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Battling Burnout: Mental Health and Self-Care in Mediation

Individuals sinking in personal or professional problems may turn to a mediator; Businesses troubled with contractual and commercial disputes may appoint a mediator; Nation-states imploding in racial or communal tension may call on a mediator – and after all this giving, who does the Mediator call on in times of need? How does a mediator sustain an uncertain career in a field where he/she is entrusted by the business community and civil society to deliver a seamless service, with unwavering efficiency and professionalism?  The answer is Self-Care 

We are spinning around a fast-paced digital world characterized by lighting-speed communications, constant notifications, endless video conferences, cramped project timelines, family responsibilities and social engagements. Stress, fatigue and being overwhelmed are common struggles in almost every profession; however, a burnout is a deadly accumulation of these elements and more. A Gallup study in 2020 shows 23% of individuals experience burnout almost often or always. This is an alarming figure, and I believe this statistic would have grown more serious with the pandemic. 

Ayala Pines and Elliot Aronson, the authors of the book ‘Career Burnout: Causes & Cures’, define burnout as “A state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long term involvement in emotionally demanding situations.” There are many work stressors that could cause burnout. If you have encountered burnout in your work environment, you may relate to one of the following situations: 

  1. You like your job, you are good at what you do, but you don’t align with your co-workers or work atmosphere, and you don’t feel ‘fulfilled’ with what you do. 
  2. You can like the work atmosphere, be good at your job, like your co-workers, and are happy with the pay, but you don’t feel fulfilled in what you do. 
  3. Your job/career is fulfilling, environment is satisfying, the pay is what you feel you deserve, and you flourish with management and your fellow co-workers, but you are still burned out!

Burnout is prevalent in the work zone, even more when we bring our work home. Considering how the line between working hours and leisure time has blurred in the work-from-home setting, the risks of a burnout have risen. The good news is that we all are capable of tackling burnout, if identified and accepted early. Burnout is insidious and is exhibited and experienced uniquely by different people. You may notice mental, physical, and emotional red flags beyond those that are listed below: 

  • change in appetite or sleep habits
  • anxious thoughts 
  • withdrawing from work activities / isolating from colleagues 
  • easily irritated by co-workers, close friends and family 
  • psychosomatic symptoms / lowered immunity i.e., sickness, headaches, illness
  • brain fog / forgetfulness
  • procrastinating on urgent tasks 
  • over eating; drugs or alcohol abuse as a coping mechanism  

Identifying workplace triggers

Do you feel fulfilled in the work that you do? Having a strong why for what you are doing is important whether it is a temporary job or a lifelong career path. Are your values reflected in your job/career? Are you being recognized for your accomplishments? Being appreciated and acknowledged adds enjoyment to what you are doing and reduces the chances of burnout. 

Additionally, having a safe space where frustrations can be vented out and dealt with fairly, without work politics or favoritism reduces the risk of burnout. Are you able to grow in your job and do you feel autonomous in your role? The feeling like you do not have control can add to feelings of resentment and inevitably lead to a burnout.

As mediators, we can ask ourselves – Do we feel pressured to get settlements? How do you and your place of work define a successful mediation? Do they value the number of settlements made, or do they focus on the quality of mediation and feedback from parties?  

Self-care: What are you doing for yourself? 

While juggling different tasks and assisting others with their own problems, we can easily tend to ignore ourselves. Self-care is taken for granted even though it is crucial to our productivity.  We need to take care of ourselves, so that we may show up to work as our best versions. Do you have a daily/nightly self-care routine? What and how are you eating? Are we frequently consuming street food take-outs, instead of cooking mindful, nutritious meals? Do you have a spiritual/religious practice in place? And has that fallen behind in the pandemic? Do you volunteer for charities? Serving others serves you – It transfers the focus from being self-absorbed to being grateful and giving. 

We have heard this a million times: “Prevention is better than cure”. You matter and your life is worth living. Below are a few ideas you may consider including into your daily routine: 

  • Meditate – find a time at the start of your day before you log onto your phone. 
  • Journal – What are you grateful for, Write down your triggers and reactions
  • Eat healthy foods as much as possible 
  • Make time to socialize with friends and family members that you are fond of 
  • Set aside time for your non-work aspirations
  • Exercise, even if it is for a few minutes 
  • Take breaks from your gadgets  
  • Value daily self-care over big breaks and vacations

Jonathan Rodrigues

Jonathan is an advisory board member for MediateIndia! Jonathan Rodrigues is certified mediator, with an academic background in Psychology and Law at Goa University, India. Jonathan graduated from his LL.M. studies in Mediation and Conflict Resolution with Distinction from the University of Strathclyde, UK. He currently leads The Institute of… MORE >


Lydia Ray

Lydia Ray is a GDC court mediator with over 5 years of experience who additionally serves as a family mediator in her private practice. She holds a B.A in International Relations with a focus on conflict resolution pertaining to the Middle East region. She has experience working with nonprofits that… MORE >

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