How can you avoid burn-out? Especially in a high-pressure environment with a need to take care of others?
I felt burnt-out after several high-pressure jobs in the Foreign Office, where the end goals seemed so important that I put them ahead of my own wellbeing. I find this a fairly common story. I’ve seen many people over-extend themselves in the service of others, and forget about their own needs. It seems particularly prevalent in people in caring roles – doctors and nurses, aid-workers, parents. When they have worked in areas of particular suffering they also seem to suffer much of what the people they are helping go through, as a result of deep empathy. But there are others who manage to sustain their ability to care for others for years and retain their energy and zest for what they are doing.
What is the difference?
According to the remarkable Matthieu Ricard, the key is to focus on compassion rather than empathy. Compassion requires some empathy of course, but it is a more action-focussed emotion, and it