The Burnout Epidemic Part 2

In the digital age, connectivity adds to your workplace value. Being the first to arrive at work and being the last to leave is no longer making the cut for the employee of the month; however, bringing your work home after you’ve clocked out is. But, what happens when your work life starts to invade your personal life? Is having your cake and eating it too possible when it comes to finding the perfect balance between your work life and personal life, or are some of us doomed to live a life connected to their cell phones in their sleep?

In the last blog post, we discussed work-life boundaries, and how real they actually are in such an interconnected world. Creating work-life boundaries means you are dedicating specific amounts of time to different aspects of your life—work, home, health, etc. in order to achieve and maintain harmony and balance in the way you live So, what happens when you find your life’s equilibrium to be off, and hours in the day don’t seem to be long enough? The long-term answer is the Burnout Effect. This phenomenon has recently surfaced in many professional fields and is now being taken seriously due to its detrimental effects, with an official diagnosis code of Z73.0 being specifically assigned to burnout. Simply put, it is the physical, emotional, and mental effect of being overworked and neglecting all other parts of your life. It is your body’s way of telling you that it is under immense stress and needs to be rehabilitated. According to Heinemann and Heinemann (2017), the term “burnout” was popularized by German psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in 1974. He discovered that he and other colleagues were experiencing similar symptoms, describing them as feeling “burned out”.

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If you’ve been experiencing constant fatigue, lack of motivation, frequent headaches or muscle pains, feeling of failure and self-doubt, and a feeling of decreased satisfaction and lack of accomplishment, you may be experiencing the Burnout Effect. The imbalance in your life, whether it be from your job, school, or home life may be the root of your condition, but it should not be confused with prolonged stress. According to Smith, Segal, Robinson, and Segal (2018), “stress, by and large, involves too much: too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and mentally”, while burnout is the result of the long-term stress of back to back negative experiences, thoughts, emotions, and memories. Feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring, means you’re experiencing the end stage symptoms of burnout. Once you are this far, you’re in deep trouble.

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Both of these conditions can cause emotional, physical and mental strain to the body; which is why if you are a sufferer of either one, you may experience such symptoms as consistent migraines, muscle aches, and sore stomach. If you have read the previous post on holistic healing, you remember that each system of the body is interdependent, and failure of one is followed by the failure of others. It is vital to your overall health that you take a step back to analyze your problems and come up with as many solutions as possible to eliminate them. If you are unable to find a long-term solution right now, here are several methods to use in times of distress in order to temporarily alleviate them:

  1. Consider taking yoga. Yoga provides you with breathing techniques, meditation practice, and is great for centering the mind when things get chaotic.
  2. Find someone you trust. Whether it be a relative or close friend, you should find someone to express your feelings to. Holding onto bottled up frustration will only prolong your burnout, and leave you feeling helpless. However, try to avoid discussing work problems with coworkers, because they are under the same pressures, and discussing work outside of the workplace isn’t always good conversation.
  3. Words of affirmation. Being burned out will leave you feeling inadequate, disappointed, and discouraged. Take the time to find some positive quotes online, print them, or write them out, and post them around the house. Everywhere you turn you’ll have motivational words to get your day started.
  4. Get more rest. People who experience burnout often feel constant fatigue; they don’t have the energy to complete daily tasks or continue in activities they once enjoyed. Many find comfort in laying around all day. Oversleeping is certainly not the answer, and neither is lack of sleep. In order to make sure you get an adequate amount of rest, give yourself a scheduled bedtime. Give yourself enough time to finish small tasks, record your late-night shows to watch at another time, and officially wind down for the night. A tall mug of herbal, decaffeinated tea can help do the trick. Wake up feeling refreshed and well-rested.
  5. Set boundaries! As difficult as it may be, you have to know when enough is enough. Coming home to more work is only going to add to the burnout you are experiencing, and it makes you feel like you should’ve and could’ve done more at the office. Declaring a set time to put your phone down and stop replying to emails will help you be present in your home life, instead of feeling like the pressures of work are following you to your front door. Be present in your own life and know when to leave work at work.

Unfortunately, not all jobs allow for much leisure time. While the discovery isn’t recent, job burnout among medical professionals is now being taken seriously. Job stressors for the nursing profession will continue to multiply and diversify in the future, due to a combination of expectations of better quality of care and ever decreasing resources (Montgomery, Spanu, Baban, Panagopoulou, 2015). Nurses work tirelessly to save the lives of others, and without much recognition or promotion to look forward to. Upward mobility in medical professions is not likely or to be expected, and this lack of diversity in the hierarchy can be a huge factor of job burnout.

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The lack of autonomy within the medical world can also lead to potential burnouts. The freedom of making your own decisions, without them being life or death, or having to answer to a higher-up is a luxury that does not exist in medical professions. Nurses especially have more difficulty finding ways to self-govern, seeing as though they have to not only answer to patients but also head nurses and doctors. The medical food chain is one that shows little appreciation for the countless hours of work and passion that is output and thus leads to burnouts.

 

Being unable to control your work life can also have detrimental effects on your personal life.

 

In many cases, we’ve been conditioned to think that teamwork is the solution to accomplishing goals and surpassing job expectations. However, studies from Westman, Bakker, Roziner, and Sonnentag (2011) found that unit-level cohesion and social support exacerbate the crossover of perceived job demands and emotional exhaustion from the team to the individuals, suggesting that cohesion and social support actually facilitate burnout spread among team members. So how will medical professionals ever rely on each other without heightening the risk of burnouts among other workers? The answer still circles back to boundaries. Discussing job stressors while on the job is a conducive environment for more stress, which leads to more frequent burnouts. Instead of only being social with your coworkers at work, try to make acquaintance with them outside of the workplace. Seeing each other in a more relaxed setting can ease tensions and give you something else to focus on other than the difficulties you face at work.

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There is one thing is for certain: even nurses and doctors need their rest. An imbalanced life can and will lead to negative outcomes, some of them long-term or even irreversible. The important thing to remember is as humans, we are designed to be mentally, physically, and emotionally aligned within ourselves, and no matter how invincible we think we are, our minds and bodies tell us otherwise. Remember to follow the recommendations above that will temporarily elevate your burnout. But if you want to rid yourself of your internal blackhole and reenergize your mind, body, and soul, it’s time to make an appointment with me and begin your journey to burning brighter. Remember, I’m here to help you, but I can’t help if you don’t take that first step to ask for help.

Jennifer Marcenelle BSN, RN, HBC-HN
Jennifer Marcenelle is a board-certified and registered nurse with over 30 years of experience in the medical industry. She currently holds degrees in nursing and holistic healing, with a specialization in burnouts.

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