Feeling Burned Out? Follow These Tips to Help
Burnout is very real and with the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers may find they are at an increased risk of developing symptoms of burnout. As we're learning, the pandemic is settling in to be a marathon and not a sprint. With limited resources, including the time to sleep and rest, it's more important than ever to make plans to manage your mental and physical health.
You may have heard about it, but can you recognize burnout? Symptoms include physical and emotional exhaustion, feeling unproductive, being cynical, and experiencing depersonalization. There are a number of factors that increase the risk for burnout, including a heavy workload, lack of personal control, reduced social support, and the experience of unfairness and injustice. It's important to know that burnout is not inevitable.
Even in the middle of a pandemic, there are steps you can take to prevent and help burnout.
Take a Break from Alcohol and Caffeine
The added stress of working with heavy caseloads during a pandemic, or the stress of having been furloughed if your specialty is not needed, may cause people to turn to alcohol and caffeine. While you may think you’ll get short-term relief from eating, energy drinks, or cigarettes, using them as a coping mechanism can lead to more stress and dependency. Instead, turn to healthy foods, exercise, and eight hours of quality sleep.
Get Out and Get Air
Fresh air, exercise, and green space has a positive effect on lifting your mood and stabilizing your emotions. As you're able, get outside for a walk in the sunshine, and try to make it around a green space. Exercise is another strategy that helps reduce stress, decrease cortisol secretion, and improve your overall mood. Remember, you're not training for the Olympics! A 30-minute power walk, jog, tai chi in the park, or playing frisbee with your dog is all that's needed to help your body release stress.
Talk it Out
Sharing your problems, thoughts and concerns is another way of relieving stress. However, medical professionals often find it necessary to talk to other medical professionals since friends and family usually are not able to relate to the kinds of pressure and stress you experience. If you can't find anyone to share your concerns with who you trust, try keeping a journal where you talk to yourself! Getting your feelings down on paper and expressing yourself helps your brain to process the stress and pressure of everyday life.
Your thoughts create emotions, your emotions trigger actions and your actions predict your success. While you cannot change reality by changing how you think, you can change how reality impacts your mental and physical health. Don't stick your head in the sand and pretend things don't exist! Instead, identify challenges and look for what you can do.
For example, watching the news every day can be stressful. Instead, read what researchers are learning about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and what you can do to protect yourself. Taking action is a powerful way of reducing stress.
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