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The ONE thing you can do today to help you with burnout as a doctor

The overwhelming majority of doctors that I speak with are suffering from some form of burnout. Whether it is from the pace of your job, the highly technical and stressful elements of what you do or just the sheer number of hours (at various times throughout the day and night) – It all leads to one thing, BURNOUT.

Burnout can have a massive impact on your life. From being physically unhealthy (perhaps you have put on a few kilos) to mentally exhausting (stress, anxiety, fear) as well as affecting relationships and overall wellbeing.

Dealing with burnout is a serious and often overwhelming experience in itself, however if you are suffering from extreme effects of burnout, then I recommend you seek a medical professional to help you (and do it quickly, before it turns into depression or even something worse)

However, if you are suffering from the mild effects of burnout, there is one thing that you can do right now, to help you recover quickly. It’s simple and it’s free (sounds too good to be true, right?!)

It’s sleep.

Pretty boring, right? Probably not the thing you really wanted to hear. You’re a doctor. You know there is no magic pill to solve this.

But, the reality is that everyone needs sleep and it’s the simplest and easiest way to improve your physical and mental wellbeing.

Here are some things that I have implemented to help me fall and stay asleep.

  1. Contraception: Don’t have a baby. They don’t help you get more sleep (ok, maybe that because my 9 month old woke me up last night).
  2. Sleep in a dark room: This can be hard when you are working nights, travelling, sleeping on a plane etc. I bought a manta blackout sleep mask and it changed EVERYTHING about sleeping in the dark for me. It’s not a normal mask, believe me, I’ve tried them all. I always seemed to get light in the sides and it wasn’t worth sleeping with those ones. It’s totally customisable to fit any head, nose, eye shape. It has velcro moveable eye patches which means you can open your eyes in the mask and actually be in darkness. As I travel so much, I can never know exactly what darkness the room will be (some rooms have great blinds, some don’t have any!) Now, I just pop on this mask and am in absolute darkness. Don’t take my word for it, try it yourself. You’ll ditch your ugly blackout blinds when you try them. Note: I do not receive any money for plugging this product – It’s just so bloody awesome that I want you to buy it so you sleep better!
  3. Quit technology: No, not for good. Just an hour before sleeping. Mindlessly scrolling on FB/Insta/Pinterest is not only bad for your health, but the blue light from the screen can screw up your sleep. Instead, try winding down with a gentle routine. My husband tried some of those ugly blue light glasses (the ones that are meant to block out blue light) but he didn’t find that it made a big difference. The biggest difference for him has been no screen time and a solid routine before bed. Plus, no sleeping with the phone next to you. *insert screams of horror here*. Even in flight mode. Just leave it in another room. You will fall asleep easier and feel much more refreshed when you wake up. Added bonus of needing to actually get out of bed to turn off your alarm (no snoozing!)
  4. Set up a routine: Signal that it’s sleep time to your body by getting into a simple routine. Nothing ground breaking, just something that you know you will do anyways, in the same order each night. 

           Mine is: chamomile tea; warm shower/brush teeth etc; magnesium tablet to promote relaxed muscles; read book in bed; mask on/lights out

           Tom’s is: shower at 8pm; eggs with butter (so he isn’t hungry); brush teeth etc; book; lights out

So, those are my simple tips to improving your sleep and helping you get out of the doctor burnout slump. Sleep. Sounds bloody easy, so just do it.

If you need help with depression or other mental health issues, please see Beyond Blue for a list of organisations that can help.

References:

  1. Manta Sleep : https://www.mantasleep.com
  2. Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
  3.  Beyond Blue List of Organisations: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/national-help-lines-and-websites
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