These are challenging times. Since the arrival of COVID-19, many of us have gone from already-demanding days of juggling family, work and other responsibilities, to feeling completely maxed-out with what feel like unsustainable adjustments, and no clear ending in sight. Health care workers are working longer hours, under even more highly stressful conditions than usual, and often left feeling like we have no more to give. And yet we have to keep going. This is when we can hit what is commonly known as ‘burnout’.
 
Burnout is a combination of emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and diminishment of personal accomplishment. Healthcare professionals experienced high levels of burnout prior to COVID, with some studies reporting up to 50% of nurses and physicians experiencing burnout, and it can be assumed that these numbers are now even higher as a result of COVID. 
 
Factors
 
Other factors than can contribute to burnout are social isolation, competing demands on time such as family and work commitments, stress and anxiety, lack of control, and ever-changing working conditions and expectations.
 
The impact on patients can include increased error rate, decreased patient satisfaction, and even increased patient mortality. The impact on health professionals can include higher levels of depression and anxiety disorders, challenges to relationships, poor coping choices and even physical illness.
 
Symptoms & Solutions
 
The first thing to consider in dealing with burnout is recognizing the signs - and acknowledging that you are burned out.
 
  • Reduced efficiency and energy
  • Lowered levels of motivation
  • Increased errors
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Increased frustration
  • Suspiciousness
  • More time spent working with less being accomplished
 
The next step is getting clear on what you can do to address your burnout, so you can start feeling better.
 
Prioritize self-care:
 
  • Exercise
  • Walk in green space
  • Eat well
  • Journal your feelings and thoughts
  • Adequate down time
 
Connect:
 
  • Connect with family and friends
  • Connect with the community
  • Give back, such as by volunteering
 
Shift mindset:
 
  • Focus on what you CAN change and what is in your control
  • Focus on accomplishments
  • Be gentle with yourself
  • Practice gratitude
 
Set boundaries:
 
  • Take breaks
  • Disconnect with work outside of work hours
  • Say no to others so that you can say yes to yourself
  • Limit unnecessary online activity
 
Seek professional help:
 
  • Coaching
  • Counselling
 
 
We do quite a bit of work around burnout in the healthcare community in our coaching practice - coaching is a great tool that can help with figuring out the right individualized “roadmap” to burnout recovery and prevention. Obviously, burnout isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation, so coaching can help to determine what works in particular for you, and what fits sustainably in your life.
 
If you’re experiencing burnout, take the first step and seek some help – balance and recovery can come more quickly than you think with the right supports and tools in place!