The Village GP Black Rock

The Village GP Black Rock

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Banking on burnout…

  • November 30, 2021

By Dr Kelly-Anne Garnier

As we commence this year’s festive season – if you’re feeling exhausted before it’s even begun…. You’re not alone. 

There are a myriad a reasons – collectively and individually – why this may be so, but irrespective of what they are – the good news is you’re never powerless to change this – for the better. 

Self-care.  We’ve all heard of it.  (Cue: Eye-roll).  How easily the phrase rolls off!  Almost too easily.  Deceptive really – the simplicity of the concept and yet, surely one of the hardest things to achieve. 

In amongst the ups and downs of life’s perpetual pulse…. The unceasing demands of professional, family and social life and the weight of our worries, our hopes, our dreams…. It’s so easy to lose sight of ourselves.  It can be a lonely, exhausting place to be. 

The World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) describes burnout as having three elements: 

  • Feelings of exhaustion 
  • Mental detachment from one’s job (this need not be paid work!) 
  • Poorer performance at work 

The sneaky thing about burnout is more than often it tends to creep up on us… particularly those who are used to being ‘all things to all people’ – it’s the ‘curse of the competent!’ as my sister will often say.   

Another phrase in medicine – over utilized and underappreciated is ‘multifactorial’.  So apt in this case.  Factors in our lives – our lifestyles, personality traits, professional and social responsibilities, environmental factors, physical and mental health factors – collectively either contribute or withdraw from our own little bank account of personal energy.  By the time you’re approaching burnout, the cash reserves are running low but when we start writing out cheques on overdraft we’re in burnout terrain.  At this juncture, if you’re business savvy, a friendly visit to your ‘bank manager – doctor’ is well advised and the two of you can put together a plan to sort out your energy cash flow!  Living in the red is no fun.  In this case: energy bankruptcy = burnout. 

But in all seriousness and burnout is serious, there is so much that can be done to prevent, alleviate and recover from burnout.  It’s all about balance.  Learning to balance your own energy books in much the same way as the family budget is a great start.  An honest approach is best – we all know if we’re the type to save well and what (or who!) burns holes in our energy pockets!  

The thing about self-care is that: when done right, it literally helps balance the books on both sides – reducing the energy output and maximizing the energy input.  But where to even begin?  It’s more than just downward dogs and almond lattes, let me assure you!  Self-care starts and ends with the person looking back at you in the mirror.  It involves taking a good hard look at our lives, our choices, our habits and taking responsibility for each and every choice we make.  Sounds scary doesn’t it?  If we’re ready to do this, it can literally be life-changing.  In my experience, it’s not the taking responsibility for our choices which is the hard bit.  What is hard is somehow finding it within ourselves to go easy on ourselves and treat ourselves with compassion for where things haven’t gone to plan or where we know we’re made a decision based on short term gain that’s caused or is causing long term pain, that is hard.  Forgiving ourselves is hard.  But so worth it.  And here’s the deal – you are worth it.   

There is so much more to balancing the books – as any passionate small business owner would tell you – they could talk about their business for ages.  When you get ‘into’ the business of you, it’s the same…. This is why I love Lifestyle Medicine – it’s the business of you and there are so many avenues to explore, to think and reflect about – where is the road you’re currently on leading to?    

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