Immune to Burnout? 5 Ways to Increase Happiness


Why is it that some people seem immune to burnout? Are they just oblivious to the stressors? Do they take different vitamins than we do? Are they secretly going home and kicking their cat?

I asked myself this question the other day. It was one of those brutally long clinic days. The kind where we had to take a break for a minute and look at the calendar while I asked, “Is there a full moon tonight?!”

You know exactly what I mean, don’t you?

You know those days when every single patient has an issue.

  • They are angry because the parking deck was full.
  • They are upset about the old magazines in the waiting room.
  • They are arguing with my front desk staff about having to update their insurance information.

And in the midst of all that is my office assistant, Kim. Kim has gone through some tough times over the past year. Her husband died after a lengthy illness. Her granddaughter was born with some serious health problems that have, thankfully, improved. Her trusty car broke down on the highway last week — during a torrential rainstorm.

How is Kim handling this wacky day? Like it’s “business as usual.” I look over at her desk and I see she has another one of her sticky notes, in bright pink, on the counter. It says, “Might as well smile now, while you still have your teeth.” I ponder that for a minute.

And then I see her going to get a current magazine for the person who was pitching a fit about the outdated magazines. She hands it to them with a smile, “Here you go, Mrs. Johnson. This just came in today!”  Click to Tweet:

We all need ways to find our happy place and prevent burnout.

 5 ways to be happy:

1) Happy people know that they need to stay objective and focus on why they love their jobs. They also focus on the culture around them and try to stay positive.

2) In our office, we have a Gratitude Jar at the checkout desk. Patients can anonymously write down anything they are grateful for on brightly colored note cards. Some days, me and my team raid the Gratitude Jar to feed our own need for positivity, a practice I learned from one of my patients.

3) Other days, I have a grab bag of positive words on laminated paper. We get that out and each person reaches in that bag for the word they will focus on that day. It could be Patience; Fearlessness; Joy. I must confess that sometimes I’ll reach in that grab bag more than once, when I find my energy and positivity waning.

4) People who help themselves by hiring a coach find improved joy in their work and report less burnout than others.

5) Setting your priorities and making sure you keep your boundaries is also a key part of staying happy.  Otherwise, you’re spending your energy reacting to people’s demands and never get to focus on what you want and need.


Please share in the comments below your favorite tip for keeping burnout on the back burner. I’d love to hear your wisdom!




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2 thoughts on “Immune to Burnout? 5 Ways to Increase Happiness

  1. Carrie

    I am not in medicine…I read along for a “peak” on one of the other sides of the tangle we call “health care”. I am the one who is between a rock and a hard place…the patient! Reading the blog has reminded me that my docs are not necessarily meaning to slight my time with them, but may have a myriad of other things going on in their day, too.

    I can’t solve any medical mysteries. However, my “boost” to my day is often getting out from under the demands at home, and just running errands…something docs rarely have time to do, either, apparently! I realize that getting out and about is a connection, of sorts, albeit fleeting. I have taken to smiling at people that don’t look like they are having a very good day. I also smile and catch the eye of children who seem like they feel like an invisible entity along on a trip with parents. I like seeing their eyes light up when they see that someone sees that they are there, and that someone noticed. Makes running errands a boost…for me! Makes it easier for me to come home and appreciate being home, feeling that I may have given someone a nice moment. I don’t know that I made anyone’s day…but maybe I made their “moment” because they sure make mine. And who doesn’t need to be appreciated?!

    1. Starla Fitch, M.D. Post author

      Carrie, thanks so much for your wisdom. You are 100% correct — we all need to feel appreciated, and it’s great to get the patient perspective on things. Doctors are often patients, too! 🙂 Take care.


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