Friends Don’t Let Friends Burn Out….Don’t Just Stand There, Do Something!

Silhouette of helping hand between two climberYes. Friends Don’t Let Friends Burn Out….Anymore than Friends Let Friends Drive Drunk.

How did that slogan get viral so fast….even before twitter and Facebook?

Somehow, those courageous and determined women of MADD hit a nerve; everyone knew it was true. Everyone of us knew how we did indeed allow friends of ours to endanger themselves and countless others – leaving a social gathering – if not drunk, then not in the kind of condition we’d entrust them to make good judgments. If we seriously thought about it, every wedding reception would include a chartered bus ride home. But somehow, that hasn’t become customary yet.

And, in every town and city, there’s the one tragic story that just tears everybody apart. A life wasted. Lives terribly impacted. A child without a father. A young man without his life partner. Someone bound to a wheelchair for the rest of their life.

So now, however we honor it or not by our own behavior, we generally agree that letting friends drive drunk is a pretty bad idea. Enabling that kind of reckless endangerment is not something we consciously want to do.

So, let me offer a quick pivot from drunk drivers to another group of people who are also at risk – to themselves and to those they care about. (No, I’m not talking about impaired airline pilots or politicians with sexual addictions – though they also deserve some kind of compassion and help.)

It’s family caregivers – those 66 million people in the US and countless more worldwide. Right now we are all either one of these caregivers or we know several people who are. For our parents, children, siblings, life partners, friends, fellow congregation or spiritual community members, etc.

The statistics of the impacts of caregiving on caregiver well being, relationships, career, finances are frightening. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, “A conservative estimate reports that 20% of family caregivers suffer from depression, twice the rate of the general population. Of clients of California’s Caregiver Resource Centers, nearly 60% show clinical signs of depression.”

To one degree or another, every caregiver is at risk of burning out, especially those who believe that they have to do it alone. Think about the predominant role model that caregivers have: dedicated, self sacrificing, denying their own needs in the process. They are admired for acting that way. The problem with that approach is that it simply doesn’t work. It’s not sustainable. It’s the road to burnout.

There’s a paradox here. Caregivers who are stressed out and on overwhelm are often not receptive to even the kindest offers of help. They’re just too wound up to receive it.

So, I offer this Call to Arms….Friends Against Caregiver Burnout (FACG – not so sexy a name – please save us with a better name!). Our “arms” are not raised in anger; rather they are reaching out to help those caregivers, in turn, reach out and let the love flow towards them.

• No caregiver on their way towards burnout is unknown to the people around them.

• Every such caregiver has some ongoing contact with other people who care about them.

• Friends can make a difference

• Friends MUST make the difference.

I’m calling you forth to:

• Recognize caregivers who need help

• Step in and connect with them.

• Help them to recognize they need help and to assess the help they need.

• Help them to create a way to get that help.

• Be willing to make mistakes

• Continually forgive yourself and them for things that come up along the way

It’s not easy to do this. You may be afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing. Or of becoming the target of your friend’s pent-up anger. Or of getting more involved than you can afford to. Or simply don’t know what to do.

I’ll be offering some tips on how to get past some of these concerns on my blog ( You may also want to bring them a copy of Coaching for Caregivers, and sit by their side, leaf through it together, and see what might resonate for them.

Inspired by my gurus, Nike and Smokey the Bear, I simply say, “Just Do It!. The Life You Save May Be Someone You Truly Care About.”

Can Words Harm You? Dodging the bullets of everyday language.

Disaster is a time bomb of explosive stressticking……time….bomb!


My wife heard this as a death sentence. She was so distressed she initially got furious at me for suggesting that we get a second opinion.   As I write this I can’t get over how crazy the language of this encounter was.  When someone discovers a time bomb, they don’t ordinarily seek out a second opinion!!  They call the bomb squad and get away as fast as they can!


We rocked back and forth on our heels for a few moments, gained our balance and lovingly acknowledged to each other that we both had a sense and a hope that there was more to the story, other possibilities than this one, which had death written all over it.  And, indeed there was. Faulty reading of the sonagram. No tumor, no cancer, no cause for concern. Phew!!!!  Yes, we dodged the bullet!  It missed us!


OK, enough drama. Now back to language.


Nowadays, the most common unconscious language I hear is when people say their back is“killing them” or refer to their “bad back.” What’s going on here?  Is this a way of scolding your back for being in distress?  Does your experience tell you that if you scold it enough it will shape up? Believe it or not, I hear this all the time from friends who are, otherwise, very conscious of how they live and create the reality of their lives. Somehow, our backs are exempted from this higher awareness.


This is a good moment to check out your own way of doing this. Focus on an area of your body where you recently felt pain or simply discomfort. At that moment, how would you have described what was happening?  Think of another one and do the same. And, maybe a third.  Reviewing these reflections, what was the language you used? What attitude and relationship did it reflect about how you connected with that part of your body?


When I have back pain (which happens every so often) and when I’m conscious (which also happens every so often), I’d say that my back was in distress, needs some TLC or I describe what I need to do (e.g. exercise, bodywork) to relieve it.


“Cancer…A Word, Not A Sentence,” was the title of a video made by Bernie Siegel and another friend of mine, Joy Hausman-Hopkins, reflecting the double-edged power of words to heal or harm.


I just had an aha! while writing this. I was about to say that words are like visualizations, and then realized that they are not just LIKE them, words ARE visualizations. So, my friends, watch your language. And do more than that:  use it to broadcast your aliveness, hopefulness, gratitude, intention, love, wholeness and full-heartedness.


And let me hear from you  at­­­­­­: (hay house &/or about how words work for your healing and well being, what you’re learning, what your challenges are, and where you want this conversation should go.