Kindlelife

Insight, Inspiration, Motivation

Catch ’em Early!


On my radio show, Stress Busters’ Corner, on the Health and Wellness Channel of Voice America, (http://www.voiceamerica.com/show/2423/stress-busters-corner), I was discussing with my guest, Wayne Markell, who is a Platoon Commander for the Emergency Medical Service (EMS), the issue of Stress and Burnout amongst the paramedics.

Wayne talked about how he encourages his staff to “raise their hands” and be vocal about how they feel, and when they feel distress. He talked about how the staff are encouraged to seek help, for the sake of their own mental health.

As a coach, who believes in (mental) Health Promotion, I think that is precious little, and unfortunately, that is how it is with most healthcare professions. We are expected to seek help, if and when we need it.

If a person is not seeking help, the automatic assumption is that they are coping just fine. Indeed, many of us would say just that, if asked directly, how we are doing! Therein lies the peril!

I strongly believe that all healthcare professionals should be aware of their own vulnerability, and be willing to reflect on their lives, and be able to recognize signs of impending burnout, and seek help long before it happens.

I would actually go one step further, and say that we should target people who are seemingly doing just fine, and help them become aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, their own stress triggers, and help them develop more tools to deal with stress. That way, we catch them before the stress becomes a problem in their lives, and the negative consequences are kept to a minimum – just as I like to say, that the best time to stop somebody from hurting themselves by smoking, is even before they light that first cigarette!

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March 18, 2015 Posted by | Personal Journey, Psychology, Refocus and Thrive, Self Improvement, Stress and Resilience | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is ‘Stress-free Physician’ an Oxymoron?


I am back, with a year-end blog, this time. Today, the winter solstice has led me to do some reflection. I launched my new website, (www.stressfreephysician.com).

Is it really possible to have a ‘stress-free’ life at all? When I look around me, I see people who are complaining about the stresses in life, and in work. There seems to be no workplace today, that can be considered stress-free. No matter what people are doing, there seems to be this drive for efficiency, return on investment, better quality, greater quantity, and so on. The healthcare field – and in fact, any service sector – just seems to have a greater intensity of stress, because of the increasing demands, and the diminishing resources. There is the pressure from the business aspect, to get better results with lesser expense, while medical care is inherently more expensive. There are also increasing advances, and the pressure to do whatever it takes, to keep people alive longer. One very palpable effect of the global stress levels, is that people often take out their frustrations on anybody at work who does not have the power to fight back, or at home, on the people who are closest to them, and therefore often taken for granted!

So, the big question is: Can we really hope to achieve a stress-free state? More importantly, is any amount of stress actually good for you? My answer would be a resounding “No” to the first question, and an equally resounding “Yes” to the second.

Stress is the body’s response to a real or perceived threat. The purpose of stress is to get people ready for some kind of action to get them out of danger. The action can be the ‘fight or flight’ response. In other words, the action taken either helps the person overcome the danger, or helps them remove themselves from harm’s way.

Some stress can be a good thing. It can motivate us to focus on a task or take action and solve a problem. In this situation, stress is manageable and even helpful. In a questionnaire I remember doing many years ago, a wedding was described as one of the most stressful events in a person’s life.

When a person is unable to achieve either of those results, is when stress becomes a negative thing. This is perhaps the biggest problem facing people today. Often at work, they feel frustrated at not being able to perform in the way they feel is best, or feel that they are in an environment that clashes with some values they hold dear to their hearts. There are also feelings of not being appreciated enough, and the demand to do more and more, with very little emotional support.

It is when such stresses occur repeatedly in a person’s life, with inadequate recovery in between, that burnout occurs. Burnout is of course the stage where a person gets physically exhausted, emotionally drained, with a sense of detachment, and has a feeling of ineffectiveness. “What’s the point?” is often their attitude.

Instead of aiming for a stress-free life, I think it would be best if we accept the reality of life as it is today – the reality that stress is not something we really can avoid, unless we become monks and go into the woods to meditate!

