Archive for the ‘Burnout’ Category


June 13th, 2023 No comments

It’s easy to get discouraged, especially when you’re doing something difficult like writing a book or a song, taking on a new project, caring for a sick person. I’ve been writing a nonfiction book for the past 2+ years, tentatively titled:  Through a Dark Ravine:  The Way of Disobedience. I’ve done my best to make this personal story honest and compelling, I’ve had readers help me, and I’ve emailed a strong pitch to a number of literary agents. What’s come back is either silence or a polite  “No thanks.”

I’m stubborn and motivated, but this got to me and I had to take a break from writing. Had to step back and gain perspective. And in that pause, I picked up a wonderful book by Joyce Carol Oates:










She gave me a new perspective and helped me see that “the writer… is a curious melange of wildly varying states of mind…indecision, frustration, pain, dismay, despair, remorse, impatience, outright failure….the writer, however battered a veteran, can’t have any real faith, any absolute faith, in his stamina (let alone his theoretical “gift) to get him through the ordeal of creating, to the plateau of creation.. The artist, perhaps more than most people, inhabits failure…”

Wow! So instead of hoping for easy or depending on recognition from others, the task is tricky and full of discouragement and yet, if this is something I and others choose to do, then we do it. We do it with our eyes wide open. We do it knowing it’s hard, knowing we’ll get lost, knowing that there are endless deadends but that as we work, we improve our craft. Thank you, Joyce Carol Oates.

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October 4th, 2021 No comments

It always make me a little sad to pick the last tomatoes and to see the vines wither and turn brown. And I really hate it when I have to buy tomatoes at the supermarket, as they don’t taste anything like the sweet ones from my garden. But there it is, the end of a season, and I remind myself that these wonderful fruits (which most of us think of as a vegetable) have sat through hot summer afternoons and warm nights. I’ve fussed over them, and have watered them and have watched with excitement as the hard green tomatoes turned red.

If you’re anything like me, you resist change, while simultaneously being energized by it. So in a few weeks when I put my garden to bed for the winter, when the frost kills the last marigolds and hardy carrots, when color is erased, I have to remind myself to look closely elsewhere. Just today, for example, I noticed that the marsh grasses surrounding the nearby cove, have turned an incredible burnt orange–a color so striking against the green of other plants. And the berries on a bush I pass everyday walking my dogs are now a silvery blue.

As Keats wrote in his wonderful “Ode to Autumn”:  “Where are the songs of Spring? Ay where are they?/Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–” I hope you find ways to enjoy this time of change and discover simple observations that warm your spirits as the days get shorter. We need each season to end. Just as we need to welcome a new one.

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May 28th, 2020 No comments

My sister calls Dixie, the dog we rescued five weeks ago (the tan and white one) my pandemic project. And I guess she’s right. We already had Rudy (the black dog–a bit hard to see) and Henry our cat. But when we saw a notice on a FaceBook forum that she had been in a shelter for 8 months and needed special care, we had to find out more about her.

We called the shelter and arranged to visit. As we parked the car, we saw her in a large fenced in yard with the volunteer, Diane. We glimpsed a sweetness in her face, but as soon as we walked into the enclosure, she ran as far from us as she could get. We chatted with Diane, we sat down, but she would come no where near us. Once Diane gave us pieces of chicken, Dixie would gradually approach as long as we didn’t move or look at her, and she’d grab the chicken and run. We stayed for almost an hour, wondering how we could adopt a dog we couldn’t get near.

We told Diane that we would return the next day with our dog, Rudy. We figured that would be the deal breaker–if they got along, we had hope. If they didn’t, it would be too hard. They got along, which says a lot about Rudy–he’s a large dog who likes pretty much everyone–and he and I have been missing our work as a therapy dog team during the pandemic.

We were still unsure. It was Friday and we told Diane that we needed to think about it carefully over the weekend and that we’d call her either way. There was another person interested in Dixie, but Diane felt that our home offered more stability, so we were at the top of the list. It’s all we talked about:   yes, we should do it, no, it was too much work–too disruptive. But something about her won out and on Sunday we called Diane and said that we’d be at the shelter Monday morning to bring her home.

The pandemic gave her exactly what she needed:  quiet, no guests, no travel, non-stop companionship from my husband and me, plus Rudy and Henry. Within a few hours she was a different dog. She took over the couch and smiled at us. She licked the cat. She and Rudy chased each other. We took her on hikes, and everyday she gets at least three walks.

Last week I was teaching a Zoom seminar for library staff about living through a pandemic, and through all the challenges, I kept hearing creative ideas. A children’s librarian built a set in her house for story time and other projects. Another bought chickens so that her family would have eggs. Others are involving their children in aspects of their work and learning to focus on tasks, instead of the overall job. Some are using meditation apps and are making sure to take breaks–especially outdoors. I told my class of almost 100 that I hoped that they would more than survive the pandemic–that they would learn to find new ways to do their jobs that were creative and satisfying. Just like adopting Dixie.

