Around six years ago, I quit being a speech-language pathologist. It was only my fourth year in the profession, but I was exhausted and stressed, and eventually lost my passion for the work. Every night I felt a sense of dread because I knew the next day would arrive too soon and with too much to do. Some days, I simply panicked.
I didn’t realize I was actually going through something called “burnout.”
Burnout involves more than just feeling a bit tired and stressed. This condition can affect all aspects of daily life. The World Health Organization officially recognizes burnout as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength, usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”
Flailing at work? Determine how your job can better draw on your strengths. If that’s not possible, it may be time to look elsewhere.
When a speech-language pathologist saw signs of burnout among her faculty-clinician colleagues, she set out to make over her division.
Members of “helping” professions more often succumb to burnout than other professions, due to the caring nature of the work. For audiologists and SLPs, stress triggers can include large and growing caseloads, productivity requirements, time-management difficulties, paperwork and changing health care regulations.
If you feel overwhelmed, exhausted and continually stressed, burnout might be the culprit. Burnout is different from regular stress and includes feeling exhausted, detached, anxious and/or depressed.
Fortunately, burnout doesn’t have to last forever. I sought help and discovered the three changes that helped most to ease feelings of burnout.
Burnout can make you feel physically and mentally exhausted, so getting enough sleep is super important. When you sleep, your brain builds new pathways and restores tired ones, which helps you problem-solve better, feel more efficient at work and make decisions more easily. All of this will help you feel better throughout your day and within your work. To make sure you get enough sleep, try aiming for seven or eight hours a night. Make time to wind down before you head to bed, so you can relax more easily. Read, take a warm bath, meditate or journal to help you fall asleep with ease.
Ending your day on a high note can help you feel less worried and more optimistic about your day and the day ahead. Take a few moments to write down a handful of things that went well for you that day. They can be big moments—a promotion or award—or smaller moments—a smile from a colleague or someone holding the door open for you. This exercise helps rewire your brain to remember and focus on the good in each day. Try to do this right before bed, so you end your entire day on a positive note. Take about five minutes for this practice and keep it simple.
Meditation can help to reduce anxiety and stress, even chronic, by rewiring the way your brain responds to stress and anxiety. Some studies show that meditation results in reduction of the amygdala’s “flight or fight” response and the release of cortisol—the stress hormone. These changes left participants better able to manage everyday stressors.
Take just five to 10 minutes a day to meditate. Find a quiet, comfortable seat and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and repeat a mantra (quote or saying), count down from 100, or pay attention to your inhales and exhales. You can also try a guided meditation practice or even apps to make it easy to work meditation into your daily routine.
Using any or all of these techniques can help you find some relief and more passion for your career again.
Jessi Andricks, MS, CCC-SLP, is a contract SLP providing services via telepractce and she coaches others on how to find more balance in their lives as hardworking SLPs. She’s also a trained integrative health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, a yoga teacher, and author of “Detox 101” and “The Smoothie Life.” firstname.lastname@example.org