Understanding and Decoding Your Burnout Blueprint — Part 2
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Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: So today, we have a return guest, Dr. Sharon Grossman. She is a Success Coach, Psychologist, Author, Speaker, wife, and she’s also a Burnout Coach. So she specializes in burnout. And the reason why I bring her onto the show is that a lot of the audience are physicians and high achieving high income professionals. And so I bring her os to bring her knowledge and her expertise around burnout. So in the last episode that we did, we discussed what burnout is, what makes you predisposed to having burnout, and how to recognize it. In today’s episode, we’re going to go further down the rabbit hole and talk about another aspect of burnout, which is the mindsets and beliefs about burnout, and how to recognize whether you’re truly burned out, or whether or not you need short term versus long term solutions. So without much ado, please welcome back Dr. Sharon Grossman.
Dr. Sharon Grossman, PhD: Hey, thanks for having me. I’m excited to be back.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: I always enjoy bringing guests back. This podcast is going to be a two part series. And so today we’re going to go a little bit down the rabbit hole. So last time, we talked about symptoms. And now I want to examine this idea of just like mindsets around burnout, because a lot of physicians that I come across that I coach and through my seminars and workshops, they don’t really recognize that they’re truly burned out. So sometimes they think I just need to sleep or vacation, and they go back and they do the same thing and repeat the cycle over. So what’s your experience with working with professionals such as these?
Dr. Sharon Grossman, PhD: I think that’s a really good question. And really part of what I’ve found, is very similar to what you just expressed, is that people don’t, they either don’t know that they’re burning out, or they understand that they’re burning out. But they don’t really know what to do about it. So I think last time, we really talked about how to identify if you’re burning out. So really the first step, as we all always say, is self awareness, we have to be aware of the problem in order to pursue a solution. So if you’re listening to this, and you’re like, Oh, my God, I’m burned out, I know it, but I don’t really know what to do about it, then this is what we’re going to talk about today. And I think this ties in to what you were saying earlier in terms of the emotional freedom piece of your show. Because really, when you are burned out, it’s a result of chronic stress. So you are not emotionally free from that perspective. And we want to be able to give people an understanding of what they need to do once they realize that they are indeed burning out.
Now, what I found is that when people don’t clearly understand the contributing factors to their burnout, they’ll have a band aid approach to their solution, they will say, Oh, I just need to take a couple of weeks vacation, they go away, they come back, obviously with more energy than they had when they left. But then they go into the way that they typically work, in the same way. So nothing’s really changed. That’s why I say it’s a band aid approach.
So if you’re gonna do the same things as this, as the expression goes, right, you do the same things, in the same way. You can expect the same results, right. And so I see people that burn out over and over again. And so I really had to think about this, like, why is this happening to people over and over again, if they’re aware that they’re burned out, and they’re doing something about it? And then it was clear that what was missing is a true understanding of your burnout. And here’s what I mean by that.
People burn out for different reasons. So just because you and 10 other people are all burned out does not mean that you’ve burned out for the same reason. And as physicians, I think you really will understand this concept because if somebody comes to you with a stomach ache, they might have a stomach ache because they ate something. Or it could be because they have a virus or it could be because of 10 other things. So if you have 10 patients with stomach aches, you have to first understand what caused their stomach aches to happen in the first place. And it’s the same thing with burnout. So if you come to me and you have burnout, you might be burned out, because you are pushing too hard, you’re working 70–80 hours a week you’re just like in stress overdrive. And that’s why you’re burnout. So if I say to you go take two weeks vacation, but then you come back, and you’re still doing 70–80 hours a week, you’re never gonna really recover. So that’s an insufficient strategy for the long term.
And even if we come up with a perfect strategy for you, then person number two comes in with burnout. And they’re burned out, because not necessarily that they’re putting in excessive hours, but maybe they are so stressed about their work because of how they think about it. Right. Like, if you’re a perfectionist, and you are constantly stressed about every aspect of everything that you do throughout the day, then that’s taking up so much mental energy, that even if you work part time, you can burn out. So it’s really important to really, what I call this, decoding your burnout. When you can crack the code on your burnout, you can start to customize your recovery strategies, rather than use a universal kind of recovery that may not work for you.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, you brought up a very interesting point, which is decoding burnout, because I was talking to a lot of clients, and one was like, our hustle culture and also our culture of achievement. So how do you feel about these types of cultures where you’re constantly achieving and have a deeply ingrained belief, or you always have to be striving or achieving contributes to burnout?
