I think it’s fair to say we’ve all experienced burnout in some form or another. Burnout from university study, from work, or for a lot of students, both. Anxiety appears to be at an all-time high, anxiety about the future, as well as the present, and everyone is feeling the pressure to be doing more. I know I have experienced burnout while studying, with multiple deadlines to work on, as well as extra work and internships to focus on, all because of the demands put on us by future employers who expect so much from us. It can be hard to talk about burnout the same way we talk about anxiety or mental health in general as its symptoms aren’t always clear. There is a stigma around raising issues about being overworked or overstressed, as there’s a societal assumption that everyone is dealing with the same thing so it’s not right to complain about the problems you’re having.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Amy Collard, about her work, studies, and her class “Burnout and Nature Connection in a Changing Climate with Amy“. Amy is a counsellor at non-profit organisation, which works with people from refugee backgrounds who have experienced traumatic events in their country of origin or while fleeing those countries. Amy is also studying a master’s in family therapy, which focuses on the “systemic way of doing therapy, understanding that things aren’t just an individual thing inside them”, as she describes. During her honours thesis working with the wellbeing of children, Amy decided she really wanted to help the people she was interviewing, not just talking to them about their stories and traumas. Amy enjoys what she does helping people, telling me that “It’s been so rewarding to work in this area, and how much learning my clients have given me, getting a sense of the world, it’s such a rich type of work to do.”
Have you noticed a shift at all in how people talk about mental health?
Amy: My work has always been quite holistic in how we talk about mental health. We don’t tend to use standardised tests, as the populations haven’t always fit the standardised tests, in terms of DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), which has a real individualist, scientific approach that tries to categorise people, which is not really how our approach is in my workplace. There’s always a lot more going on than just what the symptoms are with a person, in the context of their experience, and their traumas. Trying to take an individual lens doesn’t really work entirely, or it can perpetuate an idea of a problem being an individuals problem, rather than actually taking away the stigma, and normalise that ‘of course you’re having these symptoms, you’ve just gone through a really horrible experiences in war and unimaginable traumas’.
How has your class changed since first teaching it in July?
Amy: I’m hoping it’s a bit more consolidated, having people come away with a feeling of a strong message. I’ve taken my experiences with burnout at work, and my understanding with somatic training I did a couple of years ago called sensorimotor psychotherapy, and how you need to be mindful and understand your body if you’re going through burnout, so I’m bringing some of that trauma-based understanding to the class, as well as embracing nature as a restorative thing.
Have you noticed burnout more in work and university areas, being in both areas now with working full time and studying your masters?
Amy: The reason I did the Laneway Learning class came out from my experience last year having a bit of burnout myself, and I think there might be a slight distinction between that experience with burnout and there was probably a bit of vicarious trauma, from my clients. It was also the stress of work that burnout people will experience across that board. I don’t think it’s in one place or the other though, I think the message I’m trying to convey in the class is that it’s not an individual’s fault that you get to that point, that actually it’s the demands put on us by society. Work puts pressure on you but work is driven by a need for capitalist gain, so you’ve got a pressure coming from the top down, no matter what context you’re in. Society demands that we’re at capacity all the time so of course, we’re gonna reach a feeling of burnout at some point.
Have you noticed this burnout more in the last couple of years, or has this always been here?
Amy: I think society is getting more anxious in general, more and more is expected of people. I think society is getting at capacity itself in away. There is a need I think, for you as an individual to be self-aware and to understand what’s happening to yourself, and to push back and have space to have some restoration time for me. But it’s also about understanding the context of the demands. It would be nice if we could all actually have that time without it being against what is expected of us.
It was really insightful chatting with Amy about her work and the class on burnout. It’s relieving hearing that others are dealing with something similar to you, as well as being able to put your own anxieties and stresses into perspective with the trauma the refugees Amy is working with at her organisation. It’s clear Amy is an incredibly giving person who wants to support as many people as possible, and is a great person to learn from about how work and societal pressures impact our mental health, which is something I will continue to be mindful of in my own life, and the anxieties I have about what is expected of me by others. Burnout is a serious, growing issue in our society that I’m glad is being addressed by people like Amy in these classes, and how important it is to find time to relax and unplug from a world that can feel overbearing at times.
Darcy Read is a final year Media student at RMIT. He is currently working on multiple short films, working in both sound design and music, two areas he loves and hopes to venture into after graduating. Darcy is a massive film and music buff, who loves nothing more than sharing his discoveries in both fields with others.
This article was written and produced as part of the CREATE Media Arts Internship Program.
Laneway Learning has partnered with The Mentorship to deliver this exciting new program to support young people aspiring to work within the creative media and arts sectors.