Moving from Surviving to Thriving: Effective Practices for Addressing Self-Care and Burnout


Brief Abstract

Burned out? Just practice self-care! Except it’s not that easy, is it? In this interactive workshop, we’ll skip right past the hype and look deep under the hood at what causes burn out. We’ll help you to identify what self-care actually means for you, discuss how to influence your own mental models with story, and explore ways to practice self-care holistically rather than individually. 


J. Garvey Pyke, Ed.D., is the Executive Director of the the Center for Teaching at UNC Charlotte. As part of the leadership team for the School of Professional Studies, his work involves fueling the enrollment growth at the university through online course development, creating high impact student success programs using personalized and adaptive learning, promoting faculty success and scholarly teaching through innovative faculty development programs, and overseeing the provision and support of enterprise academic technologies. Garvey is also an alumnus of OLC's IELOL program (2010) and has remained an active member of this professional community of practice and served as co-director of IELOL 2018 and as a faculty member of IELOL from 2019 - 2022. He has served on various conference committees for OLC Accelerate and has served on the Steering Committee for OLC Innovate.
Lynn leads the Course Production Team in UNC Charlotte's Center for Teaching and Learning in the School of Professional studies in their work with faculty in the redesign and development of blended and online courses, the development and implementation of media and interactive learning objects, and quality assurance efforts and initiatives. Lynn is passionate about creating successful faculty and student learning experiences in online and blended learning and growing as a leader. Lynn received her M.Ed. in Instructional Technology from Idaho State University and M.A. and B.A. in English Literature from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. With over 15 years of experience in higher education, Lynn is a two time OLC Best in Track award winner, frequent volunteer with OLC Accelerate, Innovate, and IELOL, a thought leader in instructional design, and is a graduate of the Online Learning Consortium's Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning.

Extended Abstract

Since the start of the pandemic, we have been living a “new normal”. Except, the definition of the word “normal” is “conforming to a standard, usual, typical, or expected”. Nothing about the past two years has been typical, usual, or expected. When events begin to settle into what might be defined as normal, another COVID variant appears, inflation increases, jobs gained during the pandemic are lost, a coworker leaves for another job, work from home flexibility is clawed back. There is no “normal” right now. 

This turmoil can cause immense stress and uncertainty, both of which are only added to the typical “normal” stressors that most professionals encounter in their jobs every day. The result? For the past two years, many of us have been surviving, but we haven’t necessarily been thriving.

So how do we move from surviving to thriving in this new, uncertain world? How do we manage burnout in our professional settings, lives, and homes, and learn to truly take care of ourselves in healthy ways? How do we develop a shared language to speak to our teammates and our bosses about how we feel and what we need to be healthy? 

The greatest power for our own happiness that we possess as human beings is the ability to change ourselves. Our brain’s capacity to tell stories, hear them, and believe them to change our perception of situations is remarkable. But it does take some work. Burnout obviously comes from many external sources, in addition to the internal sources that we are susceptible to because of our own working styles and preferences. That makes the “self” a great place to start addressing burnout. Once we’ve addressed the “self” we can then address “others” and how we communicate and ask for help.

In order to start this work, we will define burnout both collectively and individually. We’ll start the discussion in the science and end with the reality inside our own heads. We’ll work to name the emotions that accompany burnout, because naming something gives us power over it. And then we’ll craft a few stories about ourselves and burnout and see what happens when we change the scenery, change the characters, flip the script. 

Once we’ve identified what burnout looks like individually, we’ll work to identify the “self” in “self-care” through values exercises, a hierarchy of needs activity, and storytelling exercises. We’ll also discuss why typical recommended self-care strategies might not be working to ease burnout and how to fix that.

Self-care as it has been hyped in the media is about the self…but only focusing on the self can create an imbalance that can make burnout worse. Sometimes, by caring for yourself, you end up feeling (or even being) selfish, another negative emotion that creates a feedback loop that leads right back to burnout.

Consider an analogy for why self-care needs to be about more than the self. If we are a car, why do we change the oil?  It’s not for the sake of having clean, new oil. Oil isn’t something we see (if everything is working as it should). Do we change the oil to make our car last longer?  To protect the engine?  To save on gas? Yes, probably, but we do not do it for individual reasons, we do it for all of those reasons. In other words, the care is not an end in itself but for a greater purpose. Self-care has a purpose: to be the best version of ourselves in each of the contexts in which we operate: our best self, best mom, best dad, best partner, best teammate, best manager, best contributor. Taking care of ourselves isn’t necessarily just for us, it is for all of the facets of ourselves and our relationships. It is to be able to serve our higher goals - and the organizations we work for benefit from this. 

So, to really work, self-care strategies should be holistic, viewed as ever expanding concentric efforts containing the self (you), your family, your team, your organization. With this in mind, we’ll explore the importance of community, how to leverage work relationships, conversations, and interactions to ease burnout, and how to find meaning in your work. 

This workshop will be hands-on, interactive, and designed for rich discussion and shared understandings around the problems of burnout, stress, and self-care. 

By the end of the workshop, participants will be able to: 

  • Define what burnout is for them personally
  • Identify the emotions that accompany burnout and work stressors
  • Begin the process of crafting mental models and stories to help manage work stress
  • Identify values that contribute to burnout and ease it
  • Identify and discuss strategies to address burnout as a “whole person”
  • Explore ways of discussing burnout with supervisors and teammates 
  • Discuss ways of making the work we do more meaningful and fulfilling

Participants can expect interactive polling, collaborative document creation and collaboration, a few small games, and handouts and fillable worksheets, as well as the chance to build a network of like minded professionals from the session through rich conversation and sharing of experiences.