Kindlelife

Insight, Inspiration, Motivation

“Work – Life Balance” – The Very Term Seems Flawed!


I was at the biannual CUSEC (Canadian Undergraduate Surgical Education Committee) meeting in Ottawa last week, where burnout was a recurring theme in many of the presentations and discussions. Dr. Judith Brown, from the University of Western Ontario, gave a presentation titled ‘Seeking balance: The Complexity of Choice-Making Among Academic Surgeons.’

A very poignant question that arose from the discussions, (thanks to Dr. Geoffrey Blair, University of British Columbia), was the idea of ‘work – life balance.’ Geoff (rightly) questioned the term, because it seemed to imply a separation of “work” from “life”! While seeking a balance between one’s personal and professional life is what people really mean to convey, we have, for long, loosely used the term, ‘work-life balance.’ For a person (like most physicians), who enjoys his profession, this instantly produces a subtle discordance,and its pursuit, even a sense of guilt! Isn’t work supposed to be a part of our lives, and a very important part at that? Isn’t work supposed to bring us great satisfaction? Isn’t it supposed to make us better people, through the challenges we face and overcome, through the miracles we see, through the joys and the pain that we see and share, through everything we learn and teach?

When inserted into this particular term, however, the word, ‘work’ has such a negative connotation! The part of this work that we really need to balance out is the repeated stress and the exhaustion, from which everybody should get adequate time to recover, if we should prevent Burnout. The important thing is to make sure that other aspects of life are nurtured just as well. Make sure that we do not sacrifice everything else for this work, especially those things that make us happy.

Let me know what your thoughts are, as you ponder over these terms and what meaning they hold for you.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Personal Journey, Psychology, Self Improvement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is ‘WORK-LIFE BALANCE’ what I really want?


It has been a long time, since I have posted anything here! I have been very busy, and for a person who warns people to guard themselves against getting burnt out, I often thought I was spreading myself out too thin! I committed myself to 2 new projects – one, a fundraiser for children with cancer (Masquer-Aid 2014), and the second, a First Lego League (Robotics) team in Cornwall. Both are going great, and are bringing me immense pleasure and satisfaction. The downside has been that I have not been able to keep up with the blogging, and the website updates. Also, my house sometimes looks like the tornado just passed through, and I do fall behind on many a chore. The one thing I do make sure I am caught up with, is my work. Thank goodness for EMR, I have very little paperwork pending, and I catch up with my billing quite regularly.

The one question I have been asking myself lately is, how can I keep myself from burning out? I do find myself physically quite exhausted, and often mentally drained too. As for work-life balance, there really is none, in my life. If I do well in one area, another definitely suffers. On a day that I do the robotics program, I do nothing at home. The day I do house cleaning and laundry, I cannot go outside the house. When I have meetings after work, I cannot attend the robotics meetings. With all these new commitments, my coaching practice has been a little slow. When I have a medical student with me, my paperwork piles up. Something always has to give way for something else to be done well. I do not believe in doing anything half-heartedly. So, whatever I do, I do well. I just put off those things that don’t have a deadline, until I can do it well.

If I were to try and ‘balance’ things out, and do everything equally, I would end up either not getting anything done well, or not completing anything at all. What is worse, if I believed it was important, I wold stress out over it, and that would certainly lead to burnout.

I have therefore, come to the conclusion that it is most important to do things that make us happy. It is certainly important to have something outside of work that excites us as well. How can we make the best of it all, and prevent burnout? Here are a few tips:

1. Make sure you always plan time off, well ahead. It is best to have the entire year planned, with important days for self, and the family set aside right at the beginning. These dates should be non-negotiable. if they are blocked off ahead, then it is easy to ask for these days off early when schedules are being made.

2. Try not to fill the day’s schedule to the brim. Always leave a little free time, to adjust for the unexpected – the urgent, unscheduled patient who needs to be seen, the inpatient who takes a turn for the worse, the flat that needs to be changed, etc.

3. Following the 80:20 principle, 80% of the satisfaction comes from only 20% of the things we do. Similarly, 80% of the things we do give us only 20% returns. We could take some time to reflect on those 80%, and determine which of them we could totally eliminate from our schedule – either cut out completely, or delegate, or hire somebody else for. We could then focus more on the 20% that bring us the greater satisfaction.

So, what are some of your strategies for staying sane in this life? Do send me your suggestions and comments.

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Personal Journey, Psychology, Self Improvement | , , , , | 2 Comments

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

   

%d bloggers like this: