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InChorus Oct 10, 2022 12:04:31 PM 3 min read

Coping with emotional burnout and mental health as an EDI professional

Working in the EDI space can be exhausting over time. Your entire job is to reengineer a workplace that was likely not built for everyone. The work we do can be hugely exciting as you get to make real change happen with very human outcomes. But it can also be exhausting - whenever you’re dealing with the emotions and personal experiences of other people, in a professional setting like an office, burnout is a real risk. 
Mental Health and burnout as a EDI professional is tough, but can be avoidable.
While rough days are all but certain when doing D&I work, it does not have to burn you out to the point where you can’t do the work anymore. Keep reading for practical tips on how to handle emotional exhaustion before it turns to burnout. 

Be aware of compassion fatigue 😪

When you take on an EDI role, your entire job is to care for the well-being of your organization so everyone can do their best work. But if you’re “on” all the time and care about everything all the time, it’s a surefire way to get to burnout - quickly. And more than just your average, everyday burnout, this can lead to a phenomenon called compassion fatigue.
Managing compassion fatigue as an EDI leader is paramount and can not only help yourself, but your team’s health as well.
To combat compassion fatigue it can be helpful to establish some emotional boundaries. It's worth stressing, this does not mean you're selfish - this comes back to the wisdom of 'you can't pour from an empty cup'! Try these tips to help with emotional boundary setting:
  • Assess situations and react based on whether you’re able to help, either the situation or the person, or not at all
  • Look at the severity of a situation and gauge your response accordingly 
  • Build a system that people can follow where the first few steps require them to do some work on their own - only if that fails does it escalate to you
  • Have resources or outside people on hand to direct people to for when you can’t solve their problems

Get it off your chest 🗣️

When we care deeply about our work, it's easy to get trapped in patterns of worrying and stewing over things. Rather than internalising these thoughts, and getting caught up in unhelpful spirals, it can help to share issues and look at our thoughts from another perspective.
Some things that might help:
  1. Writing it in a journal
  2. Asking someone you trust to listen while you talk it out
  3. Do a voice recording 
  4. Talk to yourself aloud 
  5. Yell into a pillow

Pay attention to your physical health 👣

When we're very busy with back-to-back meetings, zoom calls, events it's easy to fall into the trap of working harder and harder and neglecting to make time for activities that can help recharge us.
A great way to look after your mental health is to keep your body healthy through food and exercise and rest. Treat working out and eating well as necessary job inputs.
If you don’t have full control over going to the gym or planning every meal, there are a few tips to help carve out small beneficial moments
  1. Turn one-on-ones into walking meetings if you can
  2. Can you cycle/ walk as part of commute
  3. Make sure you stay well hydrated with water (water bottle to go!)

Connect with other practitioners 🌐

As an EDI professional, it's likely that you're alone or on a small team within your organisation. No matter the size of your organisation, you can end up feeling alone with the challenges you face. In these instances, it can be really valuable to reach out to other practitioners and a build a community of support. This could be other CDOs, VPs of diversity, or an EDI champion within your company. Ideally, you’re connecting with them regularly to stave off emotional exhaustion and burnout, but when times get tough, these individuals may be able to be particularly empathetic, or share their experiences of what helped. 

Completely disconnect on occasion 📵

D&I leaders often advocate for better work-life balance. We understand and advocated for the need to disconnect, take a vacation, and have a life outside work. But we can often fall into the trap of working late and checking emails at all hours (especially if the company operates globally) as we seek to move the needle on our work and support others.
So: take your own advice and disconnect - find some time for you and whatever it is that makes you feel grounded.
This article was adapted from a longer blog by Cresendo.