Community//

Burnout Support in an Age of Diseases

Even without physical touch, we can find ways to support each other.

Doctor holding surgical or surgeon mask with text area or copy space on it
Doctor holding surgical or surgeon mask with text area or copy space on it

As a society, we’ve become less socially connected than we used to be.  We have Facebook friends, but rarely can we spend face-to-face time with our real friends.  We text, snap, and tweet to each other but fail to tell our innermost fears and secrets – and we fail to touch one another.  Touching one another means more than physical contact. We’ve had to realize that even touching surfaces someone who is infected has touched can infect us.  However, we can “touch” someone without literally coming in contact with them.

The Need for Connection

Humans are created with an inherent need to connect with other humans.  We were designed this way.  We’ve survived this way.  We’ve thrived this way.  Our digital world makes it easier than ever to communicate with others, but somewhere along the line, we’ve confused communication with connection.

Connection is about knowing someone else.  It’s about celebrating them in their triumphs and supporting them in their losses.  We believe that we have thousands of Facebook friends, but far too few know the stories about being bullied as a child or even something as simple as your favorite color or movie.  Knowing other people has become a lost art.

Physical Touch

One of the proxies we use for knowing someone is knowing where they are by sight or touch.  Touch is a powerful tool that helps us feel connection with another person.  We literally share the same heat, and in doing so, we generate warmth between us.  While physical touch alone is not the same as a deep connection, it’s what we often use when we can’t find a connection.

Feeling connected helps us to feel supported – or like we can be supported if we have a need.

Burnout and Support

Burnout may be identified by exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy, but it’s created by a lack of personal agency.  Our personal agency is increased by the results we get (and accept), the support we receive from others, and the self-care we do.  Our tangible results may be hard to change (though we can shift our perceptions of those results).  How we perceive support, however, is much more malleable.

To get to support – someone being willing to do something for you – you must have some degree of connection.  You must have a belief that you know something about the other person – even if all you know is other people saying they’re a good person.  The tricky part comes when we expect that the only connection comes through physical touch – even in something as simple as a handshake or a hug.

Support without Touch

Whether you’re able to touch others on a regular basis through the kinds of social contacts that are culturally appropriate or not, you can form connections and receive support in other ways.  You may have seen people doing elbow bumps to make a safer physical connection.  But more powerfully, you can seek to understand the other person without any sort of touch.

Here are five questions you can ask if you want to develop a better understanding for others, so that you may support them or feel comfortable asking them for support:

  1. What’s your dream vacation?
  2. If you had all the money that you could ever want, what would you do?
  3. If you could leave one mark with your life, what would it be?
  4. What’s your greatest fear?
  5. Who is your favorite hero?

Listening to these questions – and the follow up questions that you ask for clarification – can illuminate who the other person longs to be and will help you understand how your request for support may actually help them fulfil their deepest desires.

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