3 ways doctors can manage stress and burnout

A Psychologist's tips for doctors on recognising and managing burnout

Tips for managing stress and burnout-Wavelength

During the month of November we partnered with Lysn and their psychologists to provide a FREE wellbeing webinar series to support our doctors and provide tips and solutions to help them with their professional and personal challenges.

The feedback our doctors provided on the series was overwhelmingly positive, so we have decided to share on our blog a summary of each session over the next few months.

The first wellbeing webinar focused on awareness of burnout amongst doctors, along with strategies to help manage stress. As research tells us, Australian doctors have higher rates of stress and burnout, resulting in more attempts at suicide than the general population.

What can doctors do to manage stress and burnout? Lysn psychologist Dr. Yisha Stiskala-Yu identifies 3 ways to maintain mental wellbeing.

1. Know the Early Warning Signs

Early intervention is a proven method of success across the mental health ecosystem. Identifying the risk factors and early symptoms prevents the progression and worsening of stress and burnout. Your body keeps the score, not just physically but emotionally.

Dr. Stiskala-Yu explains “the importance of safeguarding our bodies in the early stages of stress and burnout cannot be understated. Burnout does not just occur, the progressive nature of the condition provides significant indicators.”

The indicators in the medical profession for doctors can be uniquely different. They might include:

  • Emotional exhaustion and sense of irritability
  • Going to work with stomach knots, dreading returning the next day
  • A sense of disconnectedness with patients and inefficiency
  • The desire to pursue an alternative career
  • Teariness and an inability to focus

2. Prioritise Self Care

You can’t pour from an empty cup, take care of yourself first. It is easy to lose sight of yourself in the process of helping others, especially as a doctor. However, maintaining your self-care is also in the best interest of your patients. Research has indicated that likelihood of medical error dramatically increases when a doctor is burned out.

“As a doctor, being surrounded by pain and suffering everyday can be a taxing job. The constant energy exchange is tough on the body and the mind – it’s important to treat ourselves with the same kindness and gentleness that we show our friends, family and patients.”

In the event you miss the early warning signs of stress and burnout, Dr. Stiskala-Yu reaffirms that burnout is reversable. Replenishing and recharging the mind can be as simple as taking a break to pause.

“Give yourself permission to take a pause and reload. Approach self-care the same way you approach professional development. Have non-negotiable time periods for rest and reflection, schedule them into a calendar.”

Self-care is mental, physical, social and spiritual. Simple works when it comes to looking after you mind. Some routines that help you take back seat and manage escalating stress might include:

  • Staying hydrated
  • Stretching your body
  • Walking on grass without out shoes
  • Journaling

3. Support Your Colleagues

There are no hidden secrets about the extremely high internal standards for doctors working in hospitals and clinics. The quality of our relationships with friends and family is one of the strongest indicators of life satisfaction and happiness.

“Taking time to invest in social relationships can make a world of difference. Send your colleague a message, join in a facetime or have a lunch-date, even virtually via zoom.”

Dropping the armour of perfectionism as a medical professional and engaging in real, candid conversations can facilitate more positive work environments. When a colleague opens up about struggles, the best thing you can do is allow their emotions to be heard.

“Jumping into problem-solving mode or positive reinforcement is instinctual, particularly in medical professions where people tend to have active left side brain function. Acknowledging emotions is often validating and incredibly therapeutic.”

We hope you can benefit from these tips and trial implementing some of them in your daily activity. We truly hope there is something within these pointers that can help you work through any potential wellbeing challenges of stress and burnout in both your personal and professional lives. If you feel you need further help, or just someone to talk to, do get in touch with Lysn here.


In part 2 of the Lysn wellbeing series for doctors, we learned about Resilience. Subscribe to the Wave Blog and be first to hear when the next article about the role of resilience is released. 

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