Whether working from the isolation of home or at an understaffed establishment struggling with Covid’s “new normal,” the psychological health of employees around the world is suffering. Some may feel unsafe around others. Others may starve for social engagement but have no office to return to. The spectrum of dissatisfaction amongst workers is at a recent all-time high.
For example, 49% of healthcare workers reported feeling burned out according to a national survey. This is a shockingly high number and I’ve even treated some of these cases at Bregman Medical Group. It’s an indication of what's happening in the world at large, it's quite troubling.
Burnout occurs when life’s challenges become overwhelming to the point where our mental stamina grinds to a halt, making us feel like there’s just too much to handle - and instead we shut down. It becomes hard to do our jobs, cares for loved ones, and even administer self-care.
Workers are now more isolated and have less access to support. We can examine what's happening in the caregiving professions. Workers on site in hospitals are getting overloaded with less emotional outlets after hours, and workers stuck at home are not getting the social support they used to. This only compounds burnout since connection with others is a way to renew energy and give fresh perspectives.
To help shed light on burnout and ways around it I recently had a conversation with an intern of mine from long ago, Dr. Marie Rogers who is now a clinical psychologist. She’s familiar with this phenomenon and has a few insights about mindfulness, focus, and keeping our mental health primed.
How can we overcome burnout?
“Just because we’re doing things more virtually doesn’t mean we need to isolate,” said Dr. Rogers, “In our office, we have about 14 practitioners and we still communicate with each other and go to each other for support.”
Except now that support is online. The energy of being in the same room isn’t there anymore, but it’s still possible over video feeds thanks to the same technology used by doctors to meet with patients from the comfort of their homes.
Not to mention for vaccinated individuals it’s safer than ever since the beginning of Covid to meet, stay socially distanced, and have gatherings like we used to. The real normal is coming back, and with a bit of courage, we can find our way back to each other.
Mindfulness and creativity
“A lot of people will say to me ‘my brain isn’t what it used to be, I can’t focus, I can't remember things, I can't multitask like I used to,’” Dr. Rogers observed.
This is something Dr. Rogers sees regularly at her practice. As social media and multitasking increase in our lives, focus and attention span suffers. And when this happens we become less creative or able to overcome burnout. What follows is exasperation with our work, relationships, and even other aspects of life like hobbies and pastimes. The importance of breaking away from our default mode and finding creative ways to stay fresh is vital.
In fact, creativity is an effective way we can relax and think of new ways to tackle problems.
To remedy our scattered minds, Dr. Rogers recommends mindfulness to help get our focus back on track. But what is mindfulness?
“Be where you’re at. Mindfulness is, in essence, ‘be here now,’” she explained.
Mindfulness is the practice of training one’s mind to pay attention to the present, without diversion from trains of thought or external distractions. It can be accomplished by zoning in on one’s breath, physical sensations or even sounds in the room. Mindfulness trains the mind to stay on task for longer periods of time.
This way we keep focused long enough to engage our creativity, which in turn helps generate fresh perspectives needed to fight burnout. It also relaxes us and gives us a break from the constant stress of modern life.
All the social-media multitasking and anxiety from the pandemic has degraded the brain’s executive function making us feel mentally off-balance. This distracts us not only from our work but from coping mechanisms which might help us through these burnout periods.
Executive functioning is the action of the brain which controls memory and articulates thoughts.
“The deeper the task you’re working on the more you have to focus on that particular task,” said Dr. Rogers, “creativity is the initiation of a task, it’s that spark inside of you. You can be highly creative and start something, but can you end something? That’s the discipline of executive functioning.”
If we’re experiencing a lack of creativity from burnout it could mean our brain craves new experiences. Going outside or exercising can ease the mind and allow new connections. Then we have more to work with when it’s time again for focused creativity. This exploration of the outside world along with the presence of mindfulness can refresh our emotional resilience and provide a barrier against burnout.
Finally, we can not underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep. We need regular sleep patterns and good sleep hygiene habits. We should be sleeping at the same time, with a policy of no social media or screens 30 minutes before bedtime. After all, deep sleep is when learning happens. It has the effect of consolidating and strengthening memories. In turn, good sleep equals great mindful creativity which is the secret weapon against burnout.
For more information about this interesting topic, Dr. Marie Rogers has an extremely detailed and insightful blog on her own website talking more about mindfulness, creativity, and burnout. Find it at:
If self-care isn’t helping your burnout, never fear: you can always reach out to a mental health professional. Bregman Medical Group has decades of experience helping people deal with a variety of mental health struggles. Simply make an appointment online at www.bregmanmd.com or call 786-321-4909.