Burnout: The Elephant in the Room

I’ve always been lauded as a driven person. Driven has become synonymous with words that are celebrated in the fabric of our work culture:

  • Hard-worker
  • Solutions Driven
  • Results Focused
  • A Go Getter
  • A Workplace Enthusiast

All of the above phrases are seen as skills that show that you are “worthy” in the career setting.

If you add people pleasing to the equation, it was more of a recipe for burnout, an unspoken elephant in the room.

Burnout

As a novice clinical researcher, I took on as many roles as possible. I wanted to move up the corporate ladder, so I thought working harder would validate my leadership acumen. I would volunteer for weekend work opportunities. I would work early mornings, late evenings, and even midnight shifts! While my workload continued to increase in the name of “helping more people,” my work-life balance did not improve. Any habit we don’t confront and acknowledge will continue. More recently, this drive has shown in colds, fatigue, and dissatisfaction. Can you relate?

Burnout is a symptom of a much greater root issue-the lack of boundaries. Boundaries allow us to put our values and priorities at the forefront. Boundaries allow us to be human, acknowledging that we have limits and needs to be healthy and fulfilled.

What is the cost of living without boundaries?

We will sacrifice relationships to help the company “win.” Have you noticed that as we show that we can do more with less, the workloads become heavier and more inconsistent? A work culture that applauds the deliverables over the people will think it is excellent because the metrics are being met. However, it is unhealthy to forgo family and friendships in the name of company progress.

We will forgo vacation time and mental health days. Have you been guilty of checking your work emails on your days off, so you stay caught up? Ensuring the work is done is admirable, but it should not be at the expense of your overall well-being.

We will overlook our needs to address wellness and illness. As we have discussed, the workloads in the clinical field continue to increase. The staffing to meet the increased needs does not. It would be great if we did not have to choose between our well-being and addressing our workload.

We can choose how we will challenge burnout in our lives. Yes, we get to choose! 

What can we do as clinical leaders to develop better boundaries and begin addressing burnout?

  • Don’t push your mind and body until you don’t feel well. If the corporate culture doesn’t align with your values and priorities, identify your non-negotiables. Write them out and keep them visible.
  • Recognize and vocalize your needs and priorities. Communicate your non-negotiables. It’s important that they are heard because it is an adjustment for people to hear that we are choosing ourselves and communicating boundaries. 
  • Take your time. You are deserving of taking time to rest and recharge. Take personal time without checking emails, and set(and communicate) your day’s start and end times daily. By communicating your working hours, it also helps reset expectations that you are available 24/7.
  • Find time to invest in yourself. Please put time on your calendar to invest in things that bring you joy. We lose ourselves in our work when we allow ourselves to forget we have interests outside of the work we do. It’s okay to enjoy having fun! What do you like to do?
  • Don’t push your mind and body to perform when exhausted. It is an indication to rest! Take time to get proper sleep and take time away from the computer screen. The work will be there, but there is only one of you. Make sure you are prioritizing your wellness.

Burnout is not something that occurs suddenly. It happens over time. As I am navigating recovery from burnout, I have had to be reminded that it is a process. Remembering this helps me not to feel shame when I still have areas to overcome, such as overcommitting my schedule and working myself excessively as a recovering people pleaser.

Please don’t be afraid to take the steps needed to care for yourself. I am navigating this journey with you and in the end, it will be well worth it.

Does this article resonate with you?

Where would you like support addressing burnout?

How can I support you in your journey?

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