Dr. Sharon Grossman, PhD: That’s a really good question. And that’s why I really focus on everybody needing to decode their own burnout. Because yes, you could say it’s the culture. But that’s only one factor. And I guarantee you that there are some other factors, because if we’re all in this culture together, and some of us are burning out and others aren’t, then you have to ask the question, Why me? And you have to ask the question, why now? And answering those questions is going to give you a much clearer understanding of what’s going on. And I think that, in addition to it being that kind of a culture, I think it attracts certain kinds of individuals. So you have to be the kind of person who is a total striver, who’s a high achiever, who cares about accomplishments. And not everybody does, believe it or not, right.
And you might be able to identify other physicians who aren’t burning out, who aren’t as driven, who are just kind of clocking in and clocking out. And maybe there are others who are putting in endless hours and getting really sucked into that culture, because there’s something else. And you kind of touched upon it, some sort of ingrained belief, perhaps, or what I call your programming, that is, like really attracting you to like a puzzle piece you come in with your personality or your programming, and then you get really attached to that sort of environment, because it’s a fit, right. And it’s a fit because of the way that you think about things or like what you really want in your life or what you think is good. But ultimately, that may not be the case. And that’s what you’re finding out through your burnout. And I like to always tell people that burnout can be your wake up call to figuring out how to do it better.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: I love that piece where you say burnout can be your wake up call, because sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you actually wake up and start to see the light. I know you work with a lot of a lot of clients as well, what are some of the deeply held beliefs that you commonly see in your clients?
Dr. Sharon Grossman, PhD: So there are a few different ones, but I would say a big thing that I see is, and it’s not just beliefs, I mean, we can talk about that. But I think there’s a lot more to the mix than just that that comes in with your programming. But ultimately, some of the beliefs are and you can kind of imagine how these things kind of string together, but there’s a rampant belief in our culture that we are not enough. And when you believe that, what I typically see is that people will get really busy doing a lot of things, and always feel like what they do is not enough. They may not identify with the belief that they are not enough. But I see that as a reflection of a deeper belief about themselves. And if you think about it, for a moment, it kind of makes sense. If you don’t believe that you are enough, then of course, Nothing you do will ever be enough, because it’s a product of you.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: So it’s like you’re coming from a place of scarcity, or you’re just coming from a place of lack and you’re trying to overcompensate for by constantly striving and achieving,
Dr. Sharon Grossman, PhD: Exactly like, if I do more, then finally, I will have arrived, right? Then I will be enough. Then I’ll be just adequate, like not even amazing, but I’ll just be enough, right? And we’re always kind of chasing that enoughness. But we never really get to it if we’re focusing externally rather than internally. And so a lot of times, what I see is people who burnout will come to me, and they’ll be very externally focused, they’ll talk about how there’s just too much going on at work. Too many expectations are unrealistic, or it’s really my industry. My industry, there’s no way I can work in it. So I have to go and do something else instead. Even though they really love what they do, they just feel like if I can’t figure out how to do this and not burn out, then that just means that I have to exit and I get to do something totally different.
And I always say to people, before you run away, and completely reinvent your life, and your career, let’s find out, if there’s a way to do this, if this is something that you really love to do, let’s find out if it’s doable, if we just approach it in a new way, which requires, perhaps, changing the way that you think about things, your belief system, how you engage with your work. If you’re a people pleaser, how to have more boundaries if you’re a perfectionist, how to do things that are good enough, but not necessarily perfect, so that you can keep moving, how to focus more on getting things done, time management.
All these different things, they really all come together systemically to help you be more efficient in your work. And that way, you could be in this work that you spent 10 years trying to get into, rather than throwing it all down the drain, because you haven’t. And the truth of the matter is, if you haven’t figured it out, it’s probably because they don’t teach this to you. They don’t teach us in med school. And certainly once you get into the healthcare industry, nobody’s sitting there and saying, here’s how you do it without burning out. Instead, what they do is they just ram everything down your throat, and you’re supposed to figure it out on your own.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, school that equips us with a lot of information and knowledge, but it doesn’t teach us how to apply it or the emotional intelligence portion, finances. So these are things that we need real world experience, we need coaching, teaching, greater awareness. So you brought up a lot of points there.
Dr. Sharon Grossman, PhD: Yeah, and I love the work that you’re doing as well, because I think a lot of physicians have financial stress because of all their student loans. And so if at the very least you can help them become more financially independent. So that’s one less stressor that they have on their shoulders, they can focus on doing the work that they love, and have that much more bandwidth to deal with things.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, that’s so so true. And I know you have a lot of resources for whether or not you want to, if you feel like that inkling is starting to have the symptoms of burnout, or you’re just full out burnout. What are some of the ways that people could start learning more and start becoming more self aware?
