CCR 22 | Burnout

 

We are living in an age of information overload. There are just too many things that are served on our plate that we don’t know what to do anymore. We find ourselves, in the end, burning out. Dr. Joan Borysenko shares her latest book, Fried: Why You Burn Out and How to Revive and goes deep into the three indicators of a burnout – physical depletion, compassion fatigue, and diminished function – as well as the twelve stages of burnout. Dr. Borysenko says if we are honest with ourselves, we know that we can only take so much, so we must learn how to keep ourselves in check. Dr. Borysenko is a Harvard Medical School-trained cancer cell biologist, licensed psychologist, spiritual mentor, teacher, and co-founder of Caritas Institute’s Interspiritual Mentor Training Program and Soul Care.

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Why We Burnout And How To Revive From It with Dr. Joan Borysenko

CCR 22 | Burnout

It’s Not the End of the World: Developing Resilience in Times of Change

I have a special guest with me on the program. It’s Dr. Joan Borysenko, who I’m sure many of you know of. She is a Harvard Medical School trained cancer cell biologist and a licensed psychologist. She’s also a spiritual mentor and Cofounder of Claritas Institute of Interspiritual Mentor Training Program and SoulCare and healthcare training program. A pioneer in the field of psychoneuroimmunology and behavioral medicine, she is also in New York Times bestselling author. The latest of her fifteen books address the tumultuous times we’re living in, one is titled It’s Not the End of The World: Developing Resilience in Times of Change. The book we’re going to talk about is entitled Fried: Why You Burn Out and How to Revive. Her work has appeared in peer-reviewed journals as well as the Huffington Post, Oprah.com and newspapers ranging from the Washington Post to The Wall Street Journal. She is a warm, engaging and humorous teacher as you’ll learn on the show. You can find out more about Dr. Borysenko and view video and read articles on her website at www.JoanBorysenko.com. Welcome to the show, Joan.

Carolyn, what a pleasure to be here. I’ve been looking forward to this.

I love your book and I like the name, Fried. Where did that title come from?

The title came from one of my Facebook friends. When you write a book about a subject that people often suffer from, you want to interview a lot of people about what their experience was. I started to post questions about burnout on my Facebook page. This went on for a whole year. One of my Facebook friends, he’s a cool young man in his 40s. He’s written two books himself. His name is David Jon Peckinpaugh and he made a case for naming the book Fried. We had a vote and Fried won hands down.

The other thing is that you quote a number of what you call FBF, Facebook friends. Have you done that in the past or is that new?

I haven’t. I travel all over the United States giving lectures and workshops for hospitals and civic organizations about mind-body wellness and resilience, spirituality, things of that sort. The cool thing was that I was sitting alone in a hotel room in California and I thought to myself, “I’m feeling a bit burned out myself.” I’m wondering how many other people there are out there. We know that people in healthcare particularly prone to burnout clergy, teachers, there are certain groups. I thought I would see what people’s experience was. I started with posting, “Who feels burned out?” Within an hour, I had 60 to 70 stories.

The Facebook friend comments are helpful as part of the book. The book is about burnout. What is burnout? What is the cause of it? Is it people are doing too much? Why are we burned out?

Part of it is that people can’t manage the information input at this point. What used to be great like, “I’ve got an email,” turns into problems. For example, we’re going to go off for a weekend vacation, but unless I check my emails, I’ll come back to maybe 1,000 of them in three days and then I will feel completely overwhelmed. That’s a problem for people. I spoke to a physician. She at this moment has 4,000 unanswered emails. That’s a problem for people. There’s so much information overload everywhere. We’re in a time of great shift with a lot of economic uncertainty, political uncertainty and that extends far beyond the United States to the world in general. Times when the future is unknown, even if you have a job where it’s not clear to you what your responsibility is and what’s not. If you’ve got, for example, kids and it’s a hard time to raise kids. What’s going on with them? How do you provide security on the internet? Things like that can lead to burnout. Whenever there’s a substantial gap between where you are and how you wish your life would be. You have a potential for a burnout.

