Retired Lamb County District Attorney and author Mark Yarbrough knows a little something about burnout — having been through it himself after his 16-year-old daughter died in a car crash in 2004, while starting his fourth term as a DA in what most people would consider a stressful job environment.
During the sixth annual Anderson County Victim/Survivor Tribute Dinner Friday at Ben E. Keith Community Room, Yarbrough used humor to give a motivational talk on how he made it through burnout, using the F.I.N.G.E.R. philosophy that helped him through it personally.
Yarbrough wrote the book “Suffer from BURNOUT? Give ’em the F.I.N.G.E.R.!” after getting an epiphany in the middle of the night about his F.I.N.G.E.R. philosophy.
“No matter if you are old or young, black or white, male or female, burnout can affect anyone,” said Yarbrough, who retired 3 1/2 months ago. “When I got the epiphany, it was like a calling for me.
“I never wrote anything before, but I felt like God was speaking to me to share this with other people who were having similar experiences,” he continued. “Usually books like this are written by mental health professionals from a diagnostic standpoint, but in this book, I am a person who has actually suffered through this debilitating ailment and made it through it.”
Just a few days after Christmas 2004, his teenage daughter Ashley was traveling to a morning basketball tournament when she rolled her car, dying instantly.
“As you can imagine, this changed my life forever. My life will never be the same,” Yarbrough said. “The closer and closer I got to Ashley’s car that day, I started running toward her. It’s been eight years and I still remember it clearly. I’m there, I feel it in my heart, feel it in my feet. I will have that memory for the rest of my life.”
As with many crime victims, Yarbrough said that life-changing event, mixed with the stress of already-stressful job, led him to burnout — emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.
Some of the symptoms of burnout, according to Yarbrough, include: Being mad all of the time; tired all of the time; lack of motivation about work or home; feeling worn out; feeling like most of your day is spent on mind-numbingly dull activities; feeling like no one cares what you are doing at work or the job you do; trying to stay away from people; taking longer to get things done; coping with food, alcohol or drugs; taking things out on others; getting in a habit of coming in late or skipping.
“The F.I.N.G.E.R. philosophy saved me,” Yarbrough said.
Here is a list of what the F.I.N.G.E.R. philosophy stands for:
• F (Fun) — Yarbrough suggested that you find ways to laugh at work with your co-workers, watch YouTube videos, read things that make you laugh and basically find the humor in life and never forget to laugh at yourself along the way.
“You have to be able to have fun,” Yarbrough said.
• I (Important) — Always remember what is important in life: Faith, family and friends.
Yarbrough told a story about his son, Alex, giving a speech where he referred to juggling four balls at the same time — with each ball representing something different. The first three balls — all made out of glass — represent faith, family and friends. The fourth ball, made out of rubber, represents your job or work.
“The fourth ball made out of rubber is not the important ball,” Yarbrough said. “You can bounce back, get a different job, do whatever you need to, but it’s not breakable. The other balls are breakable because they are made out of glass. Remember what is important in life. I know that without faith, I would have never made it through this.”
• N (Notes) — Keep notes that people have given you to look back upon when you are feeling down.
“Notes help you remember that you made a difference in someone’s life,” Yarbrough said.
If you have lost a loved one, notes from that person can mean so much, Yarbrough said, noting his daughter’s notes to him over the years have become treasured possessions.
• G (Giving Back) — Give back to your community or world. Yarbrough participated in mission trips, for example. Helping third-world children made him realize what was important in life.
• E (Escape) — Find your “happy” place, whether it’s a trip out of town or just watching a movie, find time for yourself to relax.
“Escaping helps you re-energize, brings you back,” Yarbrough said.
• R (Remember) — Never forget how good you have it and how it can always be worse.
“The average median income worldwide is $7,000. Put that in perspective about how good we have it,” Yarbrough said, joking that there are always worse jobs — such as a deodorant tester or the person who stands behind the elephant to catch its waste material at the circus.
Anderson County holds its annual victim/survivor tribute dinner each year during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, a week when communities throughout the country hold annual observances to promote victims’ rights and honor crime victims, their families and those who advocate on their behalf.
Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe opened the program Friday by discussing how the recent murders of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, and Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse have affected him personally.
“It struck home. I felt more like a victim and can really relate to what a crime victim goes through after a violent crime,” Lowe said. “They were brutally murdered for what they do in their jobs as prosecutors. It’s been a real eye opener for me.”
Anderson County Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Clark empowered all crime victims to remember that they are actually survivors.
“You made it. You are still here and still standing,” Clark said. “We want to empower you and encourage you. Even after your case has been resolved, the Anderson County District Attorney’s office has not forgotten you. We want you know that our office still cares.”
Evidence of that was shown in the video tribute of crime victims’ families that plays every year at the annual dinner.
“We look forward to seeing everyone each year. We went through some tough times together so it’s like a reunion. We stay in touch no matter where they are, but sometimes we only see them once a year,” Anderson County Crime Victims Coordinator Cheryl Williams said. “It doesn’t end when the case is over. This is our way of showing them that they are not forgotten, to honor them and their courage to get through what they had to get through and try to move forward.”
This year’s meal was provided and served by the Palestine High School culinary art students, led by instructor Jan Roberson.
Frankston High School art students, led by teacher Barbara Bolestridge, furnished the art project for the evening.
Chris Hobbs and Dennis Hobbs provided music for the evening.
Link to Mark Yarbrough’s book “Suffer from BURNOUT? Give ’em the F.I.N.G.E.R.!”