Three Crucial Steps for Getting Out of Burnout

burnout coaching wellness May 27, 2024

I remember my professional rock bottom burnout moment like it was yesterday. 

It was a bright sunny day and I was sitting at the desk in my home office. That’s when I got the dreaded phone call from my medical director asking, “Archana, is everything okay with you? We’ve been getting complaints from the nurses about how you’re showing up at work and that’s just not like you.”

I gasped as I heard his words and thanked God he couldn’t see my face on the other side of the phone because it was bright red with guilt, shame and embarrassment.

He was right on so many levels. This was not like me to have people complain about me. I normally had a great reputation of showing up with a positive, upbeat and cooperative attitude and getting along well with staff.

It was also not like me to lose my cool even in the high stakes, fast paced and demanding environment of the busy community emergency department where I worked.

But I had to admit to myself that I had been feeling on edge, snapping easily and been short with the staff. It was at this moment that I had to admit to myself that I was experiencing burnout. 

I apologized for my behavior and assured my director it wouldn’t happen again. 

Yet, as I hung up the phone, I couldn’t understand why I was feeling so burnt out. A year earlier it would have made sense to me. I had been experiencing some symptoms of professional and parental burnout then, but upon realizing it, I had made a conscious choice to implement some great self-care practices - exercising regularly, prioritizing my sleep, eating well, drinking lots of water and doing yoga and meditation. I even built a team at home to help support me in handling the second shift of home and family responsibilities that tend to fall on the shoulders of women. 

What I Thought Would Get Me Out Of Burnout

I thought I was doing everything right - everything everyone said you must do to prevent burnout. I was doing so much more self-care than most of my fellow emergency medicine colleagues, and I knew I didn’t feel physically exhausted as I had the year prior.  

In vain, I tried many other things to try to get out of burnout. “Maybe I should try out some different roles or mix things up,” I thought.  So I joined some hospital committees, got back to some of my favorite hobbies and even started a side gig. But all of that just added even more to my already full plate. 

Click here to watch the FREE 3 Secrets to Ending Burnout Masterclass.

Next, I tried cutting down the number of shifts I was working. But even working fewer hours, I still left the hospital mentally and emotionally overwhelmed and exhausted. 

The Three Pieces That Must Be Addressed to End Burnout

It wasn’t until I stumbled upon life coaching that I started to understand the crucial missing pieces of the burnout recovery puzzle. What I came to realize is that burnout is not just about physical exhaustion, it’s also about two other important pieces - mental and emotional exhaustion. And it wasn’t until I addressed what was happening in my brain, with my thoughts and emotions, that I’d be able to get out of and stay out of burnout.  

Burnout is complex and the moral injury of medicine and the healthcare system (being asked to do more with less resources, understaffing, lack of administrative support and more) most certainly contribute. But I realized I didn’t have to wait for the big problems of medicine and the healthcare system to be fixed to feel better and feel empowered.

In getting coached, not only did I have a safe space to share what I was thinking and feeling, I learned some key skills that most of us never learned anywhere along the way in our medical training and that would make all the difference in the world.

I learned thought work and that feelings don’t just happen; they are created by our thoughts. I learned mind management and that no matter the circumstances of my personal or professional life, I could choose with intention what I wanted to think and therein lay my power. I also learned how to process my emotions without stuffing them down, reacting to them or trying to neutralize them with food, wine or social media. Additionally I learned about the 50/50 of life and that it’s okay to have negative emotions and that all humans, even we medical professionals, experience negative feelings half the time. 

As I learned and practiced these key skills, the emotional exhaustion and mental overwhelm dissolved and my burnout finally faded away.  My experience with the power and impact of coaching is not unique and I later learned we have numerous published randomized control trials such as this which show that coaching moves the needle on physician burnout and decreases emotional exhaustion. 

The tools I learned while getting coached changed every aspect of my personal and professional life so profoundly, that I knew I had to help other clinicians overcome the heavy burden of burnout. After becoming a certified life coach, I began to teach my colleagues the key life changing skills that surprisingly hardly anyone is talking about.

In coaching physicians, I saw their cynicism, compassion fatigue, dread and burnout dissolve away. They felt more resilient and found more meaning in caring for patients. They improved their productivity at work and stopped spending their precious down time at home charting. They felt empowered to ask for a raise or equal pay. They stopped self-sacrificing and practiced more self-compassion and self-stewardship. They set boundaries and ended toxic relationships. They improved their home and family life. And most important of all, they no longer felt the need to quit or go part-time because they had fallen back in love with their chosen field of medicine. 

Ready to learn the key skills that will get you out of burnout and keep you out of it too? We'll teach them to you inside Thrive Rx our coaching program for healthcare professionals. 

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Goodbye, burnout. 

Hello, energy and joy!

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