When you go home at the end of the day do you feel drained or emotionally numb? Are you beginning to feel like you have nothing left to give — emotionally speaking — in your job? These are symptoms of burnout, or compassion fatigue, which is not uncommon, especially in a stressful job. If this is not addressed, burnout can have major negative impacts on a person, including depression and other health problems.
In order to address your burnout, you need to know the signs to watch out for. The symptoms are usually in three categories:
Within these three categories are symptoms like loss or increase in appetite, anxiety, and insomnia. If you see any of these signs in yourself or someone else on your team, you should attempt to help combat it as early as possible.
You may have been the type to give it your all and throw your heart into your work, but you suddenly realize you are just going through the motions. You may no longer be feeling sympathy for the animals you treat or empathy for their owners. Being a veterinary professional means, you are exposed to significant amounts of stress and raw emotion every day. Between seeing the animals suffering and their owners' grief and frustration, you also have other factors that could be contributing to the beginnings of burnout.
While burnout does affect everyone differently, there are some things you can do to try to avoid it or fight it if you see yourself slipping into the early stages of burnout.
Many people do not treat their health as a priority. They do not get enough sleep, they miss meals or do not eat healthily, and they do not exercise often. If you take the time to do all of these things, it can help you fight burnout. Make your health a priority.
This also means try to avoid doing too much overtime and making sure you are taking your breaks when you are at work. While you mentally may be willing to miss lunch, your body will disagree with you. You need to take time to sit down and breathe. Working too much overtime can also be taxing on your physical and mental health, so that is important to keep in mind before you decide to work 12-hour shifts for six days straight.
Make time to have fun. Go out with your friends, watch a game, go out to dinner, take your kids somewhere fun. Anything that you consider fun should not be constantly pushed aside because you are working late.
Do you have a hobby that relaxes you? If you already have one, try to do it at least a few times a week. If you do not have one, begin looking for one. Learn an instrument, do yoga, paint, read a novel, go on nature hikes; try anything until you find something that makes you feel at ease.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. Not everyone can do everything all the time, sometimes, you need someone else to step in. If you are becoming too stressed at work, see if you can reduce your hours for a few weeks to give yourself a chance to breathe. Talk to your supervisor about any issues you think may be contributing to the burnout and see how they can help you; they may be more understanding than you think. You may be giving your veterinarian career everything you have, but eventually, you will run out of things to give if you do not ask for help when you first realize that you need it.