Whenever there is a substantial gap between where you are and where you wish to be, you burn out. Click To Tweet

Is there a research or scientific definition of burnout?

The research into burnout started in the early 1970s and it started in the corporate sector. Now, there’s a wonderful psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley and her name is Christina Maslach. She developed a scale, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, which is great to know about. If you know what she’s looking for there are three major areas of burnout. Most of us need to take the test to say, “Does that apply to us?” Let me tell you what the three major indicators of burnout are. The first one is feeling emotionally exhausted and physically depleted. I’ll give you an example. When I find myself flirting with burnout, I’m emotionally exhausted that I feel I can’t stand any more input from anybody. My feelings get intense and overwhelming that I want to avoid feeling anything. I start to go numb. I start to compartmentalize. I start not wanting to go anyplace emotional at all while at the same time being oversensitive. That’s emotional exhaustion. Physical depletion, Carolyn, you know about well. We know both as medical care professionals what that looks like because when you start to get stressed out, that’s when you develop stress-related disorders. It may be that you can’t sleep or your blood pressure’s going up or you develop an irregular heartbeat or you start to get a lot of aches and pains and inflammation. The number of stress-related disorders is large that visits to family practice doctors for those things account for almost three-quarters of a visit.

Burnout is an energy disorder. When we talk about emotional exhaustion and physical depletion, the way that I experience it personally is like somebody pulled my plug out from the wall and there’s nothing left. There’s no juice. That’s the first scale, questions that measure emotional exhaustion and physical depletion. The second aspect of burnout is what Christina Maslach calls depersonalization or dehumanization. What happens is that you lose empathy for other people. In healthcare, we call that compassion fatigue. Here we signed up to help people and we can’t bear the sight of them anymore. We can’t empathize because there’s no room left. We’re exhausted and depleted that we can’t relate to other people. It’s a relational disorder and it’s not just people you work with or people you serve either. I find that for me when I’m getting into that compassion fatigue situation, I simply get judgmental. I’m a nice person. I’m not snarky or judgmental, but that’s how I get. Suddenly, I have a judgment about everything. I’m getting snarky. I have to edit what I’m going to say. The third scale measures diminished function because you’re not exactly in your best, most creative self. Whatever it is, whether you’re an at-home parent or you’re a professional, you’re not doing the job that you’d like to do.

It seems it’s difficult not to get into one of these stages. I’ve been in medicine for 30 years and I’ve had many periods where I’ve fallen into stage one, two or three at some particular point. Not just in my career, but I also think many of us Baby Boomers are taking care of parents. I’m the only doctor in my family. A lot of what happens in the rest of the family gets funneled through to me or people who have special needs children. It seems it’s difficult not to get burned out.

It’s huge. In fact, people who take care of some family members with Alzheimer’s are used often in research studies to see what that looks like. Caregivers of any kind are prone to burning out. The three aspects of that scale, the emotional exhaustion and depletion, the dehumanization and the loss of function all happen at the same time. What other researchers have done is look at more of a stage model to say, “There are twelve stages and the last one looks exactly like serious life-threatening depression.”

CCR 22 | Burnout

Burnout: When you’ve done things to revive yourself, the quality of your work really soars.

 

Maybe you can mention some of the highlights of those twelve stages so people can understand. Do the stages help them to recognize when they’re in burnout?

That’s exactly it because here’s the problem. I was burned out for several years and I went from doctor to doctor trying to find out what was wrong with me. I thought I had chronic fatigue syndrome and my physician didn’t know. She says, “Maybe it is a variant of chronic fatigue.” My thyroid function looked good. Basic health indicators looked good. I went to an acupuncturist who looked at me and said, “There’s no chi, no life force flowing,” and she frightened me so much I never went back. I went to a whole variety of practitioners and nobody knew that they were looking at burnout. My family practice doctor gave me a prescription for Zoloft, which I tried for two weeks. I had such a bad reaction to it. It gave me such restless energy and anxiety and it felt like something awful chemically was going on in me that was the end of that. What I realized is that although the literature on burnout is excellent and it’s been around for many years, most people still cannot recognize it unless they work for big corporations. For example, the employee assistance programs because they’re looking for it in that sector.

