How to prevent burnout

HOW do you prevent burnout?

I have been receiving this very frequent question since I was studying in didactic. Quite honestly, I felt like I couldn’t even answer honestly until this year because of the simple truth: Didactic year is exhausting. And that’s okay to admit.
The purpose of this blog isn’t to make everything look easy or simple and you know I will keep it 100% real with you.
To be honest, I was hesitant to elaborate on how to “prevent” burn out prior to this because I couldn’t tell if I was burning out myself. It wasn't until this year when everything became so much more clear…

Let’s take a look back. In didactic, I slept an average of 4-5 hours per night most weeks and would study non-stop with minimal breaks in between. While work ethic clearly isn’t a weakness for me, staying focused is & I definitely noticed in on the days when I wasted time scrolling through social media or procrastinating and writing blog posts instead.
Preventing burn out or exhaustion from your studies is quite simply all about balance. This may sound like a no-brainer to you as it did to me too…but how to we get to a place of healthy balance of our studies, social life, and rest?

To me, balance includes being intentional with your time. If you’re going to study, study. Don’t take out your phone and distract yourself- be present and be efficient. If you don’t think you can do this, you may be too exhausted to even allow your brain to receive new information and you should listen to your body. Go outside, exercise, take a nap & come back to it! Taking a break may be more efficient than staring blankly at a screen and realizing you’ve killed 3 hours at the coffee shop or library and learned nothing new. That’s quite literally the worssttttt way to spend your precious time.

Here’s why I still love being in PA school, learning, & what I would tell my first year self as well as my future self to continue implementing:
Find your outlet. What makes you feel like you can fully get away from the responsibilities that weigh you down? What do you find joy doing outside of your schoolwork or work responsibilities? Do that & enjoy it.

Plan things ahead to look forward to. Look forward to taking one day off per week, if you don’t have one day intentionally set aside a time for a X number of hours per day for YOU. Think about it, YOU are the most important factor of getting anything accomplished…if you aren’t physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually healthy- how are you going to perform and think at your best? Take that time to do something that relaxes you and gets your mind off of the stressors- go hard at the gym to release endorphins, take a bubble bath, plan a vacation, go on a hike, etc.

Focus on the short term goals. This was actually something that was SO HARD for me to learn during the first quarter of didactic- we had SO much to get done, yet how was I supposed to do all of it at once?!

In undergrad it was relatively easy prioritizing a list to check off to complete within a matter of 2-3 weeks… and thennnnn you get to PA school and you all of a sudden have 250 chapters to read by the next day with 10 different tests on it in next two days. Like, wut? How is this even possible? This is a huge slap in the face that we all experience at some point, I feel you.

Learning to take it one goal at a time, organize your study goals, and tackle your material one subject at a time. This will help prevent the overwhelming feeling of having 100 items on your to-do list without an end in sight.

One day at a time. I know, I’m starting to sound redundant… But life gets hard & messy and  even though school seems to take up 150% of your life, you STILL have your actual social life with family, friends, relationships outside of it which can turn your world upside down in an instant. It’s so vital to remember there’s life outside of medical school or your job- and there’s people who really truly care about your well-being- let them love on you! Let these people who are not affiliated with your day to day stressors into your life to keep your sights aligned with the bigger picture…

Remember why you started. Truly. This is why we commit to hard tasks, responsibilities, and rigorous years of our life. Why did you start? Why should you continue? What’s the driving force behind your passion to be a healthcare provider, a better student, or the person you envisioned yourself to be before starting this? Find that and remind yourself of this when you start to feel exhausted from the stress and massive to-do lists...

 

Here’s what a few of you had to say over on the gram:

“When the going gets tough, quit and watch Netflix” - @doctorbobbymd (MD)
                     I mean, he may be on to something here…love Netflix? Reward yourself
                     by studying X amount and watching a show of The Office to take a brain
                     break. 
“I always have my next vacation planned so I have something to look forward to!” -@emsrenee (PA-C)
“Make intentional time for friends & family and away from technology/social media work” - @thepaplatform (PA-C)
“I go home on my lunch break and take an hour to watch Greys and decompress!” - @klarae04 (PA-S2)
“I’m near the end of my first didactic PA semester and I always take Friday nights off! No studying” -@stefaniik (PA-S)
“I just take it one step at a time and cross things off the same way! It helps a lot.” -@smileytammy
“Re-ealuating micro goals. Focus on the 50m targets instead of the 300m targets” - @jenbones6 (MD)
“It’s hard to combat stress if you don’t know your coping skills, don’t let your stress hit the top” - @mcyoung2 (MS-4)

So many of you had so many great ways you personally implement taking time for yourself and so many I wish I had the time to feature, because they were all so well thought out- many included a variety of ways you find decompression throughout your long term goals.
The most interesting aspect of this question I left open to you all on Instagram to answer is just how DIFFERENT we all are! Everyone’s idea of preventing burnout looks absolutely different, but is quite vital to keep the balance.
I hope this blog brings many different ideas to the table for all of you wondering how to prevent burnout, especially those of you who are students. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to comment below or shoot me an email.
You got this & I'll be over here rooting for you!

XO

-       A K