Like many in the medical profession, Dr Juviraj Arulanandarajah has suffered from burnout. After recognizing the symptoms (and with a little help from family and friends), he found ways of managing stress and regained his love of being a doctor. The Melbourne-based GP started writing about his experience and ways of managing and overcoming burnout.
In 2018, Dr Juviraj talked to Medworld founder Dr Sam Hazledine about techniques for beating burnout in this podcast.
Don't have time to listen to the podcast? Here are some of the key tips and ideas from their discussion that we think you’ll find useful.
1) Remember why you became a doctor
“There wasn't just the hours that I was working, it was how I was looking at that job and why I was working; I was working because I was supposed to work, I had to work, I had to pay the bills. And once you start changing that, you start looking at the other things in your life and start appreciating it – it’s mindfulness in a way.”
It’s not just hectic schedules and long working hours that lead to burnout. Forgetting why you chose to become a doctor can lead to disillusionment with the profession. For Dr Juviraj, that meant remembering there were other work options out there – being a doctor wasn’t the only way to pay the bills. Remembering that he is a doctor by choice and remembering why he chose to be a doctor, helped him.
2) Know that being a doctor doesn’t wholly define you
“[R]ecognising that you are more than that, that you have all these other aspects to your life, your soul, your spirit, your family, your friends all those things.”
We’re doctors. We’re introduced at parties as doctors. We train for a long time to be doctors. Then we work long hours as doctors. But we should not let this define us wholly – we should remember that we’re also human and that we have other interests. Whether it’s painting or rugby, take time to do the non-doctor stuff that makes you, you.
3) Take a moment
“When you are out in the storm it's hard to see the light beyond the clouds. You can't see the blue above all the clouds around you.”
‘Mindfulness’ is a word that’s thrown around a lot these days, but for a good reason. One of the biggest issues with burnout is that it’s hard to recognize the signs when you’re engrossed in the stresses of day-to-day life. Take a moment each day to practice mindfulness, it’s a good habit all-round, but more importantly, it’ll help you assess your situation so you can plan ahead and make positive changes.
4) Showing weakness is not a weakness…
“It's perceived to be weak to ask for help […] and that's drilled in from medical school or even before – that you have to be able to cope, you are supposed to be resilient.”
It’s time to change the paradigm. Research shows that there’s alarming levels of burnout in the medical profession and Dr Juviraj discusses with Sam the notion that this could be due to an ingrained culture which expects doctors to be resilient. We need to change the common perception. Asking for help is not a weakness – it’s a strength and it’s key to beating burnout.