Burnout is very common among healthcare workers. It can be devastating to be diagnosed with, but there is hope for recovery. If you are struggling with burnout, talk with a mental health care provider to connect you with services that are right for you. But, in the meantime, you may need some more information on burnout recovery – and we are here to help!
The recovery stages of burnout include identifying the source of your burnout and making a plan for action that includes:
- Taking time off
- Discussing your feelings
- Asking for help
- Creating a new balance
- Building a healthy support system
- Developing healthy coping strategies
- Redefining your routine
- Incorporate regular breaks into your new life
This recovery requires time to process the feelings and emotions stirred up by burnout. By the end of this post, you will know what burnout is, where it is most common within the healthcare industry, and how to recover from it. Read on to walk away with the inspiration to talk to your doctor about beginning burnout recovery.
Recover from Burnout In 8 Steps
Recovering from burnout is not an easy process. It can take a long time to return to full health, especially if you have been pushing through for a long time.
Perseverance in your career is admirable, but when it is detrimental to your health, that poor performance starts to be reflected in your work. If you are at this point, it is time to take a step back – and consider taking steps towards recovering.
These are the following steps you should take to begin your recovery from burnout:
- Take time off. Take a break from work. Sometimes you may not be able to do this due to financial constraints, but if you can, this is one of the best ways to begin your recovery from burnout. Most employers will have options for you, whether that means taking sick time, vacation days, or a leave of absence. It’s time to put yourself first.
- Discuss your feelings with others. If you are feeling burnt out, start by talking to your supervisor or coworkers about ways to reduce your stress. If you can reduce your workload, do so. Confide in colleagues to gain insights, and when you return to work, find a mentor who can champion you.
- Ask for help. If you are unable to discuss your feelings of burnout directly with other medical personnel, try talking to a mental health care provider to reduce stress.
- Create a new balance. Invest significant time repairing relationships outside of work that you may have neglected. You need to rebuild your support system to tackle burnout.
- Build up your support system. Talk to friends and family. Lean on them for help in areas outside of work to reduce personal stressors.
- Develop healthy coping strategies. Many people abuse drugs and alcohol when under extreme stress. You may need to pivot toward more healthy coping mechanisms as drugs and alcohol can increase feelings of depression that accompany burnout.
- Redefine your routines. Because burnout causes you to neglect your needs, you need to re-establish your healthy routines. Eating healthy meals, a regular sleep schedule, and the incorporation of exercise are all examples of important routines.
- Incorporate regular breaks into your new life. After you have been working on reducing your stress levels for quite some time and have returned to work, you should continue to do all the previous steps. Additionally, you should make time for more frequent breaks. This will help stave off any future feelings of burnout.
This list is not comprehensive, and these steps alone may not be enough for you to fully recover from burnout. If you are struggling, talk with a mental health professional about your feelings of burnout.
Some people report taking years to feel fully recovered. It may seem unfathomable to not be at full capacity for that much time, but it is in your best interest to take things slow. Move through your recovery at your own pace. Do not rush. Take care of yourself first. It is only then when you can truly care for patients wholly and with a clear mind.
How Can You Express Your Feelings of Burnout?
Reaching out for help can be difficult, especially as a healthcare professional, where your job is to take care of others.
When you get burned out, you may feel it is a reflection on you not working hard enough or not getting to take a break because there is always more you can be doing. While these thoughts are untrue, it can make it difficult to discuss with others.
Here are some simple points to start as you explain your symptoms and feelings to others:
- Honesty – Stay honest with yourself and with others about your stress levels. Since burnout is not uncommon in healthcare, someone you know may be going through the same thing or experienced burnout in the past.
- Moving forward – Avoid blaming what has transpired in the past on yourself or others. Now is the time to move forward and handle the problem now that you have identified it.
