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7 Ways to Overcome and Prevent Burnout
  • 13 Mar 2024
  • Mental Health

Burnout is a term we’re hearing more and more today, and rightly so! Burnout can impact various areas of your life, including work, family, romantic relationships, friendships, education, etc. Identifying you may be experiencing burnout and beginning to put certain practices in place to help you overcome burnout or nullify the feelings associated with the workplace disorder.

What is Burnout?

Burnout can be defined as A state of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion caused by prolonged or repeated stress”. Constant stress Is enough to weigh anyone down, but burnout is associated with a certain set of behaviours such as frequent feelings of scepticism and negativity towards work, or the aspect of life causing you to feel burnout as well as a lack of motivation to fix the issue because of feelings of hopelessness that occur.

It's also important to note burnout is defined by the characteristic of being never-ending or unsolvable. If your stress is related to a specific goal, or because of short-term problems, you’re likely not experiencing burnout, but you’re just extremely stressed.

If you’re worried you may be experiencing burnout, don’t worry! You’re not alone, burnout is becoming increasingly common, particularly within the medical community. This first came to our attention when speaking to Dr Daniel Gearon, CEO and Founder of You Okay, Doc? as he discussed the prevalence of burnout in medical students. Watch the video here!

According to Mental Health UK, 91% of adults have experienced high or extreme levels of stress in the past year, with 1 in 5 adults taking time out of work as a result of poor mental health caused by pressure or stress in the past year!

Furthermore, Deloitte surveyed 1,000 full-time professionals, 77% of respondents have experienced employee burnout at their current job.

Why are Medical Students Particularly Affected by Burnout?

Specifically relating to Medical Students, a qualitative study completed in 2019 by Bhurga and multiple associates, found five core factors why med students experience burnout.:

Systemic factors: These included problems with structures and systems. Medical students felt that they were not seen as part of a team and felt that they were a burden on already over-burdened staff thus adding to a sense of low self-worth.

Occupational: Repeated brief rotations added to stress as well as not getting enough time to become embedded in teams.

Interpersonal factors: Difficulties in forming relationships as short rotations created difficulties and became stressors.

Environmental factors: Practical issues such as lack of workspace or base and poor access to rest and nutritious diet contributed to feeling unwanted and uncared for.

Sociocultural: Working out of context and not being aware of the culture of a ward or team added to the stress.

What are the symptoms of burnout?

Although there are many reasons burnout can occur, here are a few signs that you may be experiencing burnout.

  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor immune function (getting sick more often)
  • Reoccurring headaches
  • Sleep issues
  • Concentration issues
  • Depressed mood
  • Feeling worthless
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Heightened emotional responses (quick to cry, quick to anger)
  • Suspicious and paranoid about colleagues
  • Substance abuse
  • Stubbornness, rigid thinking, and unwillingness to listen to other people
  • Negative attitude
  • Appears depressed

7 Tips to Prevent and Overcome Burnout

1. Find the Source of Your Burnout

Although it can be challenging to identify what is causing your burnout, once you have identified some potential causes, you can begin to make small schedule changes or communicating your issues with the people who may be contributing to your increased stress levels.

Some factors that may contribute to burnout can include:

  • Being overworked
  • Lacking a sense of purpose
  • Relationship problems with family, friends, or a partner
  • Taking on large, complicated problems on your own
  • Taking on problems you don’t agree with ethically.

2. Identify Immediate Changes You Can Make

Once you have found the source of your burnout, you can begin to make, small, incremental changes to your life to manage stress and remove the burden of stress in certain areas of your life.

Examples of small steps you can take include:

  • Reducing the level of overtime worked in your career.
  • Changing your focus to something you’re passionate about whether that be as a hobby or career.
  • Making more time for loved ones.

3. Set Boundaries with Communication

Most, if not all, medical professionals are hard-working individuals who feel a sense of duty and care towards their work. These traits can lead to burnout as they’re unwilling to say no to a task because of their determination for success and compassion for patients.

It’s important to remember, that if taking on extra responsibilities or additional work is detrimental to your health, you need to be able to say no and communicate to the authority figure, whether that be a consultant, teacher, or parent, you cannot complete the task because of everything else on your plate.

4. Remember What Inspires You

In a high-pressure, stress-inducing job such as working in a hospital when you experience many dark moments such as death, terminal illness, and high levels of emotion it can be extremely draining on an individual’s mental state.

In those low moments, it’s crucial to remember you aren’t just in this line of work because of your intelligence and determination, but because of your compassion to help others through these dark times, by saving lives, bringing new life into the world, and supporting those who need it the most. Mistakes will be made, but you cannot let low points, particularly when factors are beyond your control, dictate your life.

5. Develop a Work-Life Balance and Leave Time to Do the Things You Love Every Week

Although work and feeling accomplished are important in life, remember to make time for the things you love. By constantly working, you can forget what makes you happy as an individual. Whether you're sporty, artistic, or need some well-deserved relaxation, do not feel guilty for enjoying your life!


6. Create a Support Network

Alongside communicating you cannot take on responsibility for others, it’s also important to share your feelings of stress and discomfort with those you trust, or a qualified therapist. Although this may not solve any problems immediately, speaking about your stress may allow you to find the root cause of your high stress levels whilst allowing others to share suggestions that may reduce stress, or they may take on some of the problems causing your stress. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved!!


7. Re-assess Commitments and Priorities

Finally, if you feel you’ve taken on too much responsibility or various commitments that have depleted your energy. It can be useful to make a list of everything you want to do and prioritise its importance to you and why you do it. This can help you identify what commitments you truly value or need to complete for monetary reasons, etc and you can then begin to objectively remove commitments that are less important until you feel you have struck a healthy amount of work/responsibility.

Overall, it can be very difficult to make some of the decisions needed to reduce burnout as you feel you’re letting others down, but sometimes it’s important to prioritise your mental health, as often, there are multiple solutions to these problems that can be fixed using the tips listed and most importantly, strong communication with loved ones and colleagues.

If you feel you may be overcome by burnout and close to a crisis point, please contact our partner, You Okay, Doc?, and receive the expert advice you deserve.

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  • 13 Mar 2024
  • Mental Health