Jack feels exhausted even though he just started work an hour ago. He does not feel refreshed even after resting during the weekend. He has to put in more effort and time to complete his work. He dreads work and has been dragging himself to the office. For the past few months, he had fallen ill quite frequently. Most importantly, his colleagues noticed that he is a different person lately. Instead of his usual jovial self, Jack has been snapping at others and keeping to himself. Jack is experiencing burnout. Are you heading down the same path? According to a 2018 study published in the Singapore Medical Journal, the burnout rate among healthcare professionals in Singapore is twice that in the United States. Another study in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology observed that 1 in 8 Singaporeans reported that they are unable to manage their work stress.
Burnout is a condition of vital exhaustion due to work stress that is not properly managed. It was recently recognized by the World Health Organisation as a medical condition. Healthcare professionals with burnout typically experience cynicism towards patients, a lack of motivation at work even though their work benefits patients, or may get irritated by patients' requests when previously they would not. In the hospital environment, burnout could be due to being physically toiled because as healthcare professionals we have to attend to an overwhelming number of patients every day, and soldier on for long, unpredictable hours. It could also be due to the emotional strain we get from working with or watching our patients suffer. Also, in our quest to care for our patients, we often forget to care for ourselves. Consistently over-extending ourselves like this, and neglecting our own needs and well-being eventually leads to burnout.
It’s important to address burnout before it gets worse and manifests as physical and mental health symptoms. Adjusting workload or taking a respite from work may be all that is needed.You can prevent and manage burnout by trying “CSSS”:
Cultivating compassion You have an in-built ability to cultivate compassion, which has been found to help burnout. You can cultivate compassion by being kind to yourself and having a caring motivation to actively face situations that cause distress.
Self awareness allows you to acknowledge that you have burnout so that you can take steps to manage it. Self awareness also helps you to identify possible triggers and causes of burnout. You can cultivate self awareness by keeping a journal, reflection, mindfulness practices or seeking feedback from others.
Short breaks could be 5 minutes or even just stopping to take in three deep breaths. It does not have to be an official coffee break, and could just involve you switching to other less draining tasks for a short while, for example, photocopying or filing. Taking a break from your usual routine helps you to pace yourself and to recharge. Most importantly, taking a pause makes you take a step back from your usual behavioural patterns and cultivates your self awareness. Stay close to what’s important to you. We can really get lost amidst the sea of tasks that requires us to firefight. When that happens, it takes us away from things that matters to us. Stay close to activities and people that give you meaning, energy and joy at work as best as you can.
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