- Problem-solving – If you are expressing your feelings and are looking for help, outline specific ways in which the person you are talking to can help you. Ask for them to help with
- Specificity – Provide the details of both how you are feeling and what you believe is causing the discomfort. By stating in plain terms what the problem is, you have just identified what needs to happen in the future. The person you are talking to can then take steps to help meet your needs or find solutions.
While expressing your feelings of burnout is difficult, it is worth it in the long run. Long term stress, as you probably know, can lead to cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and exacerbated mental health problems. Get the conversation started today because you are not alone and sharing your feelings with others will put you one step closer to recovery!
What Is Burnout – And How Do I Know If I Have It?
Burnout is a syndrome that emerges due to long term stress on the job. It is widely common among healthcare workers and has been studied more in the past few decades. One study from the Journal of World Psychiatry notes that burnout is a psychological syndrome and goes on to discuss possible treatment strategies.
This means there is a way to recover from burnout, and it has been studied more extensively in the past few years by psychologists and other medical professionals.
Burnout recovery requires an understanding of three things:
- The individual stress you are experiencing
- The social context in which you are working
- Your concept of self and others
You and your mental health care provider should discuss and try to identify these three points. It is much easier to begin the recovery process because you have a deeper understanding of where the stress is coming from and what in particular is causing it.
The Different Types Of Burnout
There are three different types of burnout you can experience as a healthcare worker. Not everyone experiences the same type of burnout because we all respond to stress differently. Once you understand the type of burnout you have, you can address the triggers and reduce your stress around work.
The following is a list describing the different types of burnout you may be experiencing:
- Individual or circumstantial burnout – High standards placed on yourself or not believing your work is good enough, and environmental triggers lead to you feeling burnt out.
- Interpersonal burnout – Due to a tough relationship with a coworker or supervisor, you experience burnout.
- Organizational or existential burnout – You think your job is in danger because of poor performance due to lack of organization and loss of meaning in medicine.
Most of the time, burnout among healthcare workers is difficult to spot because doctors can get in the habit of avoiding their feelings or pushing down their emotions to keep going. This is the opposite of what you should do to promote recovery.
Burnout should not last forever. If you think you are experiencing burnout, it is time to reach out for help! Burnout is very common in the healthcare industry. And taking a break will not only rejuvenate you but allow you time and space to realign with the work you set out to do.
Signs, Symptoms, and Causes of Burnout
There is a lot of symptoms that can be linked to burnout. And many work-related risks could eventually lead to burnout if they are not addressed promptly. Below we cover both the symptoms of burnout and what might be happening in your workplace to cause these symptoms.
The Symptoms of Burnout
The symptoms of burnout can vary from person to person, and they fall into five different stages. The symptoms of burnout are sometimes hard to identify because they closely resemble other mental health disorders. Chronic stress, anxiety, and depression can mimic burnout. But burnout is diagnosable when you experience those along with detachment and exhaustion.
Burnout can be broken down into five stages. However, not everyone will experience burnout in this way. It is best to consult a mental health professional if you experience symptoms or identify with any of the following stages:
The Five Stages of Burnout
Short Description of the Stage
Sometimes a new job or role can reignite our passion for something.
But even at this point, if you begin experiencing stress, it is time to review your self-care plan.
Onset of Stress
At this point, you become aware of the difficult days.
Pessimism sets in, and you being to feel the physical, emotional, and mental symptoms associated with high-stress levels.
Stress is now experienced more often than not.
Symptoms begin to intensify.
It is difficult to keep up with your daily routine.
At this point, you should approach your boss, coworkers, family, therapist, or anyone else who you think can help move you into the recovery stages.
If you do not seek help during the last stage, burnout can become a chronic issue.
All of your life revolves around feeling burnt out, and it is almost impossible to continue working without severe physical or emotional inhibitions.
As you can see, there are many stages before burnout actually sets in. If you catch yourself falling into one of these categories, you can get back on track by beginning with some simple recovery steps. Keep reading to learn about how to recover from the early signs of burnout below.
