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BURNOUT in High Stress Professions: Lawyers and Physicians

Have you ever experienced a sleepless night? Or noticed that you have become easily frustrated in recent weeks? How about feeling like not matter what you do, you are never feeling ahead of your work? Have you noticed an increase in binge behavior such as excessive streaming, working out, eating, alcohol or other substance use? If you answered yes (or maybe??) to these questions, you may be experiencing the early signs of BURNOUT and you’re not alone. BURNOUT is common across various professions such as lawyers and physicians. Lawyers are 3.6% more likely to experience depressive symptoms than other professions and physicians have seen a 50% rise in some specialties since last year. Often people in these professions are told to “take a vacation” or “reduce your workload,” but this is likely an unrealistic expectation given your work is driven by billable hours, deadlines, long hours, and client demands. So how do you reduce the likelihood while maintaining performance?

1. Cue into the subtle changes in how you respond to your daily activities (are you more irritable than normal, has your outlook on life become more cynical, are you engaging a binge behavior?)

2. Take small breaks throughout the day. Just got off the call with a demanding client? Take a walk (go to the bathroom, do a lap around the office, walk down a few flights of stairs and back up) to reset yourself before attacking the rest of your work.

3. When you are done for the day, take a moment to reflect on what went well. You may notice your mind wondering to all the stress, annoying, and things left unfinished but try to kindly redirect your attention to the positives. Try to find three things, but if you find one then that’s a good start. Write down the positive things that happen throughout so you can remind yourself of what is going well when experiencing BURNOUT.

4. Become engaged in the day by using MINDFULNESS techniques like 5 Senses (look around the room and find something you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste), take 5 deep breaths, have a stress ball on your desk, or if you are feeling more adventurous try a MINDFULNESS app like Headspace.

5. Feeling overwhelmed and not sure if you can attack BURNOUT on your own? Reach out to a skilled mental health professional who can help you identify the causes for your BURNOUT and, together, develop a plan to improve your wellbeing.

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