Are Wellbeing Practitioners Burning Themselves Out?

While it is often said that doctors make the worst patients, might it also be true that wellbeing practitioners – those of us who research and teach others how to improve their wellbeing – are the people least likely to be taking care of themselves? 

Recently, I asked one of the world’s leading wellbeing researchers how he was doing and was told, “I’m so busy researching wellbeing, I don’t have time to look after myself.” He’s not alone. When the Positive Psychology Playground surveyed its 1,500 wellbeing practitioners recently, more than 50% of those who responded reported that they don’t spend as much time as they would like on looking after themselves.

Citing struggles that are common to many of us, regardless of our profession:

  • 34% reported that they were busy and struggling to find the time to prioritize their wellbeing.
  • 33% reported that they were always attending to others’ needs and struggling to find the energy to attend their own.
  • 14% reported that they were struggling with bad habits.

Does this mean that all the additional knowledge and tools a wellbeing practitioner has to draw upon, don’t really make any difference?

When asked if there was one thing that would help them look after their wellbeing more:

  • 40% said creating a daily wellbeing habit.
  • 33% said having a wellbeing buddy to keep them accountable.
  • 12% said having a coach to work with them.
  • 12% said better utilizing their time.
  • 2% said more resources and training.

Like many of us, it appears that the challenge isn’t knowing what to do to improve our wellbeing – we realize we should be eating well, moving regularly, and getting enough sleep – but in finding ways to sustain these practices in busy, demanding lives.

Of course, wellbeing practitioners aren’t the only healthcare professionals who struggle to maintain their wellbeing. The American Medical Association estimates that almost 50 percent of physicians experience symptoms of serious job burnout, and that burnout is also common in the nursing profession.

The truth is that The Wellbeing Lab Workplace Report found that our wellbeing is comprised of both struggle and thriving. Based on data gathered from more than 1,000 people, representative of the Australian workforce, the report discovered that there are no statistically significant differences when it comes to people’s levels of engagement, job performance, or job satisfaction between people who are “consistently thriving” and those who are “living well, despite struggles.”

The willingness of wellbeing practitioners to step forward and admit that, at times, they struggle to look after their wellbeing and need better habits, and the support of wellbeing buddies and coaches, is exactly what we need in workplaces. By removing any sense of shame or stigma, and normalizing struggle as part of how we learn and grow, we make it more likely that people will reach out for help and take action.

So, if you’re a wellbeing practitioner – or in any other profession – and you’ve been struggling lately to look after your wellbeing, try sharing your struggles with others and you might find a wellbeing buddy who can help you. Or join the Positive Psychology Playground for our free one-week Wellbeing Challenge to learn how you can create small, effective, daily wellbeing habits.