The following is a list of major and minor signs and symptoms that are generally seen with burnout:
Major Symptoms of Burnout
Minor Symptoms of Burnout
Most of the time, people experience these symptoms over a period of time. Symptoms may not present themselves all at once. Additionally, you may only experience a few of these symptoms, but the main indicators of burnout are chronic stress and exhaustion.
Why Do I Have Burnout?
The following is a list of potential causes of burnout that could be causing the symptoms listed above:
What Does It Mean?
While being a healthcare worker, your expectations may be clear, but because the specifics of your day change frequently, it can feel like you are running around without direction. You are expected to treat and care for patients, but who you interact with can change daily.
Having a full schedule day in and day out gets tiresome. You may be the best for the task, but it does not mean you should never ask for help. A heavy workload can lead to hopelessness, irritability, and exhaustion.
Lack of boundaries
It can be very hard to disconnect from work, especially when you are caring for the health and safety of your patients. Having strict boundaries around work increases job satisfaction.
Lack of communication and support
If you do not feel supported by your supervisors or coworkers, it can lead to feelings of frustration and cynicism.
Time management issues
Constant multi-tasking is frequently required in most healthcare fields. But it can diminish your focus and lower your productivity. Yet, focusing on one thing at a time is often impossible when working in healthcare.
The feeling of not having enough time to complete a task is a major cause of burnout. Having to handle difficult situations timely or meet an unrealistic deadline, for some healthcare workers, it is split-second decisions, can wear you down.
Trouble with collaboration
If you have to rely on a larger team to carry out your job duties, it can be difficult when others are falling behind. This causes a sense of not having control over your job and increases stress around getting your tasks done.
If you are experiencing any of the causes listed above in the workplace and you think it is directly linked to your stress and performance, you can try the following things:
- Talk to your boss, coworkers, and therapist
- Take some time off
A more extensive list of strategies for recovery can be found later in this post. Keep reading to learn more about how to recover from burnout.
How Common Is Burnout in The Healthcare Industry?
Burnout is quite common within the healthcare industry. It is reported that around 44 percent of clinicians in the United States have symptoms of burnout.
The most commonly reported causes of burnout among healthcare workers are:
- Working long hours and becoming sleep-deprived
- Inadequate compensation
- Lack of control due to patient care responsibilities split among other professionals
- Spending time on administrative tasks, when time could be better allocated
Here are some glimpses into the causes of burnout within diverse areas of the healthcare industry.
Burnout in Oncology: An Overview
Burnout is very common among healthcare workers in the field of oncology. And so often, it is not addressed until you are in the last stages of burnout. It has been shown that 28 to 38 percent of oncologists have experienced burnout.
Many times, burnout is so high among oncology workers because of the following:
- Overloaded – It is impractical to turn away a cancer patient, so these departments can be overwhelmed.
- Not possible to delay – The nature of most cancer patient’s health problems needs to be resolved quickly, so you can’t delay treatment because it could very well mean the difference between life and death.
Building resilience among oncologists is one of the best ways to combat burnout. However, it can be difficult to get clinicians to buy into implementing changes both at the personal and systems levels.
Emergency Room Staff Burnout
Because the emergency room is demanding of staff 24/7, it can be a challenging workplace that leaves little time for self-care. Studies report 29 to 71 percent of emergency department staff are experiencing emotional exhaustion, a key symptom of burnout.
The nature of emergency room work requires quick thinking and fast-paced work. It also means they experience the following points as commonplace in their everyday work:
- Severe pathologies
- Heightened emotional load
- Frequent physical and verbal violence
You are not alone. If you are experiencing signs or symptoms of burnout, read on to learn about where you can start in your recovery process.
Burnout in Pediatrics
Burnout in paediatrics trainees and physicians ranges from 40 to 75 percent. When burnout occurs, everyone suffers, from your coworkers to your patients. It is responsible for unhappy relationships with staff and poor job performance.