The stages of burnout, which were identified back in the early ‘70s by a couple of psychologists. These are useful because they help you make the distinction, “Am I burned out? Am I depressed? Do I need help in some way? How can I help myself so that I don’t go down the slippery slope to what can be a terrible, physical and mental health crash?” That’s the point. If I take a look at these stages, one thing to recognize is nobody has all the stages. It’s not you have every single thing on the list and also they’re not necessarily in order. The stages start with simply working too hard. That happens for people, sometimes distance seasons like tax accountants. For me, I came back on the road from a spring speaking tour and normally I’m not gone that much and I’m not working that many hours. I’m talking about the kind of working that’s happening all the time. For example, I know a man who’s a business consultant and he does a great job, but he’s at the office frequently until 1:00, even 2:00 in the morning. This is not a sustainable way to live when you’re working fourteen, fifteen hours a day. For example, you and your medical training. Physicians are brought up to burnout. It’s such a dehumanizing process to be on call at all hours and work in a way that your body can’t keep up.

When you start to get stressed out, you develop stress-related disorders. Click To Tweet

I know that many of my patients that I worked with who have burnout or stress-related problems. They get into a position where they feel, “I’m the only one who can do what I do,” and physicians are particularly vulnerable to that. Nurses are very high risk for burnout. They get into that mindset where, “I have to do this work. It’s important. I’m saving lives.” You have stage one driven by an ideal.

You’re much more likely to burn out if you feel you’re serving an ideal. I know this makes people scratch their heads because they say, “I was called to this. I knew I was supposed to be a doctor or a nurse or a clergyperson.” Somehow we feel we’re protected because we were idealistic.

Passion fuels burnout in some ways until it’s too late. We’ve talked about driven by an ideal and working like a maniac. Stage three is putting your own needs last. Stage four is miserable and clueless as to why.

Putting your own needs last part is a giveaway. In times when I’ve been burned out, I can’t seem to find the time to go have my teeth cleaned. My hair is way overdue and I have no time to even go have my hair done. My exercise program, which is important to me, tends to go south. I mean to that all day long passes and I never found the hour that I needed to go. I can’t go to the gym to work out because I live in the mountains. It would take me 40 minutes to get to the gym. There are 24 hours in a day and I can’t find even a half an hour to take a walk. That’s a giveaway for me. That’s a big clue that I’m on that slippery slope to burnout. Lack of self-care is a big one.

I see that a lot in mothers who have children, either younger children or even middle school kids where you have to drive them everywhere. They always put themselves last. That’s a good clue. In stage five, you’ve called stage five the death of values. I’d like you to say a little bit about that but I also have a question. You have a list there of ways that you know you’re flatlining. I wanted you to include when you talk about the death of values what is flatlining and how can people know about it.

I’ll give you an example. A friend of mine has written an eBook with this story in it. I can tell you she’s wonderful. Her name is Marilyn Tam and she’s been the CEO of several large companies, Reebok and Aveda. She’s a wonderful woman. She tells the story of her sister calling to make plans for Christmas. She says, “I’m too busy. I can’t do Christmas this year.” That’s what I call the death of values. For example, birthdays have been a big thing for you and you are absolutely busy that you don’t care anymore. You’re not interested in your birthday. You’re not interested in presents. In fact, let’s say somebody sends you a gift in the mail. Instead of being delightful and thrilled that somebody remembered you, your response might be, “I have to open this box. I have to recycle cardboard and then I’m going to have to write a thank you note. All this time to write a thank you note.” That’s what I mean by the death of values. Those things which have been important priorities in your life that have kept you on a track of the balance of being, “My work is important, but many other aspects of my life.” Spending time with friends or showing up for Sunday dinners with family. They go by the wayside. That’s what the death of values is about.

