4 tips for dealing with burnout in the workplace and healthcare settings
The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in almost every aspect of our lives. Overwhelmed by workload, sleep deprivation, societal and economic issues, and a dramatic increase in illness and death within their profession, physicians and healthcare workers are reporting burnout at unprecedented rates. According to a ComPsych survey, the world’s largest provider of behavioral health and wellness services, 57% of employers say employee burnout affects their organization’s turnover, retention and productivity. About 40% are concerned about declining employee engagement and morale.
According to Dr Teralyn Sell, psychotherapist and brain health expert, nowhere is burnout more prevalent than among healthcare professionals and healthcare workers. “We see it all over social media, exhausted doctors, nurses and mental health professionals,” Sell said. “Healthcare professionals have a naturally high burnout rate, typically 43% to 46%, with critical care physicians and nurses leading the burnout pack. Although acute care medical staff was a highlight, mental health professionals experienced an extremely high burnout rate, reaching 61%. With the current state of the pandemic, we can probably see an increase in burnout in medical and mental health fields. “
Dr Sell notes that many exhausted employees find unhealthy ways to cope: alcohol or drug use, overwork, disconnecting from friends and family, feeling numb (like you don’t want to talk anymore), interruption of sleep, loss of appetite, irritability and sadness. Sell provides four tips on how workers, especially those on the front lines of medicine, can tackle burnout in a healthier way.
TIP # 1: Know your limits; don’t be a martyr
More often than not, we think we know our limits when it comes to working hours, but we don’t. Just because you’re up, going to work, and staying late doesn’t mean you’re lively, engaged and productive. Pouncing on the proverbial sword is hardly a worthwhile thing to do, nor a noble one. These professions are full of messages that we take care of others, to the detriment of ourselves. Changing that mindset by setting limits and limitations at work is an important first step. Remember that saying “NO” is a complete sentence.
TIP # 2: Ask for help
It should say, take the time to ask for help. As frontline workers, we put our own physical and mental health care on the back burner. If you know you’re exhausted but can’t seem to cope, make seeking help non-negotiable. Also, be sure to take the time to do your physical, dental, and vision checkups. Your health is the most important thing. Without it, you won’t be helping anyone.
TIP # 3: Change the way you think about self-care
We tend to view personal care as an opportunity to outsource our care to someone or something else, like pedicures, massages, vacations, or even alcoholic beverages. We need to change that and see self-care as a way to take care of yourself when time or resources are limited. Self-care is the little things you do for yourself every day that add up. Take breaks: If you can’t take a break, go to the bathroom and take three minutes to meditate or breathe deeply. If you don’t have the energy for physical activity, try doing yoga and stretching. Changes in mentality and thought patterns are also self-care. If you notice that your thoughts are of hopelessness, negativity, or unhappiness, try changing them to something simple like “I’m fine now” or “I’m doing my best. Then, when you have the chance, opt for this massage as a special gift!
TIP # 4: To eat
Eating is crucial, not optional. As healthcare professionals, food becomes optional on our busy days. Keep in mind that coffee is not a food. Making sure you start your day with high quality brain fuel and keep refueling throughout the day is the most important thing you can do to avoid burnout. Using protein to fuel these neurotransmitters and reduce the stress caused by reactive hypoglycemia is one of the most important things you can do to stay alert and mentally alert. Try protein every three hours. Make it portable and convenient to take on the go or keep ready-made protein shakes on hand. Also, make sure you stay hydrated.
Practicing these tips can keep you in great shape and prevent cumulative stress from leading to burnout.