MSMS Michigan Medicine November December 2022

Nov / Dec 2022 | michigan MEDICINE® 15 10. the time and tools they need to effectively manage it. Burnout, on the other hand, is really more the cumulative manifestation of not being given the time, tools, or resources to manage that stress. When people lose their connection to the parts of their work that bring them happiness and feels purposeful, when they consistently lack that critical balance between their work lives and their professional lives and are left without adequate time to recharge—when these sorts of patterns develop, that’s when things go wrong, that’s when people and organizations suffer.” In short, burnout is the result of prolonged, chronic, unmanaged stress. And importantly, it is a state one does not reach overnight. But when does one cross over from being stressed to experiencing burnout? If the onset of burnout is subtle and progresses gradually, how do we recognize and address it before it escalates into something more serious and difficult to overcome? How to Identify Burnout in Yourself and Your Colleagues For a multitude of reasons, burnout can be tough for organizations, colleagues and even the person experiencing it to identify, especially at its onset. But from the perspective of the physician suffering, it must start with one simple question: are you willing to be truly honest with yourself? “Medical stoicism is one of the major roadblocks to physicians being able to notice early warning signs in their own feelings and actions,” says Doctor Mittal. “For a lot of us, if we aren’t struggling, we feel we aren’t working hard enough. We’re not good at looking at ourselves, and we rarely seek help. And if a physician isn’t willing to really be honest with themselves right up front about how they’re feeling, it’s really very easy for them to diminish all the symptoms they’re experiencing.” Thankfully, there are several physical, emotional, and behavioral signs and symptoms that burnout may developing, and self-identifying those telltale warning signs works much like any other effort to diagnose a problem—it starts with questions: 1. Am I having trouble sleeping? Has my appetite changed? 2. Am I more irritable at work? 3. Do I dread going to work? 4. Am I exhausted all the time? 5. Am I making more errors? 6. Am I no longer enjoying the things I used to enjoy outside of work? 7. Am I feeling increasingly cynical? 8. Do I feel detached from my work? From my family? 9. Am I losing my motivation? My ability to care? Am I having trouble in my rela- tionships at work, and especially at home? Taking a moment to ask and answer these sorts of questions is an excellent first step in trying to determine whether you may be suffering from burnout. And even if you do not think you have a problem, the exercise of taking stock of your feelings from time to time in this manner is a good practice from a wellness standpoint. “I think some of the earliest symptoms that people tend to miss are the fatigue and no longer enjoying the things outside of work that used to bring them satisfaction,” says Doctor Mittal. “So being mindful of how your feeling in these areas is critical to self-identifying burnout in its early stages.” Unfortunately, there are too many physicians that do not take the time for this sort of critical self-reflection. Part of that is undoubtedly explained by the time pressures that come with being a physician. Moments for uninterrupted self-reflection can feel like they are few and far between when one also must juggle the needs of their (CONTINUED ON PAGE 16)