Health Junior Doctors Lifestyle

Are you burning out?

Any type-A personalities out there? <Puts hand up> Burnout is common in many industries, including the medical profession, which attracts many driven and ambitious individuals. This lends itself to a motivated group of workers, but at the same time it makes the group vulnerable to burning out.

First of all, what is burnout? Burnout is not just physical exhaustion – it also has detrimental mental and emotional effects on the body from excessive and prolonged stress. A little bit of stress is a good thing, as described by the Yerkes-Dodson phenomenon. However, after a certain level of stress, performance starts to decline – and when that stress is prolonged, the person suffers from functional impairment.

Why are type-A people vulnerable to burnout? Type-A personalities are the typical “workaholics”. We are concerned about our work performance, productivity, and efficiency. For this reason, we tend to ignore our bodies’ signals of stress in order to perform tasks at a high level and in a timely manner.

Actually, I do…

When we become obsessed with our jobs, we bring work home with us, and it even enters our subconscious headspace – I’ve definitely dreamt about work many a time, as I know others have! Indeed, this is a sign of burnout. Below is a check list of 10 things to go through to see if you might be burning out:

  • Are you pre-occupied with work when you’re not at work?
  • Are you losing your motivation?
  • Is your work performance dropping?
  • Are you having cognitive problems such as concentration, memory, and speech?
  • Are you starting to experience negative emotions like sadness or anger?
  • Do you feel physically, mentally or emotionally exhausted from your job?
  • Is it starting to cause interpersonal problems such as arguments with co-workers, or issues with friendships or relationships?
  • Are you losing interest in activities that you would normally enjoy?
  • Are you starting to neglect your self care, like hygiene, nutrition, hydration or exercise?
  • Are you developing physical symptoms (such as headaches or stomach pains) as well as mental symptoms?
Watercolour and ink illustration by me

If you said “yes” to any of the above, I encourage you to talk with a trusted senior colleague, or your GP. It’s important to recognise burnout early before it leads to more serious illnesses such as depression.

Take care,

Miko xx

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2 Comments

  1. chi says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this article. I absolutely love the watercolouring illustration you’ve made in listing down the symptoms for burning out. I’ve recently experienced physician burn-out and was overwhelmed with sadness and anger. Reading through your articles and learning your journey on how you get yourself back up are truly inspirational to me. All of them spoke right through my heart. I can’t be more thankful to have chanced upon your stories that allow me to gain new perspectives. I’ve taken active steps to care for myself more over the past few weeks. I have returned back to work with a much more refreshed mindset and positive energy! Keep shining bright like a diamond 🙂 you’re amazing even when you’re not practicing as a doctor!

    1. Miko says:

      Dear Chi,
      Thank you so much for your comment. I’m so glad to hear that the blog posts have helped. I intend on writing further posts on my ongoing recovery process… I’m not quite back to my baseline self yet, but I’m getting closer each day. I am happy to hear that you are looking after yourself, and you’ve been able to go back to work in a much better state! Please take care, I hope you are okay now.
      Much love,
      Miko

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