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Help For Aging Human Service Professionals?


I am a 58 year old “human services slave” who has worked in the trenches for 35 years. I currently manage a small non-profit program. Like many of my boomer peers who are human service professionals, I have grown thoroughly disillusioned with systems that make it nearly impossible to serve humans. We are expected to do way too much with way too little. The bottom line has become all-important. We are tethered to computers, performing boatloads of documentation, when we should be serving individuals. I feel that I am between a rock and a hard place. I have ADD and feel overwhelmed  trying to juggle multiple responsibilities. I was fired from a similar job 6 yrs. ago after requesting reasonable accommodations. I am exhausted and depressed, but cannot afford to change jobs at my age. I take meds for both ADD and depression. Still, I’m at the end of my rope. What advice do you have for me and the thousands of other aging boomers who share my plight?

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What you are describing is “burn out.” You are doing an excellent job of describing what it is like to experience this syndrome. It happens to people regardless of both type of work or age. Physicians, attorneys, teachers, psychologists, professionals who work in the human services industry, as well as many others, experience this problem. It has nothing to do with the amount of money earned nor the level of prestige a person may have earned. Basically, it results from doing the same job for too long a time so that it becomes repetitive and routine. In addition, job stress from being over-loaded with work that must be done in a short amount of time, contributes directly burn out. having ADD may not help the situation but is not the cause. As to depression, its a matter of “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Depression may lead to burn out and burn out causes depression.

The best approach to putting an end to burn out is to do what may not be practical at this time due to the state of the economy. That approach is to plan for and enter a new kind of work or career. So, what can you do to reduce the exhaustion and depression that are burdening you life?

It is vital that you find time for yourself. Relaxation and leisure activities take on an importance that is greater than ever before in your life. However, relation may not take the form that you may think. What I am referring to is stress reducing exercises such as, meditation, yoga, visualizations that take you to an ideal type of place in your mind. This type of thing can be done at work if you take the time to go to a private place at work and give a few minutes to this. Exercise is important. This includes everything from jogging to lifting weights and stretching.

Equally, if not more important than this, is to reach out to loved ones and friends.  Characteristically, it becomes easy to self isolate when experiencing this loss of energy and hopelessness. Talk to friends, communicate with family, find social support anywhere and everywhere you can.

Give yourself things to look forward to. For example, planning a vacation, getting tickets to baseball and football games, or what ever activity you enjoy. Have lots of sex with your partner, go out to dinner and etc. Give yourself lots to look forward to on a daily basis.

I believe that, while medications may help, you would be better served by adding psychotherapy. Its important to understand that this is not based on the premise that there is anything inherently wrong with you but that you can helped to cope better with the impossible situation you find yourself in.

I understand that it is not the right time for you to stop working. However, while keeping this job you can start looking for other types of work that are unrelated to what you are now doing. Another alternative is to request a different type of position at the agency, one that will allow you to feel refreshed by doing differen things from those you are doing at the present time.

The bottom line is that you must find ways to break up the cycle that is making you feel miserable. In any way and in every way possible, find a different and new type of work.

Best of Luck

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