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Navigating The Path To Professional Resilience

Written by: Jason M. Newell, Ph.D., Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


What does “burnout” really mean? The cumulative effects of chronic stress have a seemingly unavoidable impact on the physical and emotional health and wellness of individuals and their families. Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted the term “burnout” as a syndrome that manifests from chronic work-related stress that is either unmanaged or unmanageable by the individual (World Health Organization, 2023).

Exhausted businesswoman napping in the office

The WHO categorizes burnout as an “occupational phenomenon”, meaning professional burnout is not a psychiatric disorder, although it has been included in the most recent edition of the ICD-11. Rather, the effects of professional burnout have an impact on both physical and emotional health and wellness indicators, which may contribute to diagnosable conditions such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc. Burnout is best described as a progressive state of overwhelm that includes feeling emotionally exhausted, feeling cynical or desensitized to normative work conditions, and feeling a lack of progress or professional efficacy within the work environment (Maslach, 2003). Having worked in the areas of professional health and wellness for over twenty years, my work reveals that burnout is the final destination on a long journey. In other words, burnout is the outcome measure. This means there is room to introduce preventative measures to address the effects of professional burnout before the reaching the final destination (exited one’s job due to chronic stress as a method of self-protection).

Self-care is the key to professional resilience

As a preventative measure, the ongoing commitment to self-care strategies and resources is essential in maintaining a healthy and resilient personal and professional quality of life. To this end, my research suggests a holistic approach to cultivating professional resilience by setting practical and intentional goals for self-care (Newell, 2020). The term “self-care” is certainly buzzworthy, but has been adopted into our professional discourse in such a way that people understand that burnout is problematic, but don’t always understand the preventative methods to address this phenomenon. So, what does self-care really look like? My work suggests the answer is different for every person. Self-care does not include things like taking a bath or watching television to relax. Rather, a functional self-care plan includes modifying activities across your life including diet and nutrition, interpersonal work, organizational strategies, family time, spiritual practice, and more. I believe self-care is the key to professional resilience, but it must be done with thoughtfulness and intention to be effective (Newell, 2017).

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Jason M. Newell, Ph.D., Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Newell has been in fields of social work research, practice, and education for over 20 years. He is an expert of the areas of mental health and wellness. Dr. Newell's research revolves around the health and wellness of human service employees and human service organizations. He is deeply committed to helping individuals navigate the complexities of work/life balance. His research on professional resilience has been published in the Journals of Social Work, Workplace and Behavioral Health, Trauma, Violence, and Abuse, Best Practices in Mental Health, and the European Journal of Social Work. His textbook on professional resilience was published by Columbia University Press in 2017.





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