Dr. Sharon Grossman, PhD: Yeah, so I provided something last time, but I actually have something new that I’m happy to share. And what it is is a burnout checklist. So if you’re interested in finding out how you’re doing, that’s a great resource. And, really like my, my goal there is to just give you something that is a quick win, where it doesn’t take a lot of time you can easily read through, it’s a checklist, so you can kind of see what are the different stages associated with burnout, and am I in stage 1am I on stage to figuring all that out. And, and that way, you kind of have a good sense of where you are, and maybe from that what I need to focus on. So if you go to Bit.ly/checkyourburnout, you can access the burnout checklist for free. And that’s a great way to start the process.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah. And for all the listeners out there, Dr. Grossman’s checklists will be included in the show notes as well as her resources. And so coming down to the end of the year, it’s been a really busy, hectic year. We had the Delta variant, and we had the reopenings. And the vaccinations, mental health is on everybody’s issue. And now we have this Omicron variant and with the holidays people rushing. So now I know a lot of you can feel the stress in the air. So I know, you’re widely available and accepting clients, and any upcoming programs or any upcoming products for this year. And next year?
Dr. Sharon Grossman, PhD: Well, yeah, so I always have openings for my Exhausted to Extraordinary program. So anybody who’s interested in that you can find out more, I mean, really, the best thing is, if you’re burned out, you want to talk to me, just book a call with me. And you can go to bookachatwithsharon.com, and I’m happy to talk to you and share with you everything that I have created or some additional resources. I mean, I’ve got lots of things from every price range, and every kind of stage that you might be in and what you’re looking for.
I’ve also just created a program called Decode Your Burnout, which is kind of in alignment with what we started talking about earlier about, to identifying those contributing factors, you kind of have a really good sense of what’s brought me to this place so that I can really focus on specific solutions to get back to myself. And sometimes it’s not even back to yourself, because you never really lead your life outside of this certain set of circumstances, right. So it’s kind of like eye opening, to be able to think about yourself in a new way. And to try on work and life from a new lens. And giving yourself that opportunity to say like, Hey I would have never done it differently had I not known this. So this is just like the gift that you give to yourself so that you can keep doing the work that you want to do and love to do in the world.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: That’s so wonderful. And I love the fact that you’re able to take one small symptom and come up with the different causes as well as different treatments, and you’re able to help people at all different stages from early career, late career,full out burnout versus just stress, and you have amazing products there. So, and I know last year, the whole world woke up, they just realized that our society is hurting. And so now a lot of people are being proactive. So I know a lot of people would love to get in touch with you. So what is the best way to reach you to look at your resources, visit your website, etc?
Dr. Sharon Grossman, PhD: The best thing is, if you’re really ready to do something, to book a chat with me, and that’s, again, bookachatwithsharon.com. If you want to check out some of my work, feel free to just browse through my website, which is DrSharonGrossman.com, and I’ve got so many free resources, most of them really are on the website. So it’s a one stop, kind of shop, if you will, to check out. I have a book, I’ve got podcast episodes that are on there. So specifically around optimizing your life. And also I’ve got one that’s really specific to women in medicine. So feel free to look at those and they’re all also transcribed if you want to read them rather than listen to them. But they’re I mean, they’re all short episodes, I try to make them right to the point and give you lots of free resources and tips that you can apply right away. And lots of other goodies on there as well. So that’s the best place to really direct people to just to kind of check out the kind of work that I do Been doing and figure out what is a fit for you? And what do you want to do next?
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Awesome. So for all the listeners out there, all the resources will be included in the show notes. So thanks so much for being on the show, and any last parting words of advice or encouragement?
Dr. Sharon Grossman, PhD: I would just say that, if you’re going through this, number one, you’re not alone. And what, and I think that’s really meaningful, because people often feel like there’s something wrong with them if they’re burned out. And I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. It’s actually now over 50% of workers are feeling this, and you can imagine in the healthcare industry it is probably even higher. And in general, I’ve heard this statistic that two thirds of workers experienced burnout at some point in their career. So it’s actually more common than you realize. And secondly, that this is something that you can recover from. And sometimes it’s the best thing that’s happened to you because it’s like that wake up call that we talked about earlier, where you get to reimagine your life and do it in a brand new way that is so much more meaningful and powerful.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: That’s so wonderful. So Dr. Sharon Grossman, thanks for coming on the show. And we look forward to your future success.
Dr. Sharon Grossman, PhD: Thank you so much for having me.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Many thanks again for being here. If you’re new, you can find me online at Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD, where I have links to other episodes or links to online resources that will support you on your financial literacy journey. I’ll see you there in on next week’s show. While I bring you thoroughly vetted information on this show regarding a variety of financial topics, I cannot promise you a one size fits all solution. This is why I caution you to continue to learn. Educate yourself and seek professional advice unique to your situation. If you want to talk to me, I welcome it. Please reach out via my website or email at Chris@drchrisloomdphd.com. I read and personally respond to all of my emails. Talk soon!
Editor’s note: This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.