prevent Burnout

The Idealist's Survival Kit: 75 Simple Ways to Prevent Burnout

by Alessandra Pigni


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75 brief self-care reflections to help aid workers, activists, and volunteers renew purpose and achieve fulfillment. 

Heal from over-exhaustion, prevent burnout, and regain your motivation with these short readings from a psychologist who has spent many years in the field working in conflict and disaster areas. Gathered from Alessandra Pigni’s interaction with humanitarian professionals and backed up by cutting–edge research, these concrete tools offer new perspectives and inspiration to anyone whose work is focused on helping others.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781941529348
Publisher: Parallax Press
Publication date: 12/27/2016
Pages: 253
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Alessandra Pigni is a humanitarian psychologist with several years of experience in the Middle East. After serving with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders in Palestine and China, she has dedicated her work to understanding the connection between meaningful work and burnout. She has been ELAC Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Oxford and her work has a wide following among humanitarian practitioners, activists, and academics. You can find her online at and connect with her on Twitter @mindfulnext

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter 1: What is Burnout?

‘Burnout’ comes from causes other than simply working too hard: "There are teachers, social workers and clergy who work incredibly hard until they are eighty years old and never suffer ’burnout’ because they have an accurate view of human nature. They don’t overromanticize people, so they don’t feel the great psychological stress when people let them down."—Peter Senge, founding chair of the Society for Organizational Learning North America

Burnout is the result of a broken way of working: it’s not so much about "how much" we work, it’s about "how" we work, the quality of the relations, the care and humanity that permeates our workplaces. Misunderstood and misrepresented, burnout creeps up on us, leaving us exhausted, frustrated, disillusioned, uncaring, and cynical. You won’t find Burnout Syndrome in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the psychiatric bible. The omission makes sense: burnout is about existential suffering, some call it the result of a broken way of work, the outcome of a lifestyle where we forget about what is meaningful for us.

Those who burn out may be the sane ones, those whose humanity has not been lost. Burnout affects "normal" individuals—people with no major psychopathology. We are all at risk of burnout and in order to prevent it we have to address our broken way of working, of relating to each other and to ourselves…

While pervasive across the board, burnout is definitely the do–gooders’ syndrome. Most of those affected by burnout were once idealists, striving for meaningful work, engaged with their community or working internationally with the hope to make a difference. Burnout is not just too much work. Burnout creeps in when meaning is lost, when you no longer feel that what you do matters, when you experience a mismatch between what you believe in and what you are asked to do, or when there is a gap between what your organization preaches and what it actually does. Burnout is fuelled by a culture where there is no room for respect and appreciation, where emotions are an embarrassment. Understanding this is key to understanding the nature of burnout, to know how to prevent it and how to overcome it.

Table of Contents

Foreword Dr. Hugo Slim 13

Introduction: Burning Without Burning Out 17

Part 1 Burnout and Meaningful work

1 What Is Burnout? 27

2 Burnout Recipe 31

3 Four Things and the ABCS of Burnout Prevention 35

4 Musings on Becoming a Boiled Frog 37

5 Burnout Is Our Lifestyle 40

6 The Exhaustion Funnel: Work, Burnout, and Lessons from Mindfulness 42

7 Better Malaria than Burnout 45

8 Burnout is not Just too Much Stress 48

9 Falling Out of Love 51

10 The Antidote to Burnout 53

11 When Self-Care is not Enough 55

12 The Trouble with Meaning 60

13 What We Control? 63

14 How to Heal? 66

15 Finding Your Rhythm 68

16 Meaning and Joy 71

17 Bay in and Day Out 73

18 Humanity 76

19 Mindfully Exhausted: "I'm Exhausted Therefore I Am" 78

20 Presenteeism and Burnout 80

21 Post Burnout Growth 83

22 Workaholics Anonymous: Reaching a Breaking Point 85

23 The Elephant(s) in the Room 88

24 You Will Burn Out 92

25 I Am Not My Job 94

Part 1 Afterword 97

Part 2 Beyond Burnout

26 Power: Some are More Equal than Others 106

27 Anger 109

28 Integrity 111

29 Suffering without Borders and Beyond Labels 114

30 This is not a Survival Contest 116

31 Vicarious Resilience 119

32 The Disappointed Idealist 123

33 Getting Our House in Order 125

34 No, You Can't be the Change Alone 127

35 Extremes 129

36 Wounds 131

37 Edge States 134

38 I Love Mankind-It's People I Can't Stand! 136

39 Pathological Altruism 138

40 Waiting for Godot 141

41 Carrying Other People's Suffering 144

42 Social Suffering 147

Part 3 Taking a New Road

43 A Quick Guide to Getting Out of… 153

44 Being Shod, Being Kino, and Being Wise 159

45 Stillness (Every Seven Years) 161

46 Breathe 163

47 Food for Thought 165

48 "Refl-Action": Reflection and Action 167

49 Changing the World Starts from Within 169

50 Walking 172

51 Life in a Blender 174

52 Fixing Things, Not People 176

53 Resting 179

54 Days of Honey, Days of Onions 182

55 How Often do You Brush Your Teeth? 184

Part 4 Disruptive Notes

56 Casing is Subversive 190

57 Good Luck and Bad Luck 193

58 War Is (Not) Zen 196

59 Searching for Leaning and Healing Among the Rubble of War 199

60 Difficult Conversations 201

61 Changing the World Happens In-Between 203

62 Meditation in Action 205

63 Dignity 207

64 Queen of the Hive 208

65 Front Stage, Backstage, Offstage 212

66 Little Things 214

67 The Frenzy 217

68 Can't Do "Normal" 219

69 Human Being, Not Human Doing 221

70 The Shoemaker Goes Barefoot 223

71 Mind the Gap 225

72 The Salt of the Earth 227

73 Jean-Sélim and the Battle Against Indifference 229

74 Love and Meaning 232

75 Coming Home 236

Afterword 238

Acknowledgments 241

Permissions and Credits 246

Notes 248

About the Author 253

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