I’m going to ask a silly – rhetorical – question.

Have you ever felt emotional exhaustion?

Of course you have.

In my practice as a physician and as a professional coach I meet people every day who – understandably – are burned out and feel emotional exhaustion every day.

Unfortunately, we keep kicking these negative feelings down the road, thinking, “I’ll deal with this once I’ve […fill in the blank with that milestone].”

But that day doesn’t come. You stay wrapped up in the pressures of your job, the demands of your family and friends, emergencies that crop up, the “busyness” of your life. And before you realize it, you’ve eased into a rut of discomfort that simply isn’t healthy…physically or mentally.

It’s alright, though. We can’t stop life events from interrupting us – and we certainly can’t stop the pressures that come to bear on us…

Especially those of us working in healthcare.

All you can change is how you manage those unavoidable pressures.

Here are six steps you can take to get you out of that rut of discomfort and back on a path of comfort and health, for your body and spirit.

  1. Choose to change the narrative.

You are the author of your life story, so if you find yourself writing a negative story about feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and reevaluate the things that you’re choosing to highlight.

I’m not suggesting you ignore the challenges you’re facing. But make a conscious effort to embrace the blessings in your life.

This will require doing something that calms you…an activity that brings you joy. It might be calling a friend, taking your dog for a walk, or giving yourself some time to read a book

It’s natural to find yourself completely overwhelmed by emotional exhaustion because of a task today that you found simple yesterday. Circumstances change. Challenges you powered through last week seem like brick walls this week. That’s alright.

  1. Learn to recognize the triggers for what they are.

Triggers are real, but the emotions they invoke are manageable if you learn to see them for what they are…false positives.

Work towards regulating your reaction. Take the time to identify the internal and external situations that evoke a strong, negative response in your mind…

Are there certain people who trigger your sense of feeling overwhelmed? If he or she is a colleague it will be near impossible to avoid that trigger – you’re going to have to learn a new approach to handling your negative emotions.

Do deadlines actually feel like a death sentence? Try looking at deadlines as an opportunity to get a task done on a schedule – and learn to communicate if the deadline simply can’t be met.

  1. Learn to pray and meditate.

There is tremendous power in introspection, and prayer is one of the best tools for creating a space for this when life is overwhelming you. I like to say that prayer is a message from you to God, and meditation is a message from God to you.

Find Bible verses that are soothing and listen to God’s “still small voice”…or listen to calming music. Prayer and mediation will alter the way to think and feel, and help overcome your emotional exhaustion.

  1. Learn to schedule your time and organize your space.

So here’s a piece of practical advice. Use lists, make a schedule for yourself – and not just work tasks. Put prayer or meditation time into your schedule, as well as the other restorative things you do to keep a healthy balance in your mind and body.

Of course, there will be interruptions to your planned schedule, but getting into the habit of actively setting aside time for every part of your day creates a routine that will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

And organize your space. Your home, your work space. Excessive clutter in your surroundings can have a negative impact on your emotions. You’re dealing with many issues – especially at work if you’re in healthcare – that you simply can’t predict or control. Having visual “calm” in your surroundings will help you manage the internal chaos when dealing with emergencies, with deadlines.

And be sure to examine your “emergencies”…be sure you’re not just in crisis-management-mode. Is everything you’re juggling “an emergency” or is it just the pattern you’ve created for yourself?

  1. Now focus.

Speaking of juggling…

Multitasking is the great lie that’s been peddled for years – especially for working mothers. It’s a popular buzzword, but, let’s be real…

It’s just doing a whole bunch of things poorly and getting burned out and frustrated in the process. If you create a schedule, make sure to follow it…start one task then finish it – if possible – before you move onto the next one. Make sure to be present in each activity. You’ll find greater success and fulfillment each day if you’re mindful of staying focussed.

You’ll want to be effective in budgeting and scheduling your time. If you’re constantly procrastinating and wasting time, everything will feel like a last-minute crunch, and you’ll end up with emotional exhaustion.

  1. Ask for help!

It’s so common for people in my profession to think it’s a sign of weakness if you seek help. We’re supposed to be healers, right? Have all the answers…? It’s true for professionals in the business world, too.

Well, it’s actually a sign of strength. If you’re overwhelmed with work and your personal life talk to someone…

A coach, a mentor, a counselor, or someone who’s deeply invested in your progress in life. They will have ideas for you as an outsider – and professional – that will assist you in managing the triggers and stress, and help you avoid more emotional exhaustion.

You can manage the feelings of frustration if you rewrite your inner narrative, make a conscious effort to take control of your schedule, make room for prayer and meditation, and acknowledge when you need support.

If you’d like to learn more about the tools I’ve used to manage stress and avoid burnout, please contact me.

And if you have other suggestions – other strategies you’ve used to manage your emotional exhaustion, I’d love to hear from you!

Did you find this article helpful? You might enjoy these, too.

7 Keys to Defeating Low Self Esteem
3 Keys to Emotional Wellness
An Interview on Physician Burnout

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