Burnout is an increasing topic covered on podcasts, in books, and in the media. It is no mystery why. According to a 2022 study by the American Psychological Association, stress and burnout are at an all-time high.
While many factors contribute to the exhaustion, overwhelm, and illness that accompany burnout, this article won’t address the why. Instead, I sat down with Public Health Professional Adrienne Banks of Sunset Moth Wellness. Adrienne has developed a unique, cohesive, and whole-being approach to facing burnout.
Banks defines burnout as “a physiological consequence of one’s socioeconomic, social-emotional, psychological, and/or physical basic needs not being met. It can manifest as a reduced ability to think critically and with compassion. Inability to easily perform activities of daily living, or-respond intentionally to a situation or interaction.”
She implements her program with clients to help them deconstruct burnout and creatively reconstruct a life they can sustainably live. According to her, a key component to addressing burnout is identifying our core values and actively living them out.
What are Core Values?
According to Adrienne, a core value is “a value that guides personal behavior in a way that inspires someone to be the healthiest version of themselves.” As individuals and family / community members, we have different needs, goals, and desires for our lives. Banks first empowers clients to determine what healthy means and looks like for them, before diving into core value work.
The goal of living from core values is to build a life that feels like thriving, not simply surviving.
Why Core Values?
We cannot be everything to everyone all the time. Yet the roles each of us play in this life – individual, partner, worker, family member, society member — intersect in many ways.
Working from home and living in a world with increasing societal and health stressors can further blur the lines between our individual priorities, needs, wants, responsibilities and how we can possibly find rest amidst it all.
Adrienne posits that a tangible way to address and heal from the burnout many of us feel is establishing our core values. With these values defined, we can make wholehearted, full-bodied yeses and no’s that support the life we want to live.
What Are Fear Values?
Identifying fear values is another component of Adrienne’s program to address burnout. “One of the easiest traps to fall into is choosing values to live our life by that are based on our fears,” shares Banks.
She defines fear values as “guiding principles that help us survive, but not thrive. Fear values are not based authentically on how we want to live our lives.”
Our Wise Teacher
In our conversation, I asked Adrienne if naming fears is where she begins with clients, since they are what many of us make our choices from. To which she said, “I start with the body.”
Knowing ourselves, being in touch with our wants, and intuition are necessary for establishing core values. However for varying reasons, many people become disconnected from the knowledge of their body.
“Embodiment is important before progressing to core values,” Adrienne shared. “This involves getting in touch with physical and emotional sensations and building a relationship with your intuition.”
“Our bodies’ responses are survival responses.” Living from our core values involves taking risks. “A risk feels scary, no matter what. But when people aren’t in touch with their being, avoiding risk is a survival response.”
Sometimes that is the right response to keep us safe. But for some, avoiding risk means also avoiding what they truly want in this life.
Crossing the Threshold
With embodiment work underway, clients begin to understand what feels safe in their body. Adrienne then works with clients to identify what their core values are. These two components work together to assist clients in understanding what risks their body wants to take and what opportunities to say no to.
As part of this process, Banks gives clients a chart with example core values. Through tuning into their bodies’ responses to the values listed, they begin to pick out ones that ring true.
Examples of core value words used are – loyalty, accountability, courageousness, practicality, soulfulness, humility, and kindness.
Each of these words have different meanings to different individuals. For this reason, Adrienne reminds clients throughout the process that they can redefine, subtract, or add onto words and values, so that they are true to them.
Burnout varies based on individual needs, wants, identities, experiences, nuanced preferences, and tolerances. Therefore the core values a person chooses to live out and have guide their lives can vary just as much.
What Adrienne strives to do once client’s know their core values, is teach them how to apply them to make decisions. Adrienne explains, “We talk a lot about core values in this culture, but we don’t commonly define the words or think through real-world applications of them. The concepts usually stay esoteric, but I help clients actually practice living by them. I myself practice what I preach.”
The empowerment an individual can feel once grounded and living from what they know to be their truth is palpable. “I have watched my clients be less afraid of their own emotions. I’ve watched them be braver. I have seen them apply for new jobs, go on dates again, or finally retire,” Adrienne shared.
Knowing ourselves is where the work begins. Yet for many, this understandably feels like a daunting task. Programs like Adrienne’s, self-compassion, and curiosity applied in a therapeutic setting can provide safety and structure.
A Wide Lens
It is important to address the ways society at large impacts individual and collective burnout. ”Without societal changes, we are not going to prevent burnout. A large majority of the reason burnout happens is because of an inequitable distribution of resources and deeply entrenched ‘power over’ structures that play out in this culture,” shares Banks.
However, we believe individual healing creates a ripple effect to others’ lives. Self-care becomes community care. Establishing, prioritizing, and living from our core values is one way that we can co-create a culture that supports sustainable lives and well-being.
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Curious about burnout care and identifying core values? Contact Adrienne at email@example.com. Want to work with a clinician who can create a safe container for self discovery? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more. In addition, you can find a wealth of free resources for support via the Resilient Brain Project.
Adrienne Banks is the founder and service provider for the wellness practice, Sunset Moth Wellness. She is a health educator, holistic health practitioner, and public health professional. Her passion, and area of expertise, is in burnout recovery and prevention.
Mary Grace Comber is the Client Specialist at The Viva Center. She supports our clients and clinicians through administrative and intake processes. She also organizes our Holistic Professionals Group and social media presence.