- Ricka Robb Kohnstamm
What is happening when the once engaging conversation turns into "wah, wah, wah..."?
Try this on for size: You used to look forward to interactions with your colleagues or fellow board members, but now all you hear is "wah, wah, wah...." You can't wait to get off of the call, your mind wanders, you find a million ways to deflect from the deadlines (or homeschooling or housecleaning or chart updates) that await you and more often than not, you think to yourself "I just CAN'T!"
But you don't tell anyone that. Because who would say "I CAN'T?" Not you.
Instead, you keep going and your body starts to wear down with exhaustion, you can't sleep, you emotionally distance from colleagues, you feel alienated from activities you used to enjoy, you can't seem to get anything done, you snap at the slightest provocation, and you feel numb.
Uh oh. What does that signal?
It is normal to experience occasional stress. But chronic stress can turn toxic and lead you down the insidious path into burnout. Burnout is progressive. And it is dangerous for your health.
Before you click on one more Zoom link, think through these four tools for executive/physician self care...
Get support. Having a safe place to unload, consider, and feel heard can be lifesaving. Regular ongoing professional support can allow you the space to stand back, challenge repeating behavior patterns, and make responsive decisions about what is important to you.
Balance your head, heart and body. Yes, thinking is a good thing. But it's not everything. Explore "heart" and "body" activities that call to you, find a balance that works and then make it a priority.
Take a hard look at your work environment. Consider if there is a mismatch between what you are being expected to do (or even more likely what you are expecting of yourself) and the resources you have available - time, energy, money, people.
Redefine your boundaries. What is non-negotiable? Own it and speak it, to yourself and others. You can't expect others to know what you need until you identify it for yourself.
None of us are immune from burnout. Recognizing it in ourselves and others is a moral imperative of leadership, particularly during this unusual time. There is no award for "Most Burned Out Ever." But there is a ton to be gained from feeling alive and stimulated and having the energy and desire to commit to things and people who are important to you.
Burnout is real, particularly now. When I remember that there are tools and people to support me, it helps me determine my actions and stay in the present. As always, my actions, aligned with my values, are what supports optimal health.