November 15th, 2018 No comments

I am not a psychologist, so my answer is coming from studying burnout and teaching workshops to help people understand it and recover from it. But I was asked this question in a class last week, and wanted to provide a better answer.

Here’s one answer, from Prevention, November, 2015:

“Our evidence is that burnout overlaps depression, that they’re on a continuum, like temperature,” says study coauthor Irvin S. Schonfeld, PhD, a psychology professor at the City College of New York’s Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. “If you go back to the original paper that was published about burnout, by Herbert Freudenberger—in which he studied people who volunteered at a drug treatment center and who dealt with very difficult patients—one of the ways he described burnout was: ‘It looks like depression.'”

Part of my answer is that burnout, unlike depression, is more situational. This is true or more true with moderate burnout, so if you’re experiencing a difficult situation at work and are able to change that, your burnout symptoms will decrease.

The guru on this topic, Christina Maslach, says in the Prevention article:

“If you’re skeptical that job-related stress and exhaustion could possibly resemble the big black cloud that is depression, you’re not alone. ‘Burnout has always been predictive of depression,’ explains Christina Maslach, PhD, a psychologist at the University of California Berkeley who devised the standard test for burnout, called the Maslach Burnout Inventory, ‘but the measure of burnout used in this study is incomplete.'”

Lastly, remember that according to Christina Maslach’s classic definition of burnout, that it’s lost energy, lost enthusiasm and lost confidence. These three factors combined often create the perfect storm. Most importantly, if you’re suffering from extreme burnout and possibly depression, get help. A professional who understands this complex condition will be an important resource, helping you regain your best self. DEVINE

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September 30th, 2018 No comments


I had the great pleasure of working with a group of librarians and library staff last week and wanted to share some of their tips to stop burnout. Some of the top challenges they’re facing are under staffing, stressful patrons who monopolize their time, constant rule breakers, disruptive library patrons, staff in-fighting, the expectation that they will be able to “do more with less”, dealing with multiple demands, and when they make a spectacular effort and pull off a “miracle”, the expectation that the miracle is now the norm.

As we talked about three areas where they can make a difference (drawing from Paula Davis Laach’s recent blog) and not be overwhelmed by burnout,  they worked in small groups and shared suggestions.

  1. Job Control:  flexibility and choice, having the doers plan and manage projects, getting the leadership on board v. micromanaging, and having realistic expectations especially around the time it takes to complete tasks.
  2. Recognition: taking time to recognize small accomplishments, more one-on-one meetings and fewer emails for internal communications, and making staff recognition a standard part of staff meetings.
  3. Community: remembering to say “thank you”, asking for feedback, being kept in the loop re changes, joining professional organizations and taking advantage of professional learning networks, and building a strong web of connections.

No matter what industry you’re in, these are great suggestions. Please respond to this blog with your ideas. That way we’re all smarter and keep ourselves safe from the damaging effects of burnout.

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September 21st, 2018 2 comments

What does this beautiful photo of a path at Watch Hill have to do with the 7 “T’s”? This past week I was teaching my Customer Service Workshop in Middletown, CT at the CT State Library, and added this list to help librarians and library staff take care of themselves as they care for everyone else. I included this photo because just looking at it makes me happy–another way to take a mini-break and refresh.

Here are seven (I had six in the class but found one more) things to watch out for:

*Triggers (What sets you off? What situations do you find difficult?)

*Transitions (Watch those in-between times whether that’s before you get out of your car at work, or between projects. This is a good place for a deep breath.)

*Temper (Similar to triggers, know what makes you angry. Maybe you’re really organized and get annoyed when others leave a mess behind.)

*Tired (I know this one is obvious, but when we’re tired we’re much more likely to snap.)

*Tough situations (Libraries are the hub of most communities, and you’re faced with difficult situations you may not know how to handle. Find a colleague who can help you.)

*Testing (By this I mean your customers will test the limits of what you can provide. Expect it, learn how to share your guidelines without anger, and practice saying “No.”)

*Temptation (This is the new one I added as we’re often tempted by things that aren’t going to help us offer good customer service. This could be rushing, multi-tasking, letting technology replace human interactions, etc.)

The weather is supposed to be beautiful this weekend. I don’t know about you, but I’m taking my dog to the beach for a good run!


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September 20th, 2018 No comments

If you’re in Connecticut and can take advantage of this free seminar, you’ll find it really helpful. Nora Duncan, the CT AARP director will speak about how best to use social media in your search, and I’ll share the reasons why your network should be the center of your search. And yes, we’ll do some practice exercises! Register on the link below and dinner is included.

Searching in the Digital Age
These seminars highlight the evolution of the job search, and shares on-line resources and tools. Anyone looking for a job or seeking to change careers knows the difficulty of finding fulfilling work.

The Blue Goose
326 Ferry Boulevard
Stratford, CT 06615
Tuesday, September 25, 2018 Jean Baur-4469
5:30 – 8:15 p.m.
Register by clicking HERE

Dinner included & Jean Baur is the featured speaker

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Advice from a Cat

August 29th, 2018 No comments


This is Henry, a cat who thinks he’s a dog. Now a mature 14 years old. I write a lot about dogs, and Henry told me that I need to include him more often as he’s smarter than they are. Okay, Henry, it’s your turn.

