4 Tips for Coping With Provider Burnout
Posted by Michael CorsillesComment

Michael Corsilles, PA-CThere’s an energy shortage out there, and it’s not on gas and electricity.

The shortage is within our body’s own energy reserves, and it could mean you’re burned out.

Take this brief survey to see if you’re suffering from what’s been termed “adrenal fatigue.”

A quick quiz

1. Do you rely on caffeine to boost your energy?
2. Do you have trouble falling asleep?
3. Do you still wake up tired even if you get a good night’s sleep?
4. Do you get irritated easily?
5. Do you have “brain fog” or problems focusing?

If you were five for five or pretty close to it, you could be burned out!

What ‘burnout’ actually is

The adrenal glands secrete numerous hormones essential for life, particularly those that regulate the body’s response to stress. The major hormones dealing with the stress response are epinephrine (adrenalin) and cortisol.

When life gets in the way, our adrenals adapt and secrete these hormones. When life really gets overwhelming, the adrenals can’t keep up anymore and sputter out.

Note: This is not Addison’s disease, or adrenal insufficiency, which is a much less common disease that can be life-threatening.

“Adrenal fatigue,” or “burnout,” causes many of the symptoms in the above quiz, and usually means time for a vacation!

4 tips to cope with burnout

Vacations don’t last forever, so I recommend the following basic burnout treatments:

1. Focus on the positives. When you’re catching up on news or watching reality TV, you are constantly bombarded with negativity. You end up absorbing it subconsciously, which contributes to stress, anxiety and depression. Try to minimize TV time and maximize face-to-face time with a good friend.

2. Laugh. When’s the last time you had a good belly laugh? Although laughter actually activates your stress response, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, you eventually reach a nice, relaxed feeling that envelops your body and boosts your mood. It’s free medicine!

3. Exercise. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and mood. A great tip is to exercise before a stressor. Go for a quick run or a bike ride. Just 10 minutes a day of additional walking will make a big difference.

4. Breathe. During a panic attack, you tend to hyperventilate, which throws off your acid/base balance, leading to more health issues. To de-stress, focus on slow, deep breathing. Sit in a quiet room and take a slow, deep inhalation through your nose. Then, exhale slowly through pursed lips. Do this exercise for at least a minute. When your breathing slows down, your heart rate and blood pressure will decrease as well, and your mind will be calmer.

Sound too easy? That’s because it is.

If you practice these stress reduction techniques for yourself and your patients often enough, you’ll become a more focused and positive provider, which in turn will lead to healthier and happier patients!

Michael Corsilles is a naturopath and PA-C practicing integrative medicine at Eastside Primary Care and Wellness in Bellevue, Wash.

See also: How PAs Can Manage Stress

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