Shining a light on awareness, management and recovery from burnout.
Many years ago, as a student mental health nurse, I recall the term burnout being bounced around, and the “fact” given to me, that, the average time for mental health nurses, before burnout was five years! Well as I was at the start of my career, this was a little unnerving to say the least!
Well I don’t know if that was the case back then or even now, but an article that was published last in the Guardian (April 2017), titled “ Burnout, depression and anxiety – why the NHS has a problem with staff health “ , countless healthcare professionals suffer from burnout, depression, anxiety and addiction, which costs the NHS 2.4 billion a year, excluding the cost of replacement by agency staff. In addition, an independent review that focused on the impact of staff health on NHS performance, former medical director, and, honorary professorial fellow of the Royal Society of Public Health, Steve Boorman found that health workers often did not prioritise their own health, stating, “They did not want to take time off as they felt patient care would suffer when temporary cover was needed to replace them,”
Meeting the health and care needs for others can be extremely rewarding and satisfying, for most it’s why we are in the job, however, we also have tremendous responsibilities and at times deal with enormous challenges, and Burnout is unfortunately one of the challenges that many healthcare professionals/workers face.
So, what exactly is burnout and how does it come about? Stress over a longer period, can become burnout, which is defined as emotional exhaustion and disengagement. The result is a feeling of being drained, unproductive, and having nothing more to give. Some factors that can lead to burnout in nursing/healthcare being; long shifts, putting others first (after all isn’t what we are trained to do!), busy/high stress environments, and coping with violence/aggression and illness and death.
So how can we identify, manage/ recover from and prevent burnout? Well Burnout does not happen overnight, it’s a gradual process that occurs slowly over time. Here are a few of the physical, emotional and behavioural signs/symptoms to be aware of
• Feeling tired and drained most of the time
• Lowered immunity, feeling sick a lot
• Frequent headaches, back pain, muscle aches
• Changes in appetite or sleep habits
• Sense of failure and self-doubt
• Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated
• Losing motivation
• Becoming increasingly cynical
• absence of satisfaction/accomplishment
• Withdrawing from responsibilities
• Isolating oneself from others
• Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done
• Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
• Taking out one’s frustrations on others
• Skipping work or coming in late and leaving early
To avoid, manage and recover from burnout, here are my top three tips!
1.Put yourself first
This can be tough for some of us, given our roles and teachings, but remember how flight attendants tell you to put on your own oxygen mask on first? There’s a reason for this! it’s hard to help others when your passed out! so ok while not at extreme as passing out, this can still be applied to working in healthcare.do something for yourself that you enjoy every day, no matter how small, and make time to relax and unwind. Look after yourself both physically and mentally, through balanced diet, exercise ensuring you are getting quality sleep and regular check-ups. Also ensure that your day off is just that!
2. Manage your stress
Don’t ignore growing feelings of stress, keep burnout at bay by finding a good listener to vent to or confide in after a tough day. debrief to someone in a way that respects your patients’ privacy, so you can leave your emotional baggage at work instead of bringing it home. meditating, exercise and journaling are some of the great, healthier ways to bust stress.
3. Know the signs and ask for help when you need it
Just by reading this, you’re arming yourself with the information you need to protect yourself against burnout. If you do find yourself recognising some of the signs and symptoms of burnout, admit there is a problem, but don’t make it bigger than it is. This means avoid using all or nothing, catastrophic thinking (my career is over, I’ll never be able to cope with this type of work again) Be honest with yourself on what the problems are and be solution focused; involve your line manager and colleagues for support. A good coach can also play a part in helping you recapture meaning and satisfaction in your work as coaching can enhance self-awareness, enable you to draw on your strengths, fosters creative problem-solving and questions self-defeating thoughts and beliefs.
Burn bright, not out
J.Q Coaching, specialising in coaching health care professionals