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Burnout syndrome in health sector in times of pandemic

This is not over; we were told that it was going to take a long time but that as soon as there was a vaccine it would be over. The vaccine has arrived, and everything remains the same, or even worse. Hospitals are overflowing again, doctors are called to the «covid rooms», leaving their specialties, what they know how to do and what they are good at, to get into something for which nobody has prepared them and which, of course, they have not chosen. Nurses doubling shifts, watching people die alone, saying goodbye to their families by video call ….. just thinking about it can make your hair stand on end. In this article we talk about burnout syndrome in health sector in times of pandemic.

Still, the work goes on and since everything doesn’t stop, you’re still there, as if you were on a tightrope thinking that at any moment you could fall. If you feel this way, you may be going through burnout syndrome. And no one blames you, it’s completely normal. Having so much work and seeing that nothing you do helps improve the situation can be overwhelming.

How do I know if I have burnout?

Normally, burnout syndrome appears when the tension at work is prolonged for too long. This causes a deterioration in people that is known as burnout syndrome or psychological exhaustion. Some signs that you are burned-out are the following:

  1. Emotional fatigue. This means that you feel depressed and do not have energy, both mentally and physically. The days go on forever and you can’t wait to get home. You find it hard to concentrate and your thoughts tend to be negative.
  2. Depersonalization. It seems that everything bothers you, especially what comes from people in your work environment. Apparently, you have become a cynical person and take as much distance as possible from anything to do with work. For example, when your relatives ask you how your day was, you don’t want to answer; or when the subject of the pandemic comes up in conversation, the restrictions, the use of the mask, you keep quiet and wait for them to change the subject.
  3. Lack of professional fulfillment. It is as if you have lost all the enthusiasm and passion you once had for your work. As if that were not enough, the self-confidence and self-efficacy you once had in your work activities are now conspicuous by their absence. 

These are the main signs of burnout syndrome, which goes beyond work stress, as defined by authors Maslach and Jackson in their day (1996).

What can I do if I reached the point of burnout?

Although they do not work like magic wands, here are a series of guidelines that you can carry out to face this so-called syndrome:

  1. Keep your healthy life. It is common that when stress increases, we neglect the healthiest habits we have. Keep exercising, continue to take care of your diet, avoid drinking too much alcohol, and continue to respect your sleep hours. Sleep can be your best ally.
  2. Take a few minutes for your favorite distraction. Whether this activity is watching TV, reading a book or listening to music, try not to go to bed without spending at least half an hour doing it. It will help you focus your attention on things other than those negative thoughts.
  3. Lean on your people. Under no circumstances isolate yourself. Tell someone you trust and who knows how to listen what is happening to you, unburden yourself and let your emotions flow. Do not judge them and allow yourself to feel bad.
  4. Use assertive communication. If there is trust with the people in your work environment you can also share how you feel with them. Maybe they can understand you better than anyone else because they are in the same situation as you. If not, you can try to be assertive with a simple, «I’m sorry for being rude these days, but the truth is that I’m having a hard time dealing with all this».
  5. Breathe. Just as you can use a few minutes for other activities, breathing is also essential. Take a few deep breaths when you get to and from work. This will only take a few seconds.

In summation, the deterioration you feel is normal. As we have said, there are no magic wands against this and trying to get rid of all this “pandemic” discomfort is difficult. There are so many external factors that must change, but they are out of our hands.  You often hear the phrase «with small actions you can change the world», but this ends up being tiring if there is no civic responsibility on the part of all sectors and it is logical that we want to just shout: Enough!

By UPAD Psicología y Coaching


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