Once we accept what is, then we can equip ourselves to deal with it. We can figure out methods to recover well from the individual stressful episodes and to protect ourselves from the harmful effects of stress, so as to prevent burnout.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Personal Journey, Psychology, Refocus and Thrive, Self Improvement | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Burnout?


While talking with a colleague recently, I was asked this question – and I realised that the word ‘burnout was used a lot, and the signs of severe burnout, the point where it hits you in the face, is easily recognisable. However, burnout is something that has to be recognized before it reaches this stage, and there are many people who seem to be functioning reasonably well, and yet, do have many of the symptoms of burnout, which they put down to stress.

There is a big difference between stress and burnout. The main difference is that a person under stress will feel better when the stress is relieved, whereas a burnout person has no hope that things will be any better, even if the current stresses are relieved. Burnout is the result of too much stress, often repeated, without enough recovery in between, over a period of time.

The term was first used by Freudenberger, who described it as a “state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by one’s professional life.” This is characterised by exhaustion, cynicism, and a sense of inefficacy.

Causes of Burnout: There are many factors that lead to burnout. While most cases occur due to stressful work environment, burnout can occur in a stay-at-home parent, or in a person working two or more jobs to make ends meet, without any vacation or leisure. It can also occur in the obsessive compulsive person who expects too much of himself- and everybody else!

Burnout can thus be due to a combination of work environment and responsibilities, lifestyle, and personality traits. Some of the factors are as follows:

Work Conditions: (anybody in the healthcare field know what these are like)!

Overly demanding job, with high expectations

Working in a chaotic or high pressure environment

Feeling a lack or loss of control over the work

Lack of recognition or reward for good work

Lifestyle Factors:

Too much work, no time for relaxation or socialization

Inadequate sleep

Too many responsibilities

Being too many things to too many people

Lack of or inadequate support

Personality Traits:

Perfectionistic tendencies – expecting too much from self and others

Pessimistic attitudes – related to self and the world

High-achieving, Type A Personalities

Need to be in control – reluctance to delegate

Burnout is something that happens over a period of time, and can be prevented, if the symptoms and signs can be recognized early enough. It is important to be vigilant and pick up these signs, many of which may be subtle.

The symptoms and signs may be categorised as follows:

Physical:

Feeling tired and drained most of the time

Lowered immunity, feeling sick a lot

Frequent headaches, back pain, muscle aches

Change in appetite or sleep habits

Emotional:

Sense of failure and self-doubt

Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated

Detachment, feeling alone in the world

Loss of motivation

Increasingly cynical and negative outlook

Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment

Behavioural:

Withdrawing from responsibilities

Isolating yourself from others

Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done

Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope

Taking out your frustrations on others

Skipping work or coming in late and leaving early

In the next post, I will be discussing methods of avoiding burnout, as well as measures to manage burnout, once it has occurred.

 

 

January 14, 2013 Posted by | Personal Journey | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mom, once part of welfare program, becomes ER doctor


Mom, once part of welfare program, becomes ER doctor

(http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/good-news/san-diego-mom-once-part-welfare-program-becomes-151413182.html).

Just read the story of Amanda Lamond-Holden, a San Diego mom, who became an ER physician She dropped out of school at the age of 18 when she became pregnant, moved in with her parents, had to go on welfare, and attend community college while working 20 hours a week, all the time working towards her dream of becoming a physician. Along the way, she got married, and had two more children, and has been happy juggling her residency with her family.

It is not everyday that one hears of such determination and will power. It is indeed refreshing to hear of such a great success story.

The report does not tell us of all the stress she has definitely gone through, and all the times she probably wanted to drop it all and run. Ultimately it is the tenacity that won.

The reason this story is so impressive today is that we don’t see such determination very often. We live in a period of instant gratification, and entitlement. People are quick to give up on their dreams at the very first sign of difficulty. Everyone wants the good life, but few are willing to do what it takes. Nor do they have the self-esteem to believe that if they do put in the effort they can achieve a lot more, perhaps!

June 27, 2012 Posted by | Personal Journey | , , | Leave a comment

   

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