Understanding how to build resilience is essential to prevent burnout from reducing your enthusiasm and passion to embers. This is especially true when starting your career or in this post-covid time we live in.
Burnout is one of those words that has become more mainstream in recent years. So much so that the condition become part of the ICD-11 in 2019. This was a significant moment as it moved burnout from something that was often swept under the carpet to the forefront of workplace culture and crucially flexible working environments. An extreme example of this is the gaming industry and ‘crunch culture‘ although a different industry to healthcare there are similairites. Overtime sign offs, five day rotas stretching over seven, shifts being filled last minute and escalating workload without increased staffing rosource are all prevalent universally across healthcare and all contribute to burnout.
So what is burnout exactly, well it can be defined as:
“… a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’
It is characterized by three dimensions:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.
Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.
Reaching For That Extra Coffee?
Recognising the symptoms of burnout are the essential first step to preventing the situation escalating out of control. It can present differently from person to person and to differing degrees. For some it might be rushing to the pub after work or having a couple of extra coffes in the day to get them through. For others it might be requesting a career break but for all cases the trick is noticing the subtle signs early on and preventing the severe concequences from derailing your life.
Early more subtle signs can include
- Regular disaffection for your workplace or colleagues that are growing stronger.
- Exhaustion when you get home after work and never feeling like you’re getting into a state of occupational flow during the day
- Stagnation and not feeling like you’re making progress at work
- Boredom and detachment even though you have work to do
- Higher levels of procratination
- Stress you can’t seem to shake
- Turning up for virtual meetings late or overly early or not at all
Re-Finding Your Mojo
Sometimes there are no quick or simple fixes. Building resilience is different for everyone and this means it has to be controlled by you. After all you are the one who understands yourself better than anyone! Hopefully with these initial steps will get you on the track to resilience and reducing your risk of burnout.
Regular Breaks (When possible) – This isn’t permission not to do work this is more of a reminder to take the breaks you are allowed within your job or role. It’s too tempting to plough on through when really busy but don’t! This is part of the issue and needs to be addressed now. Good real breaks give your brain the opportunity to process what you’ve done and then get back into the game. It will make you more productive overall and if you can get some fresh air.
Book that Holiday! – it doesn’t matter if you haven’t actually booked a holiday to go somewhere yet. Plan the time off early and have somehting to look forwards to. Don’t leave you leave unused, that’s basically giving money away for free! If you’re worried now isn’t a good time for leave, there often isn’t a good time for leave so you should just take it. The benefits of taking leave outweigh the negatives considerably as you’ll come back stronger. Also contrary to popular belief the service will still continue without you! That’s what a team is for.
Focus on What You Love & What Matters Most to You – Doing what you love is the ultimate cure for burnout. Few people get the opportunity to ony choose hwat we want to do at work. Each of us has to put up with rubbish jobs but if there is someone who would rather do that job or are better suited to it why not trade some tasks? If you have day-to-day tasks you hate doing it is important to talk to your manager about ttrying to offload them to someone else who is better placed or suited. If it’s the core of your job clearly this wouldn’t be possible, but if it isn’t, you make a crappy job much better with a single simple conversation.
Reflections (or a diary) Learn to bounce-forward rather than bounce-back. Regularly reflect on successes no matter how small – a simple strategy could be writing one down at the end of every day. After a week go back and see the progress you’ve made. Having something to refer back to makes it easy to see your accomplishments and be inspired by them. Writing reflections can seem labourious by evidence says that refletive clinicians are the most likely to succeed. Why not use templates within physioplus to take the painful part away?
Don’t Let The Email’s Get You Down – The simple method of the 4 D’s could help keep that email anxiety under control. Set up two folders in your inbox (*them so they appear at the top) one called ACTION and the other DEFER. Anything which needs immediate attention pop in the action folder, anything for later pop into defer. The other two D’s are DELEGATE and DELETE. If it doesn’t need you to action anything delete it and if you aren’t the right person or it could be done more effectively by someone else delegate it. Start working through the action folder and when you have time go back to defer. The aim of this is to reduce your work in progress pile giving you clarity.
Take a Step Back, What’s The Bigger Picture? It’s quite possible that it isn’t your job or career that is the catalyst for your burnout. It could be something else that’s seeping into your work. Your personal life is more important than you job but a job does pay the bills. Both have to be fixed if there is a commmon problem between them. It might help to step back and think ‘why am I doing this?’.
Long-term Strategies to Make You Burn-Out Resistant
It’s just not possible to be 100% happy with both personal and professional life all of the time. That being said, all of us can take steps to make sure we spend more time being happy rather than unhappy. It’s really difficult to do this when we are approaching burnout but the steps above will bring you back from the edge. Once you’ve taken a step back it’s time to consider more long-term mindset changes to boost your reslience. One long-term strategy is a proven psychological state called flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a Professor of Psychology and Managementand epert when it comes to occupational flow. Definitely check out Mihaly’s TED talk to understand how to bring more flow into your life.