Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=226851
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Kasia Wereszczynska, left, and Dr. Michele Kerulis at Marcello's restaurant in Lincoln Park Monday. Kerulis led a women's workshop for Wereszczynska's In Her Shoes Foundation.


Banishing burnout: Lessons from a women's workshop

by Natalie Pacini
Jan 22, 2014


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Natalie Pacini/MEDILL

Women reflect on personal wellness during the workshop Monday night.

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The multiple roles of worker, caretaker, friend, mother, daughter, sister and wife can wear a woman out.

“The more we sacrifice and give up of ourselves, the higher the likelihood of burnout,” said Dr. Michele Kerulis, president of the Illinois Counseling Association, who led a women’s wellness workshop Monday evening.

“Have you ever had one of those days where everything just drives you crazy?” she asked the crowd. That can be a symptom of burnout.

According to Kerulis, the signs of burnout can be both physical and psychological and include exhaustion, headaches, anxiety, irritability and decreased confidence.

But there is hope: Kerulis outlined steps you can take to eliminate burnout and achieve wellness.

First, you must take the time to reflect on your current level of wellness.

Kerulis recommends five basic ingredients: work-life balance, physical health, psychological calm, spiritual awareness and social connectedness.

A proper work-life balance involves time committed to work, family and social activities, she said.

Exercise and wholesome nutrition are key to achieving physical health, as well as more basic components such as a healthy sleep cycle and strong immune system.

Psychological calm comprises aspects such as emotional awareness, coping skills, personality and confidence.

Spiritual awareness, Kerulis explained, can be anything that gives us a purpose in life and “consciousness for the greater good”, whether it be anything from religion to nature.

Lastly, social connectedness includes not just interpersonal relationships but also a feeling of safety and comfort as well as openness to others.

After this personal inventory, you must identify areas that are lacking and consider small steps you can take to fulfill them, such as finding time to fit in a workout or calling a friend to catch up.

“Wellness is a recipe for individual peace. . . The amount of each ingredient will be determined by individuals and can change depending on life circumstances,” Kerulis said.

And keep in mind that even small changes are changes.

“Give yourself a window for your goals,” Kerulis instructed. An example she gave was that it is much more reasonable to set a goal of going to the gym one to three times per week rather than a set three. In this case, making it just once can still be a source of pride for achieving the goal, but it also begs for a couple more trips to the gym if possible.

“It’s something we could all use and benefit from,” said attendee Debbie Martinez, 52, of Berwyn, who works in human resources for an insurance company.

The workshop, held at Marcello’s restaurant in Lincoln Park, was organized by the In Her Shoes Foundation, which hosts monthly workshops for women.

“We chose Dr. Michele Kerulis as our guest speaker. . . because we felt that it was a good way to start the year off," said In Her Shoes founder Kasia Wereszczynska.

She applauded Kerulis' program for getting attendees "really inspired and setting some goals and revisiting where we are in our lives currently.”