BE 2023 Conference

Experiencing Burnout? Just Breathe

newblog signs-of-burnout symptom-of-burnout womeninmedicine womenphysicians Dec 16, 2022

Whenever I am faced with inconvenient or uncomfortable situations, I tell myself to take a deep breath. Inhale, exhale, and repeat until I start feeling good again. This is what I often tell other women physicians feeling all of the overwhelm: to stop and learn to just simply breathe.

Just the past few weeks, most hardworking women I know are becoming mentally and physically exhausted with their jobs due to changing work environments, managing work-life balance expectations, and dealing with complex personal issues. And if you are on the verge of experiencing one, know that you are not alone. This is a sign of burnout, and it is real.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is not just a state of mind; it is a real problem that affects many people and many areas of life. I, too, have experienced this. Burnout is a feeling of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion brought on by continuous and high stress levels, and it often happens when you are feeling overwhelmed, emotionally exhausted, and feeling pressured to meet the constant demands of daily life.

Does this ring a bell to you? Let me explain further. As the stress mounts either due to work or other factors, you slightly begin to lose drive, interest, and motivation to do things. All the stress you've been bottling up will eventually lead to burnout which leaves you with a lack of productivity, energy, passion, and motivation to get going. Don’t worry, I feel you. I understand you.
 

Is Burnout Normal?

If you are currently feeling burned out, do not invalidate yourself. This is normal. Burnout is prevalent in medicine, especially among physician women. We are all just human, and at the end of the day, our minds, emotions, and bodies need and deserve rest – it is not earned. Oftentimes, we train our minds to get things done as soon as possible and always keep ourselves occupied and busy, so we forget to slow down even just for one moment and breathe. There’s nothing wrong with being hardworking, but let’s not forget to take things one step at a time and listen to ourselves. Listen to not only what it wants but, more importantly, what it needs.
 

There doesn't have to be a high cost of high achievement. Let's discuss some warning signs and what you can do to mitigate them.

Causes Of Burnout

There are a variety of causes of burnout, some of the main ones I've listed below.

● Long-term stress or chronic stress

● High-stress jobs

● Lack of boundaries with work, family, friends, etc.

● Physical health problems

● Mental health challenges

● Chronic health conditions, particularly chronic pain

These are some of the larger things that cause burnout, but small things like being under time pressures at work over and over again without a break or a release can lead someone to experience burnout.

Symptoms of Burnout

I carefully narrowed down all the prominent burnout symptoms. I recommend taking a self-inventory of your heart, mind, and body (hello, self-retreat!).

If you are in a leadership position, you may have seen some of these not just in yourself but in your employees as well, especially as healthcare professionals. Due to the nature of the work, we deal with a lot of work-related stress that can compound daily.

Lack of Energy 

First off, lack of energy and feelings of exhaustion. Back in the day, when I didn’t know what burnout was, I vowed to give myself a well-deserved 8 hours of sleep. However, I noticed a pattern. Despite hefty sleeping hours, I would wake up the next day lacking the energy to do things, even to the point of getting the simplest task done, and this pattern would ensue for the entire day until the next day, and so on. I also felt exhausted just completing simple tasks. Then, it hit me; I was in burnout.

Less Motivated 

Another notable feeling of burnout was my lack of motivation to do things that I was previously excited about doing. If you are the type of person that gets excited to go for a run every morning and then finds yourself struggling to lace your running shoes, check yourself to see if there are patterns. If you skip a day or two, we can count that as normal; however, if you begin to lose the feeling of excitement in doing your usual or favorite routine, then that, unfortunately, is burnout.

Blunted Emotions, Feeling Drained, or Helpless?

Has there been a time that you just felt numb or emotionally drained, leaving you feeling helpless? This is the feeling of indifference, and during these times, you may become more cynical in your internal dynamics or lose your ability to communicate with others effectively. Among all signs, for me, this is the worst. This is the one I hate the most! Aside from feeling these negativities, there will be a sense of insensitivity and guilt that we can portray to others unintentionally. And we don’t want this to happen.
 

Effects of Burnout

For me, what makes burnout so appalling is how these feelings spill over and affect not only your relationships at home, at work, to your social life but, most importantly, with yourself. Don’t worry; this is normal. 

Burnout can have a negative impact on so many aspects of your life:

● It can make you neglect your own needs because you are too exhausted to do the thing you normally do to take care of yourself

● It can make you lose your sense of self because you become disconnected and lack motivation

● It can cause you to not perform as well as you normally would

● It can have a negative impact on your relationships because you respond to people differently when you are in a state of burnout, and they may not understand why

Face Burnout Bravely

If you are burned out, the smart way to deal with it is to face it bravely. Do not run from it, as it may get worse. It doesn't matter whether you realize the red flags of impending burnout or you've already reached your limit; pushing through the burnout and persisting as you have will only cause more emotional and physical harm to yourself. Now is the perfect time to take a breather and change course by learning how to help yourself conquer burnout and feel positive and healthy again.

You are not alone. You, feeling burned out, should not be invalidated. This is why I am here to navigate the path with you. Do not feel guilty or be too hard on yourself if you end up experiencing this. Let’s circle back to my proven personal technique: inhale, exhale, and repeat until you start feeling good again. Breathing it all out would not hurt and won’t cost a dime either.

Outsmart burnout by taking things one step at a time and learning when to pause. Next step: set up some fierce boundaries, and my book can teach you amazing ways to do it. Lastly, bid burnout goodbye for good by getting new strategies with the Brave Balance Masterclass. Rest assured that this is your way to becoming the better version of yourself.

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