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Rest and Healing are NOT Synonyms

burnout negative emotions negative thoughts Feb 24, 2024
Rest and relaxation are not symptoms of burnout.

“I’m so burned out that I am taking a break (or quitting, or changing jobs, etc)”

I see this so often in Facebook, always posted anonymously in physician groups

The implication here is that rest will heal the burnout. And I’m going to tell you right here and now that it DOES NOT. 

Now, rest may be a necessary step. 

It may be needed because you can’t think straight, and you are sleep deprived, etc.

But the rest itself, the absence of work (well, ok employed work for other people, because I bet you a bajillion dollars you go on a house-cleaning frenzy or try to learn French or go into super-parent mode) DOES NOT FIX BURNOUT.

Ask me how I know ๐Ÿ˜‰

Burnout is defined as having 3 key components: 

  1. Emotional Exhaustion
  2. Cynicism (also called depersonalization)
  3. A sense of Futility

These are patterned thoughts, feelings and beliefs that stay stuck in our brains unless we actively work to unlearn them. Period.

We may need rest too. Rest works synergistically here.

But rest does not change the way that you believe things are. If you feel that people’s needs are too heavy, that the work that you do doesn’t matter, that you aren’t making a difference, rest will not change this.

Which means that when you take a break (FMLA leave, vacation, reduced FTE, changing jobs, etc) you need to actively cultivate new ways of thinking, believing, and acting that have you centered in your value as a human in the world (before your value as a physician, parent, partner, child, etc), that you need healthy boundaries around your time and energy, and that there will always be more worthwhile things to do with your time than any one person can do.

Take a break. I encourage it. I’ve done it. I support it.

But take a break WITHOUT the to-do list of chores and tasks, and with a plan to cultivate new ways of thinking and being. This might be starting therapy or coaching, or a meditation practice; but something that you will ultimately incorporate into your re-entry. It might be taking a deep dive into who you are, what you like, what you need in this phase of your life.

But don’t think that the absence of paid work (aka “rest”) will fix you. You aren’t even broken, so there is nothing to be “fixed” but that is a different story. If you want to FEEL differently about your life and your work and your relationship with BUSYNESS, you will have to practice. And you will suck at it for awhile.

And that’s ok.

We suck at things that we don’t know how to do, especially if they are counter to “the way that we have always done things,” (ie our habits of pushing, hustling, perfectionism) or “the way that we do things around here” (the culture of medicine and self-martyrdom). 

But sucking at something that you are just starting isn’t failure.

It’s progress.

And it’s NECESSARY in order to feel better.

Hi There!

I'm Megan. I'm a Physician and a Life Coach and a Mom. I created this blog to help other Physicians and Physician-Moms learn more about why they feel exhausted, burned-out and overwhelmed, and how to start to make changes. I hope that you enjoy what you read, and that it helps you along your journey. And hey, if you want to talk about coaching with me, I'm here for that too! I offer a free 1:1 call to see if we are a good fit. Click the button below to register today.

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