Burnout is a real thing. With a lot of people working from home as a result of the pandemic, they're almost always “on” and it can become increasingly difficult to find work-life balance.
SHARP professionals spend a lot of time ensuring the well-being of survivors is managed effectively so they can heal and continue to live productive and purpose-filled lives. The demand for support and intervention from providers is high and providers themselves can be left vulnerable by neglecting their own mental and emotional health.
“You have to take care of yourself before you take care of others,” said Dr. Kelly Blasko from the Defense Health Agency.
With providers primarily teleworking as a result of the pandemic, the demand for care negates self-care practices for most. Blasko emphasized the importance of recognizing burnout and what to do to get ahead of it before it gets out of control. She recommends ironing out specific steps and strategies pre-burnout, for example, establishing a ritual every day like building time in between each session, taking breaks throughout the day, and sticking to the basics like making sure to take a lunch break daily. She said that there should also be a cut-off point between work and home.
“When caring for someone else who's struggling, you have to put boundaries in place – without boundaries you’re not going to be a help to yourself or others,” Blasko said.
For ways to identify and offset burnout, Blasko suggests the following steps:
Step 1: Identify what’s causing feelings of burnout – anxiety, depression, irritability, not wanting to go to work or do your job, isolation, feeling as though you’re the only one feeling this way, etc. Recognize those feelings and assess if they’re more frequent than most and devise a self-care strategy.
Step 2: Practice it – discover what works best for you. Decide what it is you need to do to aid in your self-care, plan it out, and practice it daily.
Step 3: Reach out – to colleague’s, mentors, Family members, or friends. If your colleagues are looking stressed, reach out to them and check in. Human connection is vital to mental and emotional health and well-being.
Some forms of self-care include meditation, yoga, journaling, exercise, reading, and therapy. Blasko also recommends taking a mental health day and using earned leave to take time off.
DHA developed three free apps specifically for providers in need of additional tools and resources to add to or enhance self-care practices. The first app, Provider Resilience, focuses on mental health and conducts a “quality of life” assessment, tracks activities, and offers tools to help prevent burnout. The second app, Breathe to Relax, reminds people to breathe, tracks stress levels, and teaches breathing exercises. The third app, Virtual Hope Box, helps with positive coping and thinking by allowing people to input pictures of their loved ones, music that makes them feel good, and inspiring quotes. It also provides brief games to distract people from stressors or ruminating thoughts (think puzzles like sudoku). DHA also has a podcast called Military Meditation Coach, which offers various guided meditations and imagery.
For additional resources, check out this self-care toolkit: https://health.mil/About-MHS/MHS-Toolkits/Provider-Resilience-Toolkit