People who work in healthcare are the most susceptible to workplace burnout. Whether you’re a nurse, carer, doctor, specialist, working in hospitals or aged care, you all face the same things. Long shifts, taking care of patient after patient, dealing with upper management – and often on very little sleep and food. No one could last very long working in those conditions, so it’s important to recognise burnout before it can do some serious damage to your physical and mental health, as well as your career and personal life.
So what are some things you can do to evaluate whether you may be facing burnout?
Take note of how your shifts have gone over the past month or two. If you find that you have more bad days than good ones, then maybe it’s worth thinking about stepping back – whether that be resting or looking for new work. Life is too short to put up with that many bad days, and if work is part of that then you need to reevaluate your worklife.
How are you outside of work? Are you always thinking about work – even when you aren’t there? Do you find yourself constantly talking about work – not just with work colleagues, but with everyone? If work is consuming your mind, chances are it’s also consuming your life.
Some of the very first signs of burnout is changes in your mood and energy. You may find that you have started feeling anxious, sad or blue. Sometimes you can’t put a finger on it, it may simply be a free-floating unease that you can’t put a finger on. All you know is that something isn’t quite right.
Those you are closest to are the ones who can best read you. They’ll be the ones who can tell if something is wrong, maybe even before you yourself know. Ask your friends and family if you seem more on edge than usual – that could be a very telling sign of burnout.
When was the last time you did something you really enjoyed? Whether it be reading a good book, seeing a movie, playing with your children or went on a date with your partner. It can be a number of reasons why you’ve stopped doing things you enjoy – you don’t have the time, you don’t have the energy or you simply aren’t interested anymore. Whatever the reason, the root cause might that work is taking a toll on you.
When you’re burned out or stressed, it can have a huge effect on you body, as well as your mind. How is your physical health? Have there been any drastic changes to your diet or exercise routine? Or are you simply feeling lethargic and have no energy? It would be worth getting a checkup to see how your blood pressure or there has been any sudden weight gain. Stress can manifest in the body in many ways.
How do you truly feel about our job? Are you dreading attending every shift you’ve got? Having a hard time at work can also affect your life outside of work. If your “gut feeling” about your work has changed and it’s affecting every part of your life, you may need to step back and realign certain things. Every job has it’s ups and downs, so before you put in your letter of resignation work out what it is that’s making you feel drained.
If you are feeling low on energy, limited patience, or lack empathy towards your patients/residents then you are probably experiencing ‘burn-out’. Often a taking a break and removing yourself from your normal environment can help to refresh and refuel you.
If you have the opportunity to take a break, try taking a week or two off – if you can’t do that then a quick weekend away can also be just as good. See how you feel after you’ve unwound for a bit. Imagine walking back into your workplace – do you feel better about it or still dreading your shifts? Sometimes you need to step back and look at the bigger picture to see how you really feel about your work and career.
Ask yourself one simple thing – can you see yourself doing this in the future? The “future” can mean anything from the rest of your life to the next few months. If you find yourself answering “no”, think about your reasons why. It may be worth talking to someone at work about how you’re feeling. Don’t ever feel as though you’re pressured to continue doing your work and likewise to feel pressure to immediately ‘fix’ everything now. Work out where you want to be in the next 3- 5 years time and taken the necessary steps to ensure that the ‘here and now’ is as pleasant as it can be, whilst working on your goals to get you to your end point.
It’s important to recognise if something is not quite right with you. It’s always important to take care of yourself, first and foremost. Your career, your emotional well-being, and even your health may depend on it.