Burn-out is a hot topic. Two-thirds of employees, many teens and young adults, and over 75% of physicians experience burn-out symptoms, not to mention the closely-related epidemics of addiction, overdose and suicide. Warning signs include inability to focus, feeling of constant stress, loss of self-esteem, insomnia, anxiety, depression, irritability and chronic fatigue. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.
Although we all know the basics of self-care, when stressed, we often regress to unhealthy behaviors indulging in comfort foods, sugar, binge-watching Netflix, caffeine, alcohol or other “uppers and downers” du jour. These offer a transient dopamine hit, distraction, numbing or escape but end up depleting us even more.
Sadly, many of us never learned healthy ways to manage stress, discomfort, or difficult emotions. Our collective lack of resilience lies at the heart of the twin epidemics of burn-out and deaths of despair. If you catch yourself, or someone you love, sliding toward burn-out, offer a dose of TLC by first acknowledging negative feelings, triggers, stressors. Ditch perfectionism and shed commitments. Remember my sister’s advice, “NO is a complete sentence” and the Serenity prayer, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”. Reach for the tools of self-soothing rather than self-destruction through breathing, prayer, meditation, and mindfulness. Practice gratitude –the antidote to despair. Indulge in nature, rejuvenating food and movement, play and laugh. Recharge your batteries with healthy sleep.
Most important, reach out for help if unable to break out of the negative tail-spin. We have many resources with which to help you.
- Dr. Susan S. Wilder, MD, IFMCP