Burnout is a major factor in the healthcare industry and an issue that employees can’t really afford to be having. Not only for their mental health but for their livelihood. Burnout causes so many mental and physical ailments like exhaustion, excessive stress, detachment from your work, lack of motivation and inspiration, and poor personal image. With 42% of physicians finding themselves experiencing burnout symptoms in 2021 and 96% of medical professionals understanding that burnout is a serious issue, the knowledge is there, but the follow-through is where we need to be headed.
One great thing is the industry, for the most part is well aware of burnout. While occasionally some individuals label general stresses or feelings of being uncomfortable as burnout, it’s important to understand there is a very big difference between the two. Stress can be seen as finding it difficult to handle pressure but we can see the end in sight. When it comes to burnout, we are deep in a cycle of negativity after investing all of ourselves into something and being unable to restore ourselves or fill our own cup back up. Then when we do need help, we don’t seek it. Research has found that 42% of physicians will shy away from receiving help and 43% of medical professionals will isolate themselves to try and deal with the problems on their own. Even worse, when we don’t seek help, burnout has the potential to take years to bounce back from.
As health care professionals that need to know how to take care of our own mental health too, how can we stop ourselves from running into the cycle of burnout?
Recognizing the Signs
Are you feeling as though you have no motivation to help your patients today? Are you constantly feeling exhausted and not even remotely bouncing back? Are you starting to struggle with your personal life as well as your work life? Headaches? Nausea? These could all be signs of burnout.
Burnout can also live beside our lovely friend’s anxiety and depression, so sometimes we may become confused with everything we are feeling. It can help to know that recognizing the signs come down to knowing yourself and being aware of the changes that are happening. Especially if changes are interrupting your work or your performance at work. Whatever symptoms you are experiencing, once you can understand they exist, you can move on to combat them!
Get the Ball Rolling
As physicians and doctors, it can be difficult to find the time and motivation to practice self-care. Along with the fact that sometimes self-care can be a warped concept for us, especially if we’ve never been taught how to do it. The trick is to start small with your favorite things. For instance, a 10-minute break to go and take a walk through nature, read a chapter of a book or an interesting article, or even sit outside on your lunch break. Having that change in scenery or that change in mental direction can be the exact thing you needed to get you back on track. Though the trick is to do these continuously.
Slow Yourself Down
Society is fast-paced and tends to make us feel guilty if we shift gears and take time for ourselves. Even though it’s exactly what we need to do. When we get overwhelmed with what feels like the hundred things we need to do, goals we want to accomplish or people we need to make sure we are there for; we deplete ourselves.
Sometimes it helps to take a step back and take a breath. Check-in with ourselves, see how we are feeling and make ourselves stop if we need to. Recognizing the signs is imperative for your mental health, so being conscious of how you are doing and feeling can make all of the difference. We are allowed to slow down!
Make the Time
We can start small or slow down, but we also need to be proactive in our self-care. Creating time off to be able to do things completely outside of work is a way we can achieve this. For instance, dedicating specific days or parts of your day to take care of yourself. This can be going on a hike, venturing off to an area you’ve never seen before, taking a foodie day where you go and eat the best foods you can find, booking a spa day or spending a relaxing day at the beach. The key here is to treat these self-care moments like any important appointment you have. It doesn’t matter what you do, you just have to make it all about you.
Exercise for Mental Health
“Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.” – National Library of Medicine
If you haven’t already signed up for a gym, this would be your sign to do it. Even if you can only manage a few times a week, it can have a significant impact on your mental and, of course, physical health. Suppose you aren’t really a ‘gym goer’, you can find alternative ways to keep fit. Some gyms have basketball courts, tennis courts, racquetball courts or swimming pools available, or, you can go ahead and join a casual league in your area. It’s a great way to free up mental space, bring on some of that serotonin we all love and make you feel better overall.
Try Locum Tenens
If you can’t seem to manage your work-life balance or need a change in scenery, becoming a Locum Tenens could be the perfect redirection for you. When you work as a Locum Tenens, you can set your own schedules, work in areas you enjoy, keep the office politics and busy paperwork at work and take time off between assignments if you need.
The incredible part of being able to manage your work and time much more carefully is that your income will still be flushing in. Locum Tenens are in demand; when you are in demand, you are paid higher than those working in permanent positions. This allows you to continue working, work more to your liking, discover new areas and focus on your mental health!
Although physicians and doctors may think that if you seek help and your patients find out, they will think less of you, it doesn’t stop the fact that you need help. There is nothing wrong, diminishing or shameful about asking for help. The world feels like it’s spinning out of control, and we need to do what is necessary to keep our mental health in check.
There are resources online for you to find the help you need. A weekly online therapist seems to be helping many people along their paths. Maybe it’s something you could do too.
Burnout is tiring, upsetting, draining and exhausting. All the things healthcare workers shouldn’t be feeling. If anything, as a society, we need you to be feeling good. Listen to your mind, and your body and do the right things for you. If you’re feeling good, then we know you can help us in the best way you can!