I think most of us know what stress and exhaustion feel like from either work or home (or both!), but when does this cross over into burnout, and what to do about it?

Burnout has three primary characteristic signs:

  • Physical and emotional exhaustion;
  • Cynicism about work resulting in doing only what is needed at work: dissociation and depersonalization of patients and clients;
  • Perceived reduced professional ability: What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this?

Yikes! You feel all three of these! So what causes burnout?

  1. A heavy workload;
  2. Little control;
  3. Juggling too many balls at once;
  4. Lack of support;
  5. Workplace culture;
  6. Lack of job clarity;
  7. Personality traits like perfectionism and pessimism can also contribute;
  8. Interestingly, burnout is more common in those that feel their work is their calling.

Ok, so you have all the signs of burnout. You understand the causes, and some of them reflect your situation, so now what? The good news is that this is reversible!

  1. Acknowledge what you are feeling and perhaps discuss this with a colleague, a family member, or friend;
  2. Gain control where you can: as a physician, perhaps hire a scribe, for example;
  3. Take frequent breaks- go outdoors regularly; nature is incredibly therapeutic (see Forest Therapy);
  4. Check-in with yourself throughout the day- may be some specific tasks or meetings exacerbate the problem? Knowledge is power here;
  5. Eat well, exercise, and get some rest. Try to do these things on repeat, not just an infrequent visit to the gym or week off occasionally;
  6. Modify your work schedule so that there is more time for your personal life;
  7. Think about your values and assess if you are living a life that reflects those (a coach can help you realign with what is important to you);
  8. Talk to a wellness coach to help develop strategies to improve self-compassion, engagement, fulfillment, and resilience.
  9. Reassess why you went into your profession. Is it time for a change?

Email me if interested in discussing coaching or Forest Therapy as ways to begin on a more satisfying path at work and in your personal life. Coaching can make a huge difference. It is completely confidential.

Please note: If you feel burnout has led to depression or a feeling of hopelessness, please see a psychiatrist or therapist and get appropriate treatment. The rate of suicidal ideation and suicides, especially among physicians, has gone up dramatically. There is
no shame in seeking help. If more urgent help is needed, for American College of Physician members, The I.M. Emotional Support Hub has links to numerous resources. You can call the Physician Support Line at 1-888-409-0141 or seek resources at their site. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 1-800-273-8255 is open for anyone needing help.