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Breaking Burnout: The Journey of a Healthcare Professional to Reclaiming Passion and Purpose

Are you working in a stressful field like the healthcare field and feeling drained and overwhelmed? Meet Sarah, a nurse who has dedicated over a decade of her life to helping others.

She loved the fast-paced and challenging nature of her job, but as the workload increased and the pressure to deliver immediate care with limited resources mounted, she started to feel the effects. Sarah became increasingly irritable, short-tempered, unmotivated, and unfulfilled in her work. She lost her once strong passion for helping others and felt a sense of emptiness and despair. Sarah often worked 12-hour shifts with maybe a 30-minute break if she was lucky, leaving her physically and mentally exhausted by the end of the day. To make things more challenging, sometimes she needed help understanding what was expected due to conflicting instructions from different supervisors. As a nurse, she often feels like she has no control over her workload or schedule, leaving her feeling stressed and overwhelmed. She finds it challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance, as she frequently is called in for overtime or asked to work additional weekends, leaving her little time for herself or her family. She encounters difficult colleagues who are uncooperative or dismissive, making for a stressful and unsupportive work environment. Sound familiar?

Symptoms of Burnout

Symptoms of burnout vary from person to person, but common signs include the following:

  • Feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted

  • Loss of motivation and decreased productivity

  • Feelings of cynicism and detachment from work or personal life

  • Difficulty sleeping and frequent feelings of anxiety sadness or anger

  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach problems, and frequent illnesses

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is vital to take action to prevent burnout from taking over your life. Sarah's husband noticed she was becoming more irritable at home, not participating in the activities that she once received joy from. Her marriage and relationships at home began to suffer. Her children didn't meet her at the door anymore and were often shy to open up about their problems. They didn't want to overwhelm her at home. One day Sarah shared her negative feelings about her life with a coworker. She expressed that she felt she needed out of health care and no longer thought it was her calling. Her coworker said she went through a similar experience and how counseling helped her get her passion and drive back. At first, she was hesitant and thought counseling was only for those with severe mental health issues.

Why might health care workers avoid counseling?

While to some it would make sense for the people who educate on health and wellness to take control of their own mental health, often they don't. Often health care professional put their needs of others in front of the needs of their own. Here are barriers to health care workers seeking professional health:

  • Stigma and shame: Some healthcare workers may feel embarrassed or ashamed to admit they are struggling and fear being seen as weak or inadequate.

  • Lack of time: With demanding schedules and long hours, many healthcare workers may need more time to care for their own needs, including seeking counseling.

  • Financial barriers: For some, the cost of counseling may be a barrier to seeking help.

  • A belief that they should be able to handle it on their own: Many healthcare workers may believe that they should be able to address the challenges of their job and may not want to seek outside help.

  • Fear of job loss or negative impact on career: Some healthcare workers may worry that seeking counseling could negatively impact their job or career, for example, by making it seem like they are unable to handle the demands of their job.

  • Lack of awareness of resources: Some healthcare workers may need to be made aware of the available resources or learn how to access them.

Sarah eventually decided she would try working with a counselor. She knew she was still passionate about helping people who needed help the most. She found a counselor who she felt comfortable with and opened up about her feelings and experiences. Sarah realized that counseling was just what she needed. Through her sessions, Sarah learned to process her emotions and gain a new perspective on her thoughts and behaviors.

Causes of Burnout

There is no single cause of burnout, but it often occurs due to prolonged stress and excessive demands. Some of the common causes of burnout include:

  • Overworking: Spending too much time working and not taking adequate breaks can lead to burnout.

  • Unclear job expectations: When job responsibilities and expectations are not clearly defined, it can lead to confusion and stress.

  • Lack of control: Feeling like you have no control over your work or personal life can contribute to burnout.

  • Poor work-life balance: When work demands take over your personal life, it can lead to burnout.

  • Poor relationships: Difficult relationships with coworkers, supervisors, or family members can contribute to burnout.

She learned effective coping strategies and techniques to manage her stress and feelings of burnout. Sarah regained her sense of purpose and passion for her work, and her relationships with her colleagues and family improved. She also discovered the importance of setting boundaries and prioritizing self-care. Her relationships at home improved too. Her husband and kids more joyfully met her at the door, and she was more present when spending time with them.

Alleviating Burnout

You can take many steps to prevent burnout and maintain your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Some of the most effective ways to prevent burnout include:

  • Prioritizing self-care: Taking care of your physical and emotional self is crucial in preventing burnout. This includes getting enough sleep, eating well, and engaging in physical activity.

  • Setting boundaries: It is essential to set clear boundaries between work and personal time. This can help you avoid overworking and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

  • Communicating with coworkers and supervisors: Good communication can help to clarify job expectations and responsibilities, reducing stress and preventing burnout.

  • Seeking support: Having a supportive network of friends, family, or a counselor can provide emotional support and help you manage stress.

  • Taking breaks: Regular breaks and engaging in activities you enjoy can help refresh your mind and prevent burnout.

Sarah's journey reminds us that seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a brave and proactive step toward improving our well-being. We can all learn from her experience and take steps to prevent burnout before it starts. By setting boundaries, practicing self-care, managing your workload, seeking support, taking breaks, and finding meaning in your work, you can stay motivated and engaged in your career.

If you're feeling overwhelmed like Sarah, don't wait another day to seek help. Consider if counseling is right for you. Take the first step towards reclaiming your passion and purpose in healthcare. It is okay to get help. Many healthcare agencies have free employee wellness and mental health programs. Some are limited to a set number of sessions and will refer you if you need more aggressive therapy. Another option is to find a counselor in your area in person. Online therapy is also a good option for healthcare workers with busy schedules. By taking care of yourself, setting boundaries, seeking support, and taking breaks, you can prevent burnout and maintain your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. If you are struggling with burnout and ready for a change like Sarah, Chapters Counseling is here for you.

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