Fresh perspective for success in healthcare

Countdown to The #1 Way to Prevent Career Burnout

There’s a sweet spot you reach once you’ve worked in your career for a little while. 

You feel practiced. Experienced. Authoritative. People seek you out for mentorship and guidance. You can do your work with your eyes closed, your hands tied behind your back. Nobody doubts you. You are respected. You have succeeded. 

Then the burnout sets in. 

Your routine has become so rigorous and exhausting that you just can’t get excited about your work anymore. You’re not learning new things and you’re not inspired to do your best. You’re tired. You’re a little grumpy. It’s hard to see what’s working right and well around you.  

So how do you get through it? The long days, the short nights, the endless frustration? Don’t worry. There’s a plan. 

First, identify what could be the cause of your burnout. Here are some common triggers:

  • Too much repetition
  • Not enough compensation
  • Same routine every day
  • Nowhere to be promoted or moved
  • You’re not friendly with your peers 
  • You’re very stressed but not given enough time and space to relax

Once you’re able to isolate what’s burning you out, then you can begin to address the problems at hand.

Here’s a countdown of the five best things you can do for burnout.

FIVE: Get ahead of it.

Take your vacation days. Take the occasional personal day. And don’t take those days as opportunities to catch up on work (some of us are definitely guilty of that!). Your day to day is rigorous. And you need to give yourself the space to decompress.

Take whatever scraps you can. It’s hard. It’s hard to ask for what you need. But you’re no good to anyone—least of all yourself—when you’re exhausted, defeated, and low in morale.

FOUR: Change your routine.

Move your desk. Change your hours. Get a new planner and reorder your tasks. Any shift in your day-to-day will help you move out of the path of burn-out. If you’re not desk-bound or if you’re not able to move your desk, change your commute, reverse your path or reorder your morning routine. It’s all about switching it up and infusing the mundane with a jolt of new energy.

THREE: Talk it out.

Just being honest with your team or with your boss will go a long way in finding support. And if you’re supervising staff, too, be open with your reports about the risk of burnout and their options for coping and preventing job fry. 

Your supervisor and/or your team might have ideas to help you out of your rut. They may volunteer to take tasks—or even to swap them to contribute to your routine shakeup. And just letting the people around you know your mental and emotional state will help you communicate better and resolve conflicts more efficiently. 

TWO: Breathe deeper.

Jam packed schedule, stressful patient interactions, juggling work and home…it can really take a toll on your mind, body, and soul. And if you take notice, you might realize that it’s all starting with the way you’re breathing.

When we feel rushed, stressed, anxious, exhausted, it’s easy to take shorter, more shallow breaths. This kind of chest breathing engages the sympathetic nervous system and activates the fight or flight response—which makes us feel even more stressed.

There’s only one thing to do. Focus on your breath. I mean really focus on your breath. Schedule breathing into your daily routine. Use your Apple watch, set a reminder on your phone—do whatever it takes to carve out time to stop everything and just inhale and exhale.. And then consciously breathe in deeply through your nose, and all the way into your belly. Let it out slowly. And repeat.

Drumroll please… NUMBER ONE: Embrace gratitude.

Gratitude is the unsung hero of stress relief. Simply acknowledging the goodness in your life shifts your mindset away from the negative. And let’s face it, focusing on the negative is an easy, natural inclination. The good news is, you can deprogram yourself from bad-focus and work toward putting more energy into gratitude. You just have to retrain your brain.

In a culture where we’ve been taught to be grateful one day a year—on Thanksgiving—it’s no wonder we’re not exactly programmed to pay close attention to the simple things that we’re thankful for in our daily routine. It’s easy to say, for example, “I’m grateful for my family” in a sweeping statement, but more challenging to find the tidbits amidst the chaos of daily life that are gratitude worthy. More difficult still? Finding true gratitude for the chaos itself. This is the kind of gratitude that’s going to make a difference. This is the kind of genuine positivity that is going to improve your physical and mental health.

So how do you go about teaching yourself to hone in on the good? Here are some tips:

  • Hold space. Set reminders.

Just like you need to schedule in breathing—as ridiculous as it may sound—you’ve got to hold space for gratitude. Set an alarm. Or set a time every day to reflect on a few things you’re grateful for. Better yet, write them down, so they’re right there in front of you, top of your mind. Start a gratitude journal.

And, to stave off burnout, see if you can muster five things specifically about your work that you’re grateful for. It doesn’t matter how tiny of a detail it is. If you’re grateful for it, it’s hugely important. Do this once a day. And try to find different things each day to focus on. Before you know it, gratitude will become more natural to you. And you’ll notice that you become more aware and more positive throughout your days. This simple act can do wonders for infusing new life into your daily grind.

  • Don’t compare yourself to people. 

First of all, it’s okay to be grateful for what you have and still want to strive for more.  But wanting what others outwardly appear to have is a waste of time and feeds negativity. Instead, try focusing on the people in your life who inspire you with their charity, generosity, dedication, or hard work. Look to the tangible things you can engage with and relate to. But don’t compare yourself to them.

And if you just can’t shake the need for a little game of comparison, then by all means, go ahead and compare the old you to the current you. Get excited to create a better, more well-rounded, balanced life to strive toward—while being kind to yourself and grateful for all you have achieved. Wanting to do more is a good thing. Feeling bad because you’re worried you’re not measuring up to others is not.

  • Volunteer.

This doesn’t have to be a soup-kitchen experience (but it certainly can be!). Just volunteering in any capacity in your day-to-day life will help you feel gratitude for what you have already. You’ll notice opportunities for gratitude in new spaces—the tenderness and vulnerability required for opening oneself up for help, for example, or for the connection forged by two people working together. 

Burnout is a real concern in the healthcare field. And it pays to be proactive about fighting it. Just reading this article is a great first step to getting out in front of the problem. Once you have the tools in your arsenal, you can work to actively mitigate the stress that fuels the fire.

If your stress is compounded by financial factors, check out Bankers Healthcare Group’s full suite of hassle-free financial solutions—just for healthcare professionals. Or read more on wellness for healthcare professional from the experts at BHG.

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