Burnout is common among pediatric professionals because of the culture in medicine that rewards:
- Reduced personal or social attention
It has been shown that in paediatrics, some of the major causes of burnout are:
- Work hours and workload
- Difficulties with mindfulness
- Problems maintaining social support
- Troubles with resilience
Working day after day with sick children and distraught parents can be draining. Burnout is a common experience. Start by taking a break and incorporating some simple recovery tools if you think you are experiencing burnout.
Caregiver Burnout Vs. Burnout in Geriatric Units
Generally, caregiver burnout happens because the caregiver forgets to take care of themselves and is focusing all of their energy on caregiving. Another form of caregiving is through medical staff in gerontology. It is shown that the longer someone works in a geriatric unit, the more likely they are to experience burnout.
Caregiver burnout occurs when a family member or caregiver of a patient reaches the point of burnout. The signs and symptoms are similar to that of generalised burnout; they include:
- Disinterest in things that used to be enjoyable
- Easily irritated or flustered
- Extreme fatigue or tiredness
- Feeling helpless
- Feeling hopeless
It has also been shown that criticism and hostility towards patients increases as medical providers become burnt out. If you believe these symptoms fit your feelings, you may want to discuss burnout with a therapist.
As you can see, burnout in healthcare spans every specialization and area. You are not alone.
I Need Recovery from Burnout – Where Do I Start?
Recovering from burnout is possible! But it takes time and hard work. You have to be willing to identify the problem and make a drastic change to your current working practices.
There are a few different categories of recovery work that you can begin to eliminate and reduce burnout:
- Internal recovery – These are tasks you complete while on the job to help reduce stress
- External recovery – Any activity that allows you to avoid thinking or stressing about work
Focusing on internal and external recovery strategies is something you can start right now. Even if you are not experiencing burnout, these strategies are important to keep a healthy work-life balance.
External Recovery Activities You Can Start Today
These are some of the following external recovery activities you can do daily to help reduce the likelihood that you will burnout in the future:
Type of Activity
Examples of How You Can Do It Daily
Psychological Detachment – A strong sense of being away from work mentally and physically
Relaxation – Finding ways to decompress, unwind and relax outside of work
Mastery – Beginning something new to you where you will be challenged and energized
Control – Developing habits that put yourself first and stay true to your self-care needs
Of the four types of activities that you can do to combat and reduce burnout, psychological detachment is the most important. The act of leaving work at work is crucial to recovery.
Use the following list to focus on some specific tasks based on the symptoms you are experiencing and find what will suit you best:
- Relaxation – The best strategy for if you are experiencing exhaustion
- Mastery – Best approach when you are feeling out of control at work
- Control – Important when you are feeling a lack of worth or hopelessness around work
Recovery from burnout takes time and dedication. It may mean you will not be performing at your best. But remember that you were not performing at your peak while under constant stress, even if you think you were. As you fall further into the feelings of burnout, performance suffers deeply.
Recovering from Burnout During A Pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, working in healthcare has been a tremendous feat. Be proud of the work you have done thus far. And recognize that it is ok to take a break. Taking care of yourself during this extremely stressful time is just as important, if not more so, than taking care of your patients.
Remember, if you neglect your needs, you may be alright for a little bit, but you cannot operate at that level forever.
Burnout is not a new phenomenon in the medical field, talk to your mentors and colleagues about how they have handled chronic stress and burnout in the past.
Even though these times are unprecedented, you can still use the tools that have been proven to help healthcare workers reduce burnout for decades. Build a self-care plan and remember to check in with yourself mentally and physically frequently.
In All: Burnout Is Not New, But You Can Recover!
You can recover from burnout, no matter what field you are in. Healthcare workers throughout many different medical fields and at all levels have reported feeling burnt out or have identified with the symptoms associated with burnout. You are not alone, and you can recover.
To recover, you will need to take a break and focus on your mental and physical health. It will take time, and it is not a process you can rush. Lean on your support system and develop healthy habits to be able to return to work at full capacity.
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