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November 11th, 2019 No comments

Here we are at a local hospital, taking part in a new program in a geriatric-psychiatric ward. I’m with Rudy, my therapy dog (the big black one) and my wonderful friend, Deb is with her dog, Ethel, and we’re joined by Mabel, the head of volunteers. The two things that will (almost) always cheer you up are dogs, and volunteer work. Deb and I in our blue jackets are easily identified as volunteers. Both Deb and I have been doing this for seven years–first with our previous therapy dogs, and now with Rudy and Ethel. We know they’re remarkable, we know they somehow always seem to know what to do, but last week they made two patients cry. Both were older men and the dogs were such a welcome change from tests, and drugs, and treatments, that these were tears of both joy and relief. They patted our dogs, hugged them, told them that they loved them, and thanked us over and over for bringing them in.

When I wrote my book, “Joy Unleashed” about my first therapy dog, Bella, I realized that I would never be bored or lonely as long as I had a therapy dog. But last week, after this incredible visit, I knew I’d be smiling for a long time.  Rudy took a long nap in the back of my car on the way home–it’s hard work being an ambassador of cheerfulness.

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October 1st, 2019 No comments

Let’s face it. You don’t want to be this guy. He’s having a hard day at work and is probably feeling stuck, resentful and burned out. What I’ve learned from teaching seminars on how to stop burnout–and how that enhances customer service–is that small steps often yield big rewards. Here are some pointers from the last few classes I’ve given for library staff:

  • Set reasonable goals and celebrate when you reach them
  • Pace yourself–set time limits for large projects and take regular breaks
  • Look for creative ways to change your job that will decrease stress
  • Make rewards and recognition part of your everyday work culture
  • Teamwork often means you can get help for the things you don’t do as well as others
  • Take breaks and try really hard to not eat lunch at your desk (You think you’re being super-productive, but in fact you’ll be super worn out)
  • Cultivate your sense of humor. Nothing beats laughing as a huge stress buster.

We are all expected to no more with less. Demands come at us from inside our organizations and from customers and patrons. Pay attention to what works for you. Ask your colleagues what helps them. As I say in my class, “enjoying your job is an inside job.” What can you do today to make that come true?

(Photo courtesy of Adobe Images)

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August 1st, 2019 No comments


I’m the type of person who believes in action. In getting things done. So it’s odd for me to advocate turning away, leaving something undone, letting things happen. Here’s how I came to this insight. I’ve been wanting to write a biography of my great, great, great grandfather John Ireland Howe for almost 23 years, and this past winter I decided that I either had to do it, or forget it. And that I had to put in real effort before making that decision. I knew that something or somethings were holding me back, so I created a schedule. I logged in and logged out. And gradually the book had a life of its own, and I knew that I would stick with it.

But it gets even better. While this was going on, I put my speaking business to the side. But then emails and phone calls came in, asking me if I could speak at a conference or for a staff development session. It amazed me that work came in without a huge effort. I checked my calendar, said yes, and went back to working on the book. Now I have a first draft completed and am lining up readers to help me make sure that I’ve written it for its intended market: middle school students.

I’ve known for a long time that it’s important to make an effort and then not make an effort, but this seemed almost magical to me. By freeing myself from procrastination and that nagging feeling that I was neglecting something I wanted to do, I was not only energized, but also had the great fun of seeing work come to me. It feels like grace. So sometimes, I think it’s a really good idea to turn your back.


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April 25th, 2019 No comments

Check out this wonderful article, full of simple suggestions, from Dave O’Brien: It includes small things you can do each day. You might be surprised by how good it feels to grow in kindness. kindness

Image courtesy to Adobe Images

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April 10th, 2019 No comments

My wonderful friend and fellow career coach, Ed Hunter, wrote a neat article about happiness. (See below) As many of you work in positions where you’re working with the public, I thought this would be helpful. (For more on Ed, see: Spring is finally showing up here in New England–another happiness factor!


During the workweek, we may spend more time with our colleagues than we do our families. That’s a lot of time! Why not enjoy it? We know that our work life is a direct contributor to our overall happiness. What we might not realize is just how important our relationships are at work. Not just professional relationships but real, meaningful relationships built on support and trust.
Whether you have a best friend at work or just strong bonds with your colleagues, it matters. The World Happiness Report 2017 found that the level of support that a worker receives from his or her co-workers is a very strong predictor of all four measures of subjective well being utilized in the study: life satisfaction, job satisfaction, happiness, and positive effect. Those who indicated that they had a best friend at work were seven times more engaged in their jobs compared to those who don’t.

“We discovered that the single best predictor is not what people are doing — but who they are with. It doesn’t even matter if two friends at work are engaged in tasks that are directly related to workplace productivity. According to a study conducted by a team of MIT researchers in which workers wore high-tech identity badges throughout the day that monitored their movements and conversations, idle chit-chat might actually be valuable to productivity. The researchers found that even small increases in social cohesiveness lead to large gains in production.” – Tom Rath and Jim Harter, authors of Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements

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February 1st, 2019 No comments

Just read a great article about this, and thought I’d share it as it explores the kind of relationship we need to have with our selves in order to be our best.



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January 8th, 2019 No comments

In working with many libraries to help their staff with critical issues like stopping burnout and improving customer service, I’ve noticed how common it is for many of them to avoid confrontation. They don’t like it. It’s awkward. Take a look at a wonderful article by my friend and fellow career coach, Ed Hunter. Great tips!

Are You a New Boss? How Good Leaders Manage Tough Conversations

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