How to recognise the signs of burnout and what to do about it. Doctors have been found to have higher rates of burnout and are at greater risk of depression. Even the dream job after too many hours without a break can lead to feeling tired. Human beings need rest and change. But first….what are the signs that you’re burning out?
What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.
Medicine is a high stakes job with a heavy workload, so doctors and medical students are especially at risk of burnout.
65-75% of Australian doctors are reported to be burnt out. It’s an issue that we can’t ignore.
- Distancing yourself from your job – you can start to feel jaded, cynical and even numb
- Physically – symptoms of being physically unwell, such as chronic fatigue, illness, stomach pain, headaches, and loss of appetite
- Emotional exhaustion – your energy levels feel like they are constantly drained
- Mental capability – you may have difficulty concentrating, reduced short term memory, difficulty caring for yourself and others
- Social isolation – you may want to isolate yourself from your friends, family and co-workers
Risk factors for burnout
- Unreasonable workload
- Low level of support
- Long work hours
- Unfair time pressure
- Mistreatment by employers and/or fellow employees
The dangers of burnout
In the medical profession there are high numbers of burnout. This isn’t surprising given the high levels of stress, long hours, and chronic understaffing that occurs as a junior doctor. Dealing with death and suffering on a daily basis would drain any person’s emotional resources, leaving you with little left over to practice self care.
Research has shown that people who experience chronic burnout have up to 35% higher risk of early mortality (under the age of 45). They are 3 x more likely to experience future depression and coronary heart disease . They also have an increased risk of developing diabetes, by a whopping 200% .
Not only is burnout hard to live through, it also has real life consequences for a person’s health. The effects being both physical and emotional.
Ways to prevent burnout
Prevention is so important. How can we protect ourselves from burnout?
- Early recognition
- Nurture your support network
- Maintain a healthy diet with regular exercise
- Make time for things you enjoy
- A good sleep schedule
How to heal from chronic burnout
So what do we do about it?
There are multiple resources citing that self care is essential in battling burnout. Things such as meditation, exercise, healthy diet, and sleeping well are all protective factors.
Reaching out to your employer and stating your feelings can possibly help reduce the workload.
Changing environment all together may be necessary.
I personally believe that once you get to the stage of chronic burnout you really need time. Time to recover, relax, recuperate and regenerate.
If you’re struggling reach out for help. Let your employer know, speak to your loved ones about it, find a good GP and counsellor.
Be kind to yourself.
DRS4DRS – 1300 374 377 – 24 hrs/7 days – an emergency hotline for doctors, confidential and quality advice
Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636 – 24 hrs/7 days
Lifeline – 13 11 14 – 24 hrs/7 days
1. Ahola, K., Vaananen, A., Koskinen, A., Kouvonen, A., & Shirom, A. (2010). Burnout as a predictor of all-cause mortality among industrial employees: A 10-year prospective register-linkage study. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 69, 51-57.
2. Melamed, S., Shirom, A., Toker, S., Berlliner, S., & Shapira, I. (2006). Burnout and risk of cardiovascular disease: Evidence, possible causal paths, and promising research directions. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 327-353.
3. Melanmed, S., Shirom, A., Toker, S., & Shapira, I. (2006). Burnout and risk of type 2 diabetes: A prospective study of apparently healthy employed persons. Psychosomatic Medicine, 68, 863-869.