What is flatlining when you talk about that?

For all of us, life is about having rhythms. There are times when you work hard. There are times when you rest. There are times to go on vacation. There are times when you’re in crunch time and all of the energy flows like that is a wave. When you’re flatlining there are no more waves. You’re doing one thing. You’re working all the time. There’s no time for rest. There’s no time for fun. You forget about going on road trips or seeing the friends you would like to see. You’re just working. That’s called flatlining. Flatlining from a medical perspective is like death. You’ve lost cardiac rhythm or you’ve lost brain function. That’s what burnout is. It’s the loss of the rhythm of life. It’s flatlining.

Burnout is the loss of the rhythm of life. Click To Tweet

It also brings to mind that you’ve lost heart too. When you think of losing heart rhythm, you’ve also lost heart in the metaphorical sense when you’re burned out. Stage six you talk about is called frustrated, aggressive and cynical. That’s obvious to me because when I get to that stage, I’m constantly angry all the time and easily agitated. In that stage, you talk about the 80/20 Rule. Could you speak to that or get us started on that?

This is called Pareto’s Law. We get 80% of what is important done in 20% of our time. What you need to do is to prioritize and say, “What are the high impact activities that I need to do that are most important?” You find you can reclaim a lot of the other 80% of your time where you’re not getting that much done anyhow. As soon as you begin to realize that, you can say, “I’m better to spend a lot of that time rejuvenating myself.” The truth is you get much more done when you feel a sense of restfulness inside of yourself when your cup is full when you’ve done things to revive yourself. That’s when the quality of your work soars and you’re not flatlining anymore. The rhythm comes back metaphorically and physically.

I love your metaphor about the Twisted Sister and the Fairy Godmother. Can you say a little bit about that?

First of all, I want to say that the whole idea of Twisted Sister and the Fairy Godmother has to do with the way that women approach the world. That is, we’ve been socialized. Virginia Woolf talked about this. We’ve been socialized to murder ourselves. If there’s a drastic chair, we take it to sit in. If there’s a piece of food that’s less good than the others, we’ll take it. American women are too good to be true. Superwoman does everything. Take the kids everywhere if you’ve got kids or be constantly beautiful and improving yourself. That’s the Fairy Godmother, too good to be true. The Twisted Sister is like an alter ego that comes out when you’ve been good and you’ve done much to serve other people that you start to get resentful. You’re resentful of the same people that you’ve been serving because there’s nothing left of you and you’re starting to burn out. Another way of looking at this is to say, “You’ve got to be on the lookout for Twisted Sister.” She’s the one who is frustrated, who is aggressive, who is cynical that says, “All this good stuff, I believe fully on it. It’s a bunch of junk.” My husband always points out when I’m starting to get that way and the things that mean the most to me suddenly I started to question them. I’d completely run out of patience and I don’t want to do one more thing for one more person. There’s the emergence of a Twisted Sister.

That probably takes you into stage seven, which you say is the emotionally exhausted and disengaged stage.

At that point, you’re so undone you could care less. You lose your motivation. What people don’t recognize about burnout is it’s stressful, but it’s different than stress. It’s a loss of motivation. Suddenly, the things that you were passionate about, they’ve lost their savor. There’s no juice in them anymore and you can feel temporarily burned out or this can be a long-term thing. For example, if I get home after a lot of traveling and I think to myself, “I cannot go near this computer. I cannot stand the thought of doing email, but I’d love the idea of going out in my yard and weeding.” What I do is figure the email, for the most part. I can pick off the things that are most important and the rest of it will have to wait because at this point you don’t do what revives you. You start to go downhill fast from that point. That’s what’s great about these stages. You recognize, “I’m in the danger zone here.” Unless I choose for what fills my well and gives me energy, then I’m going to go into depression and that’s exactly what will happen.

