Mental health issues are plaguing healthcare workers across the country. Between an increase in patient volume, high turnover levels, and an estimated 20% loss in overall healthcare workforce causing nationwide staffing shortages due to fallout from the pandemic, most healthcare professionals are grappling with some level of burnout.
Even before COVID-19, healthcare workers were struggling with how to handle their workload and job stress. Now, burnout levels are reaching an all-time high: nearly half (47%) of all medical professionals in a recent survey reported feeling the impact of burnout. And healthcare burnout affects far more than just work performance. It significantly impacts relationships, personal health, and can even lead to substance abuse.
However, there are ways to protect your well-being during tough times. Here are some top ways to avoid burnout while improving your mental and physical health:
1. Focus on Relationships
When feeling exhausted and down, the natural human instinct is to isolate ourselves. However, that is one of the last things you should do if you’re feeling the effects of burnout.
Strong interpersonal relationships, both at work and home, are crucial to balancing the pressure you feel at work. Leaning on colleagues, friends, and family members by talking about your challenges will help you feel supported and connected.
It is important to note that social media can exacerbate feelings of isolation, so you should avoid relying on social platforms to connect with others. Rather, try to spend time in person with loved ones more regularly.
2. Make Physical Health a Priority
Exercise is often a habit that suffers when dealing with burnout symptoms. When you’re feeling emotionally drained, it can be tempting to sit on the couch and scroll through your social feeds for hours on end. But this is when it’s even more important to make time for physical health.
So stick to your exercise schedule or start one right away to keep your physical systems in peak condition. Studies have found that participants showed less psychological distress and emotional exhaustion after four weeks of exercise. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day, even if that simply means taking a walk around the block.
It’s also hard to overemphasize the importance of sleep when feeling burnout symptoms. Although it can be challenging for healthcare professionals with unusual or inconsistent schedules, getting seven to nine hours of sleep every day is critical for both mental and physical health. A couple of hours before bedtime, start a new relaxing ritual with calming activities such as taking a bath, reading a book, meditating, or doing light yoga. This will improve your mood, motivation, concentration, and stamina.
A nutritious diet is also crucial for combatting burnout. As tempting as it may be, avoid eating fast food, sugary sweets, and other junk food while you deal with stress. A sugar crash can cause irritability, anxiety, headaches, and leave you feeling even more fatigued, but a healthy diet will help you stay energized and get you through those long, tough shifts.
3. Get Outside!
Research shows that spending time outdoors is a powerful boost for mental and physical well-being. One study found that workers who spent more time outdoors had lower burnout levels than those with low outdoor exposure.
It can be challenging to disconnect from work once you’ve left, which further extends feelings of burnout. Getting outside, especially to natural settings like a park, forest, or beach, is the perfect way to disconnect and unplug, which lowers cortisol. Even something as simple as taking a walk around the block or sitting by a body of water will help improve your overall mood.
Take Control of Your Well-Being
These are steps you can take to avoid succumbing to healthcare burnout. A few simple changes can help you come to work feeling more refreshed and motivated, lower your overall stress levels, and improve your quality of life.
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