A recent report by Medscape shows the staggering statistics of physician burnout in the United States. While it’s easy to point to the pandemic as the root cause, 79% of the physicians surveyed in this study report that their burnout began before the pandemic.
Research from Deloitte shows that burnout isn’t just a problem for our frontline healthcare workers. 91% of the respondents to a recent report say they have “unmanageable amounts of stress” that negatively impacts their work.
The bottom line is that burnout is something that impacts us all. The cure for it is not to work harder and take on more. Read on to learn how building psychological strength can help combat burnout and promote work life balance to improve your mental health
Psychological Strength Can Help
Psychological strength consists of teachable skills in 6 different areas.
When we think about burnout, a few key areas are important to consider:
- Habits & Behavior
Leading Indicators of Burnout
Burnout is a state of exhaustion – mental, emotional, and physical – caused by prolonged, unchecked stress. The sooner you recognize the early warning symptoms of burnout, the better chance you’ll have of combatting it. Emotions and thoughts are powerful leading indicators.
- Emotions – Burnout is characterized by a number of difficult emotions such as overwhelm, dread, and anxiety. One of the foundational steps to combat burnout is to recognize your own emotional profile. The more you become aware of your own emotions and work hard to label them (not just “good” or “bad,” but to name them very specifically), the sooner you can recognize the indicators of burnout and make changes to support yourself.
- Thoughts – Your thought patterns can also be a key indicator of burnout. Thoughts like, “I’ll never get all of this done,” or “This is impossible!” indicate overwhelm, which can easily balloon into burnout if left unchecked.
Once you’ve recognized signs of burnout, or recognize that you’re experiencing burnout, you can take steps to combat it. Your Habits & Behaviors as well as a related field called Life Design can help you do that.
- Habits & Behavior – There is a strong connection between the way we treat our bodies and how our minds operate. During times of stress, overwhelm, or burnout, it becomes exponentially more important to do the basics: eat well, sleep, move, drink water, and relax. These basic health habits form the foundation of a stronger YOU who is equipped to lower stress hormones and in turn help your mental health.
- Life Design – Life design can help you identify the root cause of your overwhelm and burnout and generate sets of solutions to test out. Check out this month’s actionable tip to learn more!
Tool to Try
This month, we challenge you to use key questions from Life Design to help address an aspect of burnout. Grab a pen and paper and get ready to do some problem-solving!
Think about the factors contributing to stress or burnout for you. Identity a problem area or a change that you would like to make. Then, ask yourself a series of questions.
Start with “What will that change do for me?” Be sure to write your responses down.
Then, ask yourself “Why is that important?”
Continue to ask “Why is that important?” until you get to your root desire. You’ll know you’ve gotten there when you can’t go any deeper or you find your answers circling back to ones you’ve already written down.
2. How might I…
Now that you know what you’re really trying to target, it’s time to come up with some creative solutions. You’ll notice that your root desire can likely be fulfilled in multiple different ways – even in ways that didn’t occur to you before you did the laddering exercise.
Ask yourself, “How might I achieve my root desire?”
This powerful little question packs a big punch! “How” cues your brain to start problem-solving. It’s a clever way to bypass unhelpful thoughts like “I can’t do that,” which shuts down active problem-solving.
“Might” is a permission slip to think creatively. You’re not saying that you will or have to test out any of the possible solutions you come up with, just that you might.
By asking yourself “How might I…?” you are upping your brainstorming potential, and you’re more likely to stumble on a viable solution.
Set a timer for 5 minutes and write down as many potential solutions or ways to get to your root desire as you can come up with. Don’t evaluate any of them! Go for volume.
Then, select the most doable option, and move forward with it to test it out. See if this is a long term fix for your burnout. Just taking an easy 5 minutes a day can help reduce your levels of stress, and combat burnout.