Stress is different from burnout. Also in your book, you talk about that depression is different from burnout. How can someone who’s not sure whether they’re depressed, how can they make a distinction between depression and burnout?

Here’s a major distinction. Somebody who is depressed, if you say, “You’re going to take a month off from work and go on vacation.” Let’s say Oprah has discovered you and is sending you to Tuscany for a month. The person who was burned out will revive instantly when they’re taken out of the situation. A person who is depressed will still be depressed. You can say that burnout is much more situationally-dependent than depression. That’s a major distinction. Otherwise, when they’re going on, they are almost indistinguishable from one another. What that leads to is a huge number of people who get put on antidepressants for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

In burning out, we metaphorically lose our hearts. Click To Tweet

I found it shocking the statistic you quoted in your book that Americans use two-thirds of the world’s supply of antidepressants. That can’t possibly be due to a biochemical problem that only exists in America.

It’s due to the fact that whether you’re talking about drug companies or you’re talking about agribusiness and the way we eat. An awful lot of the lives of Americans are dictated by profits for big business. I feel almost awful. It sounds cynical to say something like that, but it’s the truth. Antidepressants are an enormous money-making machine for drug companies. Everywhere you look, you find published lists of symptoms of depression. In fact, they’re almost exactly the same as symptoms of burnout.

You’re saying that using something like an antidepressant won’t affect your symptoms of burnout?

CCR 22 | Burnout

Burnout: The person who was burnt out will revive instantly when they’re taken out of the situation. A person who is depressed will still be depressed.

 

It’s not going to affect the symptoms of burnout. They’re not caused by the same thing. Furthermore, in order to deal with burnout, you’re not dealing with a biochemical abnormality of any kind. You’re dealing with lifestyle choices. If you start to go and take drugs to make yourself feel better and feel more complacent, what that means is it takes away the motivation to take a look at, “How can I change my life? How can I revive? How can I make a different set of choices that will allow me to do what I love to recover my passion, to maybe discover a new passion?” Instead, drugs can keep you stuck and it doesn’t have to be antidepressants because one of the stages of burnout is that people get tired of feeling bad that they look for ways to make themselves feel better. That’s when suddenly the occasional glass of wine with dinner expands to wine every night. Forget about the one glass of wine, it’s two glasses of wine or half a bottle of wine. Deciding to visit your local marijuana dispensary because you feel bad that you feel it’s a medical thing. I need this.

We certainly have a lot of those here in Colorado. People in burnout can have real physical problems such as chronic pain and chronic pain is often treated with lots and lots of prescription narcotics. That can become a drug of abuse or you may have anxiety related to it or panic attacks and then get into using medications for that when you need to change your lifestyle.

That’s what happened. Frequently, here’s the problem. If you’re going to a family doctor because you’re experiencing fatigue and that’s often the first thing people will say is, “I’m tired, I’m tired all the time.” and that’s unsure. One of the primary complaints that people bring to family practice doctors is fatigue. It’s common and because physicians don’t know it, it’s easy to get stuck taking a lot of different drugs which mask the problem.

When we talk about burnout and its effect on health because we know that stress has a lot of effect on health too. Is there a difference in how stress affects our health versus how burnout does? Is it more badly than stress?

What happens is that burnout is not caused by stress alone, it’s part of it. Once you burn out, it’s an incredibly stressful condition. You get all of the stress-related illnesses. They’re similar from the standpoint of stress-related illnesses. It can cause stomach problems. If you have allergies or autoimmune diseases, it can make those worse. In fact, stress can make almost any chronic disease worse.

People who are most prone to burnout are often those who have done their best to overcome various difficult circumstances. Click To Tweet

I had a guest on, Dr. Esther Sternberg and she works with things in our environment that are healing and also how stress affects health. It was an interesting interview. She told a personal story about having taken care of her mother who was dying of breast cancer. Shortly after her mother died, she went to Greece and was hiking in Greece and developed knee pain. On and on one joint after another was in pain and she herself is a rheumatologist. She was ignoring the problem and thinking, “I need to rest or whatever,” and eventually she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve heard that a lot of people who develop autoimmune diseases that there is a stress-related component for that development of inflammation.