Unlike many cats, Henry loves to be held. And nothing scares him. If a friend’s dog comes into the house, Henry will march right up to him. (Not always a great idea.) But thinking about this, it’s kind of smart to be like the thing you don’t like. If a dog is pushy, Henry is pushier. If they’re brave, he stands his ground. If our dog gets too much attention, Henry walks up to him and bites him in the leg. This is a ten-pound cat taking on Rudy, a 70 pound dog. No problem. If things get too rough, he goes under the couch.

Henry sleeps a lot, as do most cats. He sheds over everything. If I wear black, I have his white fur on me. If I wear white, Rudy’s black fur tracks me down. He is always in the mood for a treat. And he likes to be where we are. His last word or best advice:  take a nap when you’re tired. Find the hottest place in the house if possible. Closets rule. Stretch out. Take over. The world is your oyster!

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June 21st, 2018 3 comments


Here we are suddenly at the summer solstice and here in New England, we finally have weather that feels like summer. Being an active volunteer with my therapy dog, Rudy, I believe that he has the right idea about work. This morning we went to our local high school where the students were taking their final exams. They were stressed out, anxious, and tired. As soon as they saw Rudy, their body language softened. They smiled. They got down on the floor. They were glad to see him. And while their exams weren’t forgotten, they were put in perspective.

Rudy has only been a therapy dog since March, when he turned a year old, so he’s still new to this work. But he threw himself into it. He had lots of hands touching him at once. He was in a strange building. As I shared his story:  one of nine puppies in a litter rescued from Tennessee, he did the real work just by being there.

He is now sound asleep in the bed by my desk. He’s resting until our next adventure. He’s willing to go anywhere I go because we’re a team. We trust each other. We look out for each other. When I noticed him getting tired, I told our contact at the high school that it was time to leave. So like Rudy, take time this summer to stretch out, relax, find times to do nothing, and notice how restorative that is. See how it helps you be present when you’re working. Enjoy your dog days!

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April 17th, 2018 6 comments


I hate getting lost. Whether I’m on my way to a business meeting, or just out doing errands, I like to know where I am. But sometimes, getting lost is a really good thing. Sometimes it leads us to possibilities in our lives that we hadn’t considered. But here’s the thing:  you’ve got to be able to tolerate being a beginner. You’ve got to not panic when you’re lost.

Last year, I worked extensively as a speaker, and I not only spoke on topics that I’ve given before, but I was also invited to help associations with issues such as customer service, and I went back to my college to give a presentation on careers for English majors. I was flying. Busy. It was fun.

Then December came and I didn’t notice how quiet my work had become because I was recovering from all the travel and talks I had given, and I was focused on the holidays. But when January hit, I was like a hiker out in the middle of nowhere without a compass. It was really quiet. And my wonderful dog, Bella, my therapy dog died.

As I worked through my grief, I saw that I could either shake the bushes and look for more speaking engagements, or I could use this time to think about what I really want to do. It seemed important not to be too busy. Having worked as a writer throughout my career, it gradually dawned on me that this was where I wanted to put my energy.

There were bumps in the road, but having written for children years ago, I joined an association of children’s book writers and illustrators, and I signed up for their retreat. Now I have traveling companions and support. And one of the picture books I’m working on is “Bella and the Scaredy Cat”–a fun reversal where the cat saves the dog.

I can’t tell you how you’ll find your compass, but I hope my example helps, and that you’ll be less afraid when there are no road signs.


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February 4th, 2018 No comments


Here is a beautiful illustration of a human pyramid, and having spent a cold, winter’s afternoon with my three oldest grandchildren (ages 7, 9 & 11), I had the clever idea that we could build a pyramid. I, of course, was on the bottom, and as I felt their bony knees digging into my back, I held my breath, not wanting to be the one who brought the youngest child crashing down from the top. The parents were out and I had images of rushing one or more of them to the ER for stitches. We did not stand up. This was an on all fours pyramid and a wobbly one at that.

We tried different variations–two of us forming the base, then one, and the smallest again on top. No matter what we did we laughed so hard that the structure shook and collapsed. The dog thought it was a game and licked as many faces as he could reach. There is a certain kind of joy in destruction. I’m sure that’s why people like to watch buildings implode.

Build to crumble. Make something that can’t last. Fall down with it. Roll on the floor like a kid. Or a dog. Mess up. I haven’t had so much fun in ages, and no one was hurt in the making of this memory.

(Image courtesy of Adobe Images)

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January 16th, 2018 No comments

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Henry and Rudy waiting by the door, watching the geese in the field.

I don’t  know about you, but I’m terrible at waiting. I don’t like to do it, whether stuck behind a car that has suddenly stopped for no reason, or in line at a restaurant. It makes me twitchy. But I recently heard a sermon about emptiness–really about how we have to tolerate “no” before we can get to a “yes”, and that helped me look at waiting a little differently. (And by the way, Henry and Rudy are really good at this.)

Emptiness is scary. It can make us feel alone, useless, uncertain. But the sermon I heard helped me see it’s also a creative time–a time of possibilities. It’s time when we can reflect, pause, breathe, and let go. It forces us to be present, and like meditation, gives us the gift of the here and now.

That’s my goal for the New Year. To wait, consider, take my time, see what happens.

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December 21st, 2017 No comments


My best and oldest friend, Nancy, makes these elegant ikebanas. They are a form of meditation and invite us to contemplation. Wishing all of you a good holiday and some moments of quiet to help you prepare for the New Year.

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