On Burnout and Toggling.

On Burnout and Toggling.

At the time of this writing, there are only a few days left in the year 2020. To quote Leslie Jones and her thoughts about the year, “I would say it was a train wreck and shit show but that would be unfair to trains and shit.” Naturally, we’re all ready to move on from this year and to set big goals for 2021. I recently hosted an entire training program with members, helping them set new direction, aspirations and resolutions for next year. And, in that training, I reminded private practice owners to acknowledge the internal conflict and imbalance created by these new resolutions or goals.

I quoted a brilliant Harvard study and wrote about it recently in The Burleson Report or here or perhaps here in The Burleson Files. We’re all striving for something better and that’s OK but it is vital to our mental health to be content; to enjoy the harvest and not go looking for problems where there are none. Thus, you might find yourself toggling between peaceful contentment and constant striving. Our world, including yours truly, emphasizes striving. When your life skews towards constant achievement, however, you’re begging for a state of dissatisfaction and burnout.

Soon, I have a phone call with one of the world’s leading research experts on burnout to see if her new book will be a good fit for The Burleson Box. If you haven’t been paying attention to The Burleson Box, by the way, I think you’ll be delighted with some exciting announcements and improvements to the program. Stay tuned. Back to the point:

Here’s what the research says about burnout:

It’s not a new phenomenon. In a 2018 Gallup survey of 7,500 full-time employees, 23% reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while 63% said they experience it sometimes.

It got worse in 2020. New research by LinkedIn’s Glint platform shows that 2020 burnout rates increased another 33% since January. The blurry boundary between work and life evaporated overnight, reducing time to rest and restore and increasing burnout.

We now have pandemic-related societal burnout due to exhaustion from the prolonged stress of the pandemic. It is becoming a widespread epidemic.

So, what can you do to prevent and treat burnout in your team and in your own life in 2021? Start with these three simple tips:

First, establish boundaries. If you or your team are working from home more, set start and end times for everything. When you’re done, you are done. Period. Turn off the work computer. Turn off the phone. Share these plans with your spouse or significant other. Ask them to help keep you accountable.

Second, listen to your body. We’re constantly asking our bodies to perform for us throughout the day. When’s the last time you asked your body what it needs from you? Practicing dentistry, medicine or law takes its toll. If you need to swim or stretch, run or lift weights to feel like your body is being properly cared for, do those things without fail. Set aside the time and check in with your body every single day. It will tell you what it needs.

Third, get and read Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work. Commit to being better at defining what deserves your focus and attention and what you will ignore. Your brain is constructing a worldview based on what you pay attention to. You will be at your best when you are immersed in something challenging and that doesn’t always have to be working on the practice.

So, in the new year, here’s to engaging challenging books, puzzles, hobbies, sports, conversations, goals and objectives in the practice and in your life while simultaneously embracing contentment, peace and balance. This is not easy but I know you are up to the task.

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Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.