Arrested Development: Debunking the Myth About What Causes Burnout

Available for Interviews: Dr. Pete Loper

Dr. Pete Loper, MD, MSEd, FAAP, is a triple board-certified physician in pediatrics, psychiatry, and child psychiatry. He is also a professor and executive coach and is dedicated to mental health and wellness advocacy.

What Dr. Loper could say on
Human Development & Burnout:

Whether you are getting in arguments with colleagues, taking 3-hour lunch breaks, regularly calling out sick, or quitting your job, burnout manifests as a series of avoidance, withdrawal, and acting out behaviors.  With this in mind, burnout is simply maldevelopment.  If we understand burnout as maldevelopment, then by definition, we can understand that burnout is caused by an insufficiency in one of the 3 core ingredients required for healthy human development.  

Exercise more, do yoga, eat better, practice deep breathing, get more sleep. For years we’ve been told that if we are experiencing the constellation of emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and lack of professional efficacy that defines burnout, it’s a “you” issue and you just need to do more of the above.  It’s true, living a healthy lifestyle is necessary for supporting wellbeing. However, while necessary, lifestyle modification is fundamentally insufficient in preventing or overcoming burnout.  Here’s why:

    • From the time we are born to the time we die, human beings are in a perpetual state of development
    • Healthy human development occurs when approach and exploration behaviors outpace avoidance, withdrawal, or acting out.
    • Unhealthy development, i.e. maldevelopment, occurs when avoidance, withdrawal, or acting out behaviors outpace approach and exploration

There are 3 essential ingredients that are fundamental to supporting healthy human development, i.e. approach and exploration:

    1. Novelty: New stressors, new challenges, and life experiences
    2. Failure, adversity, and distress: It’s new, you’ve never done it before, you are going to fail before you succeed.
    3. Most importantly, meaningful interpersonal interaction with an “experienced other”: Who supports your approach and exploration of novelty? Who provides reassurance during approach and exploration of novelty? Who helps you move past adversity, failure, and distress inherent in engaging with novelty? Mom or dad during childhood? Community (friends, teachers, coaches, mentors) beginning in adolescence? Boss or coworkers in the professional settings?

Has your job become boring or mundane, too easy or devoid of new challenges or experiences? Are you becoming overwhelmed, inundated with new challenges and demands without adequate resources of time or experience to accommodate them? Most importantly, do you feel isolated, alone, forgotten, or at odds with others in your work environment?  These are some of the questions to ask to address the root cause of your burnout.  No amount of deep breathing or yoga will ever accommodate for an absence of these fundamental ingredients in the work environment. You may feel healthy outside of the workspace, but until you address the absence of ingredients essential to promote your professional development, your professional experience will continue to be consistent with burnout.

 

 

Interview: Dr. Pete Loper

Dr. Pete Loper began his undergraduate studies in English at Kenyon College prior to completing his premedical coursework and Bachelor of Arts at the University of South Carolina (U of SC).  He earned his Doctor of Medicine from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, and his Master of Science in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.  Following medical school, Dr. Loper completed a residency in pediatrics. He then worked as a pediatrician in a private practice setting while completing a second residency in psychiatry and a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry.  He has also completed the American Psychoanalytic Association’s Psychoanalytic Fellowship Program and the Teleos Leadership Institute’s Coach Development Program.

Dr. Loper has been featured in numerous academic publications and media outlets and it is through these channels that he can dedicate his time to be an advocate for mental health and wellness.

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