Who's Taking Care of the Caretaker?

Being a caretaker is both noble and essential to the survival of our species. We take care of those whom we care about and do so because we find great purpose in these efforts. But when we are the caretaker, who is taking care of us?

#Physicians are an excellent example of this predicament. They dedicate their lives to taking care of their patients, but who is ensuring their wellbeing? How does the system they work in contribute to the problem and/or the solution? What can they do to rebalance the scales?

Here is Johnny's story:

Johnny dreamed of being a doctor. He attended medical school and really focused on getting good grades so he can get a good placement out of school. Years later, you could find Johnny working 80 hours a week at a prestigious hospital. Johnny had gotten what he was after. But his career was just one piece of the puzzle.

When you zoomed in on the rest of Johnny's pie, you could see that he was burned out. He was frantically working around the clock due to the high demands of his job. He felt #exhausted. He had little energy left at the end of the day for his wife and two young children. He was aware of the problem, but felt there was nothing he could do about it.

After several years of this arrangement, his marriage fell apart. His wife filed for divorce. Because he didn't have time to take care of his children, they spent all week with their mother and saw their dad every other weekend.

Johnny loved his family and was devastated by this series of events. He felt frustrated with the situation but had little time to work toward a solution.

Because so much of his time and energy were taken up by the job, Johnny found it nearly impossible to implement #selfcare. The irony of the situation was not lost on him. Here he was advocating for the health of his patients, but meanwhile he was feeling drained.

As #stress continued to mount, Johnny found relief in alcohol. Coming home to a glass of wine was the only easily available resource that could supply quick relief. Over time, however, the glass turned into a bottle and soon Johnny was drowning his sorrows and developing an #addiction.

Looking At Life Through A Wider Lens

Let's zoom back out. When we take a look at Johnny's life, we see a hard working, highly educated man who is driven by his purpose of helping others and dedicated to making a difference. He was well trained in how to connect the dots of his career. Medical school emphasized what he needs to do to "make it."

What medical school failed to address is how to manage once you've achieved your goal. When we want to be slim, it's not enough for us to diet and lose the excess pounds. We need a #maintenanceplan to keep the weight off. What Johnny wasn't trained in was how to manage the demands of his job and balance his career and personal life.

#Burnout has many faces. In Johnny's case, we have high environmental demands coupled with low #autonomy, time management skills, and resources. This model is not sustainable. Johnny has too little energy to flourish in his life.

Here are 3 ways to overcome this type of burnout:

1. Consider what you can change about your work environment to decrease the demands. This means finding a way of doing less. Monitor your level of #enthusiasm for the job and realize that the more exhausted you are, the less enthusiastic you'll likely feel. To change the paradigm, find ways to become more enthusiastic in your work. That might mean becoming more specialized or getting more support so you can focus more on patient care and less on administrative tasks.

2. Assert yourself by creating #boundaries. This takes awareness. Imagine you have an energy gauge. Which activities energize you and which ones zap your energy? If your autonomy at your current setting is so low that you can't make a dent in the system, consider alternative placement options including starting your own practice.

3. Focus on improving #timemanagement skills so you can be more effective, not just efficient. Ask for the resources you need at work and search out resources to help you manage your time outside of work. Create a wellness plan of how you're going to incorporate self-care. This should include getting a full night's sleep, eating healthy meals regularly, exercising several times per week, spending time on fun leisurely activities, and socializing with loved ones. The better you are at managing your time and creating boundaries, the easier it will be to implement your plan.

Keeping your eye on the prize is no longer just about occupational success. We need to think bigger and integrate our personal relationships and health into the picture.

How has burnout affected you and what tips do you have to share from your experience?

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