The ultimate guide to resisting burnout.
My coworkers and I are burnt out. I suspect you are, too. Covid-19 has placed a lot of unforeseen stress on the world. Everyone has experienced it a bit differently. Health systems have been challenged with everything from overcapacity ICUs to significant financial losses. Resource and personnel cuts put more strain on everyone who’s left. Those who have lost their jobs are angry and sad, understandably. Those who have kept their job are working double or triple time for less pay. All of us are burnt out in one way or another.
My coworker and I shared an extended b**ch session after a long work week. We vented about all the changes which occurred over the last year. We have more work with less help. We're tasked with seeing more patients, getting patients out of the hospital earlier in the day, improving our documentation, and dealing with the new protocols surrounding Covid-19. I've spoken to people from facilities to hospital administration. Everyone is burnt out.
Burnout may look many ways. It is when stress affects your personal and emotional well being. It often affects your productivity and work quality. The Maslach Burnout Inventory is the most common measure of burnout in the medical field. It measures some of the symptoms of burnout included below.
You dread going to work each day.
You feel exhausted at the end of the day.
The distress feels unsurmountable.
Your quality of work decreases.
You care less about your patients (or clients).
You don’t feel you have enough time for hobbies, friends, and family outside of work.
You become more irritable.
You don’t feel like yourself.
You’re unaffected emotionally whether positive or negative.
You don’t feel you accomplish anything at work.
You feel like you have less control.
1) Acknowledge the problem
You must first recognize what you’re feeling is common, but not normal. The stresses of your everyday life whether at work or home should NOT cause a decrease in your overall happiness or function. These stresses should not drain your energy to the point of a long slow recovery. Normal stress does not cause a decrease in work quality or productivity. However, burnout does.
2) Find your zen and take breaks
Develop practices and routines and give you breaks and restore your energy. Some people meditate, others run, lift weights, or do yoga multiple times each week. During the workday, if you’re able to break away to find peace you should. Don’t go to the break room to gossip about coworkers. Take a walk. Get some fresh air and some sun. Do a little exercise or do a little meditation. Mindfulness matters. If possible take frequent breaks throughout the day. Every 60-120 minutes if you’re able to take a 5-10 minute break. Stand up to do some squats, burpees, push-ups, but DO NOT THINK ABOUT WORK.
3) Protect your mental health
This looks different for everyone. Don’t enter situations you know will kill your energy. That may mean eating alone during lunch. You may say no to some additional assignments or commitments. You may have to avoid certain coworkers or shower them with positive energy before their negativity kills your food vibes. Don’t engage in the gossip. Just don’t. Consider even taking a vacation. A nice ski trip or beach day may be just what the doctor ordered.
4) Remember your purpose
Remember who needs your best efforts right then. Ask yourself why your job is important to you. These important aspects may be internal or external. You continue working to get money, home stability, pursue your passion, creativity, helping people, prestige, or any number of things. Let your ‘why’ give you peace and strength. Use your reasons as a shield from the nonsense, when Karen in accounting starts her complaining again.
5) Focus on what you control
People take on the stresses of things that are utterly out of their control. Don't waste space in your mind. Sometimes bosses make decisions which change your work responsibilities or your workflow. It happens. Grumble to yourself if you must, but learn to work through it. Your coworker may have made a bad call, which puts extra work in your lap. Try not to live in the past, there’s work to be done. Don’t waste your time, energy, emotional capital on things you cannot control. Focus on improving the things you can.
6) Be charitable with your extra time and energy
This one seems counterintuitive. On good days you may have some extra time, energy, or goodwill to share. There will be days when you take it home with you like a stash of cash and use it on your family or your side gig. Other days you can use it to get ahead with your work. However, you can change the culture and climate of your workplace community if you give some extra oomph to your coworkers or your boss. Ask if anyone needs help with anything. Be willing to help them or complete tasks entirely on your own. This helps create a supportive, team-oriented workplace with high morale. Sometimes, doing this means you have more than your share of work. That is no problem when you have a little more time or energy. Putting effort into teamwork combats burnout because it brings good karma and helps your colleagues see you in a positive light. If you lighten someone else’s workload it decreases their likelihood of being stressed and putting off more work, too. Win-win.
7) Establish a support system
Surround yourself with people who are uplifting and understanding. Just talking to a person you know and trust could make the world of difference. It helps your emotions and frustrations dissipate if the right people are listening. They may even be able to give you some needed perspective. Utilize your support system!
8) If you must complain
Don’t be so self-involved to think you’re the only one who is unhappy. Do not insult other people or other departments. The least you can do is be funny and all-inclusive, you’re not alone. Others are suffering too. At least then everyone could laugh at the misery.
Until next time my people.
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