5 Signs You’re Burned Out (and what to do about it)


It’s something I hear from most of the health care professionals I work with in my practice, and a lot of my friends & colleagues in agency settings, too: “I’m so burned out.” There’s something about the constant slew of e-mails, frequent changes to the EMR, organizational pressures to do more with less, the lack of full control over outcomes, and endless hours spent caring for people who are sick, hurting, overwhelmed or in physical pain… it’s a lot.

And at the same time, where you work there may be a pervasive culture of stoicism and strength, with independence and hard work valued above self-care.

Do any of these apply to you?

+ You can’t remember why you decided to do this work in the first place.
I’m sure, somewhere, there’s an awesome story about how you decided to go into medicine. Whatever happened to the magic? The curiosity, the passion, the drive? Answer: it has disappeared, buried beneath several hours of unfinished documentation.

+ You are cynical, sarcastic and irritable — a lot.
We all have a bad day here or there. But I’m talking about when you find yourself making snarky comments about patients to yourself or to coworkers, and can no longer tap into empathy and compassion, hardly ever. Or when everyday feels like a bad day.

+ You are unable to recharge on the weekends or when you have time off.
It’s normal for stress to build as the week progresses and ebb when the weekend arrives. Stress is cyclical. You’re in Burnout Land if you can’t seem to escape your funk. You sleep, spend time with your family, read, do stuff you like to do…and when you get back to work, it’s like you never left.

+ You’re thinking about leaving the field.
Hold up a second! You spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, and somewhere in the realm of 6-10 years in school, preparing/studying your butt off/practicing/dreaming/not sleeping… and now that you’re in the trenches, you aren’t sure you can keep it up. The pace is tough. You have a family now, and it’s just SO MUCH to balance. You fantasize about starting a bakery or becoming a bank teller or borrowing more money to go back to school.

+ You’re finding unhealthy escape hatches.
Please. Step away. From the iPhone. (That’s your spouse talking.) Whether it’s scrolling endlessly through Facebook, eating too much vending machine food, or drinking more than you’re OK with, you’re probably numbing out somehow as a way of coping. We do these mindless activities as an attempt to escape uncomfortable feelings or generate better ones.

Now here’s the good news: BURNOUT IS REVERSIBLE.

Start with these mini steps to get to the bottom of what’s most overwhelming or frustrating to you:

+ Do a brain dump: Write down everything that stresses you out about your job. Don’t try to problem-solve, just WRITE! The key here is to keep writing even after you think you have nothing else to say. Write, “I think that’s it…I’m not sure what else…” and see what comes up next. Sometimes we have to push past that initial stopping point to get to the good stuff. (i.e. Behind your irritation with the new checkbox in the EMR may be some feelings of inadequacy or aggravation with how much you’re expected to get done in a day.)

+ Check in with yourself throughout the work day: Notice where you store tension in your body. Notice the thoughts and emotions that arise for you in certain situations. PAY ATTENTION. Mindfulness has become trendy lately, and for good reason: without awareness, there can be no change.

+ Dream: If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be? Maybe you’re telling yourself that making that change is impossible…but what if it’s not?? You might need a fresh perspective on this. Your fear or self-doubt could be holding you back unnecessarily.

And if you need some help dreaming, problem-solving, getting clear on what’s getting in your way and making concrete changes…get on the list for Battling Burnout, a 6-week group series that will help you recenter. You so deserve this. >>stephaniedobbin.com/groups.

Leave a Comment