In my book, Fried, I tell the story. When you tell a story in a book, you want to avoid it being anybody’s story in particular. You pick things that you know have happened to different people so that the story is true in theory although not to the life of any one person. In Fried, when I looked at, “What’s the final stage?” Stage twelve, when you’re depressed and your body is in dire straits. It was the story of a woman who had ended up with severe lupus, which is an autoimmune disease. There’s no question that this severe stress over a long time can both initiate and make autoimmune disease much worse. In fact, that tremendous stress also can be a promoter for cancer that’s caused by something else but is aggravated by the tremendous stress. I don’t want to underestimate for people that it’s a major health challenge to be burned out.

It’s not something we should change but it has serious consequences. I’m seeing a lot of teenagers and some smaller children, even five-year-olds, who have diseases that are linked to stress like reflux disease, ulcers, chronic stomach pain, sleep disturbances. What do you know about burnout in children and teens?

The answer is not much. I’m sure you know a great deal more. I’d like to hear from you, Carolyn.

What I see is that many of our children are being forced in the same lifestyles that we take. They’re overscheduled. There’s no downtime because many parents are afraid to let their children out of their sight. There’s no exploration time. Growing up, we had so much different use of our time than our children do now. It’s hurting them. I’m seeing a lot of kids with depression. It may be that some of them are experiencing burnout, but I know in your book you linked some of the problems that we see in adults to childhood trauma. That’s another factor that influences this risk for burnout in children. In my work with eating disorders, we know that people with eating disorders who have a history of abuse or trauma have a hyper reaction to stress. They have an up-regulation of that hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. That’s one of the other links. In your book, you talked about the study that’s being done that links childhood trauma or abuse or being in a home with an alcoholic parent.

Depressed parents or a parent in jail or even a one-parent at home, these are facts. These are what they call Adverse Childhood Experiences and there are nine categories. What happens is if you add up your number of Adverse Childhood Experiences, let’s say you had an alcoholic parent, a depressed parent. You had maybe contact sexual abuse. You had a parent who was emotionally abusive that gives you an ACE score of four because you had four categories. If you look later in life, even 50 years later, what you will find is that your ACE score as a child is a perfect predictor of your health, emotional health and physical health later in life. We all have the idea, “That happened a long time ago. Time heals.” It turns out from good research data that that’s completely false. Time only conceals and people who are most prone to burnout are often people who have done their best to overcome various difficult circumstances. Underneath it all, they have more of a hyperactivity of their stress system of that hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. They’re putting out more of the stress hormones, more of the cortisol.

They have a higher risk of depression for drug and alcohol problems. There were some other medical or health-related problems like heart disease and high blood pressure. If those experiences start in childhood, I’m sure that some of the stress also has an effect on the child. That’s maybe why we’re seeing more children even with things like ADD and ADHD because it affects the brain. Some of the experiences we’re talking about. It’s important to look at what’s happening with our children and to see how we can simplify their lives and not increase the amount of stress that they’re experiencing. I want to make sure that we talk about how do we treat burnout?

The first way that you treat burnout is you’ve got to take time, even a weekend where you unplug, stop everything and face yourself. Start to reflect on what my life is like. My last episode of burnout happened because I had a head-on collision and I ended up with five days in the hospital to reflect on life. It was a forced reflection and I made different choices. I ended up quitting my job at that time and saying, “This is not worth it to me. I cannot live like this because I’m making a living, but I have no life and I’m losing my life.” You don’t always have to quit your job, but it may be that upon reflection you realize you have to live your life very differently. You have to make different choices. You have to figure out what revives you. For me, it’s outdoors. For example, we moved up to a place in the mountains because that gives me energy. I started by saying burnout is a disorder of your energy system. You have to be able to back up and reflect and say, “What drains me of energy? What gives me energy?” and you have to start plugging the drains.

