You Aren’t Alone
How often have you caught yourself feeling emotionally exhausted? Under continued pressure and stress? Has this been accompanied by a sense of ineffectiveness and detachment from others?
If you see yourself with these symptoms, you may be among a large percentage of the population that suffers from burnout. This medical condition may have been given little thought or different names in the past, but the World Health Organization now considers burnout a legitimate medical diagnosis. It is a medical condition that can affect the individual and the family, and it has serious consequences in the workplace as well.
“It’s time we leaned in to this diagnosis and made people more aware of what burnout is, the harmful effects of it and, importantly, what can be done to address it both at home and in the workplace,” said Dr. Kate Regan, MidMichigan Health psychiatrist and chair of its Physician Wellness and Burnout Council.
MidMichigan Health has become a national leader on the topic in response to the national data showing that physician burnout is one of the highest of any profession in the United States.
“It’s really about ways that we can support staff wellness so that they can provide excellent care to our patients,” said Regan.
It is not uncommon to correlate professions of high responsibility and accountability with a greater incidence of burnout. This can be people who operate under deadlines, those with the risk of severe consequences from errors and ones with personality traits that lean toward perfectionism.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
How do I know if I’m burned out?
Broadly speaking, those with burnout may feel depleted of energy, have negative tendencies or see themselves as disconnected from others and unappreciated. In the home setting, common signs include being impatient with family members, neglecting home responsibilities and becoming isolated from social contact. In the work setting, signals of burnout are acting depressed, withdrawing from others and having less ability to focus.
What causes burnout?
Burnout is typically caused by chronic stress that has not been successfully managed. This can occur in the home setting as well as the workplace. According to a recent Korn Ferry survey, nearly two-thirds of professionals say their stress levels are higher than they were five years ago. Pressures include changes in technology, increased workloads, and conflicts with work associates. The study may be seen at kornferry.com/institute/workplace-stress-motivation.
What are the consequences of burnout?
Being burned out can cause irritability, negative family and social interactions, lack of commitment, loss of sleep, and create a reduced immunity that increases vulnerability to colds and the flu. All of this diminishes our level of health and happiness.
In the business setting, it leads to absenteeism, reduced work efficiency, lack of commitment and workplace cynicism. These tendencies are harmful to the person with burnout as well as to the employer.
What can be done about it?
We must recognize that everyone has some degree of stress in their life. The first step is awareness of what causes the stress and how these causes can be mitigated. At MidMichigan, Regan said extensive research was done with physicians and advanced practice providers (physician assistants and nurse practitioners) to identify their greatest causes of stress. Acting upon the research findings, improvements were made that included how clinicians utilize the electronic medical record. Once changes were incorporated, clinicians could accomplish their highest priority, which was giving their full attention and focus on the patient. This was a major factor in alleviating their stress and it also contributed to better patient care.
Once we recognize the pressures that create stress, we should look at how it manifests itself in us and what we can do to minimize it. Examples may be practicing meditation, making time for yoga or getting a better balance in our work and home life. Counseling is an option through your physician or a local social service agency. Close friends to share with and confide in are also helpful.
In the workplace, businesses should consider not only the cost to the organization, but their responsibility in creating a work environment where employees are fully supported. Some progressive employee health departments offer counseling services as well as massage therapy and reiki. Check to see what your organization offers.
Where can I find further information?
The Michigan Health Improvement Alliance Inc. is a regional collaboration of nonprofit organizations focusing on making the Great Lakes Bay communities healthier. MiHIA is partnering with Saginaw County Community Mental Health to bring myStrength to the region. From resiliency to well-being, myStrength’s digital behavioral health solutions empower individuals with engaging, clinically proven resources: mystrength.com, access code to sign-up is SAGINAW
“It’s time we leaned in to this diagnosis and made people more aware of what burnout is, the harmful effects of it and, importantly, what can be done to address it both at home and in the workplace.” ~ Dr. Kate Regan, MD, MidMichigan Health
BOOKS TO CONSIDER
“Extinguish Burnout: A Practical Guide to Prevention and Recovery,” by Rob and Terri Bogue
“The Opposite Side of Burnout: 5 Career Strategies to Feel Valued. Be Heard, and Make a Difference,” by Liz Garrett
“How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” by Dale Carnegie
“The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen R. Covey
Resource for Businesses/Organizations:
Those interested in learning more about how MidMichigan Health is addressing workplace stress may contact Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org.