CCR 22 | Burnout

Fried: Why You Burn Out and How to Revive

For example, sometimes you have friends who are not good allies. They’re always creating a pity party for you to join. It doesn’t help or maybe it is that you have an inability to say no to things and you say yes to things that take up all your time. You have to learn not to say yes fast, say maybe. If somebody asks you to do something and you don’t want to do it, don’t. You can give them a little something. Somebody asked me to review a book. I can say, “I can’t review your book, but tell me what it’s about and if I like it, I can mention it in the newsletter.” In other words, you don’t have to give people everything. This is a chance to take a look at yourself as an energy being and say, “What gives me fun? What gives me joy? What are the things I do in service that make my life worse meaning? What are the things that I can eliminate?” I’ll end on that 80%, 20% Pareto’s Law in terms of what you do in this life that gives joy to yourself, that helps others. That it’s a good thing to do. Truthfully, you can do it with 20% of your time.

On the back of your book, you say, “Revival from burnout is all about the recovery of lost authenticity,” and I wanted to end with a quote that our mutual friend, Lee McCormick, who owns the Ranch and is quite an interesting man. He says, “Being authentic is the natural condition of humans. When we are authentic, we express spontaneously with love and joy for life. As young children, we started out connected to nature, to the wholeness of life and felt free to express that connection. As we grew, we began to be programmed in order to fit into society’s beliefs. Some of these beliefs served as well and many created conflict within ourselves. We started self-judging and self-rejecting based on what we were taught and as a result, we lost our authentic selves.” I want to let everyone know that Joan’s book is called Fried: Why You Burn Out and How to Revive. Thanks, Joan, for being on the show.

You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

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About Dr. Joan Borysenko

CCR 22 | Burnout

This distinguished pioneer in integrative medicine is a world-renowned expert in the mind/body connection. Her work has been foundational in an international health-care revolution that recognizes the role of meaning, and the spiritual dimensions of life, as an integral part of health and healing. Eloquent and inspiring in settings that range from hospitals to hospices, from theaters to conference venues, and from boardrooms to houses of worship, she is a credible bridge between faith and reason. Her brilliance, humor, and authenticity—in combination with the latest research—make her a compelling and inspiring speaker and writer.

After graduating magna cum laude from Bryn Mawr College in 1967, Dr. Borysenko earned her doctorate in Medical Sciences from the Harvard Medical School, where she completed post-doctoral training in cancer cell biology. Her first faculty position was at the Tufts University College of Medicine in Boston. But after the death of her father from cancer, she became more interested in the person with the illness than in the disease itself, and returned to Harvard Medical School to complete a second postdoctoral fellowship, this time in the new field of behavioral medicine. Under the tutelage of Herbert Benson, M.D., who first identified the relaxation response and brought meditation into medicine, she was awarded a Medical Foundation Fellowship and completed her third post-doctoral fellowship in psychoneuroimmunology.

In the early 1980’s Dr. Borysenko co-founded a Mind/Body clinic with Dr. Benson and Dr. Ilan Kutz, became licensed as a psychologist, and was appointed instructor in medicine at the Harvard Medical School. Her years of clinical experience and research culminated in the 1987 publication of the New York Times best seller, Minding the Body, Mending the Mind, which sold over 400,000 copies. The 20th anniversary edition, newly revised, was published in 2007. Author or co-author of 16 other books and numerous audio and video programs, including the Public Television special Inner Peace for Busy People, she is the Founding Partner of Mind/Body Health Sciences, LLC located in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Dr. Borysenko’s warmth and credibility- plus her lively sense of humor- create a compelling presence. One of the most frequent comments from people at her programs is that her teaching is a transmission- a living experience- that transforms their life. One of the most popular and sought after speakers in the field of health, healing, and spirituality, Joan’s engaging and well researched presentations are perfect both for professionals and for the general public.