Is Burnout In Your Comfort Zone?

For those of you who have been riding along with me on my journey for the past few years , you know that it has been one heck of a ride. What started out as a little blog to encourage other doctors who were struggling with burnout has exploded. In a good way.

The blog came about because I was looking for a way to share what I was discovering in my interviews with doctors. Some doctors I knew well. Other doctors I barely knew. They all appeared to have it together from the outside looking in.

And with each new interview, I couldn’t help but notice similarities in their responses. The scientist in me wanted to investigate. The dreamer wanted an easy answer, wrapped up in pixie dust. The realist wondered if there was an answer at all.

Fortunately, there was an answer.

A pattern began to unfold with every doctor I interviewed, and in my conversations with burned out doctors from all over the world. Seriously, I have received notes from Australia, Malaysia, Germany, Canada, England, India. It’s a small world after all.

It probably comes as no surprise that doctors aren’t alone in their burnout. Nurses, anesthetists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and other health care professionals all jumped aboard the burnout bus, hoping answers were there for them, too.

And I hate to break it to you: Burnout is not just for medical folks. We didn’t invent it. Nor did teachers, policemen, or telephone operators.

More and more people from all walks of life are searching for answers to overcome burnout.

Maybe it’s because we believe we can just Google it. Look up the solution to: How to end burnout. I mean, Google knows everything, right?

Not so much.

Google can’t tell you the answer to: What is my true passion? Or, What should I be now that I’m a grown up?

Sure, Google will spit out a few generic suggestions, but the truth is, the answers you seek are hidden within. Each of us has a unique calling and solution to ending overwhelm.

To uncover your own answer, first you must acknowledge that you like being in your comfort zone.

Face it, inside the comfort zone is just plain easier. And even when it’s not easy, at least you know what to expect, how to react and how to shift it quickly back to business as usual.

When you venture outside your comfort zone, you often come face to face with change. And change is hard. It might hurt. It might be scary. It might not be, well, comfortable.

But what if outside that circle you’ve drawn in the sand—the one you designated as your comfort zone—is something even bigger, even better?

What if it’s the best part of you?

What if it’s what you are meant to be and do during your time with us?

What if, just outside your comfort zone, is your joy zone?

The joy zone won’t be easy every day. It might make your palms sweaty or your tummy queasy. And as you stretch and find your footing, you will probably want to turn around and grab onto the comfort zone circle with both hands and not let go.

The joy zone in medicine can start with standing up for yourself in your practice. It can mean switching hospitals, changing your shift, reaching forward to what really fills your heart on those days when you have that tiny little glimmer of, “Oh, yeah. This is what it’s supposed to be like.”

Think back to when you were learning to ride a bicycle. Your dad took off your training wheels. You weren’t quite sure you were ready. He held on to your seat at the top of the hill and ran down it with you. You were peddling just as fast as you could, your heart bursting inside as the wind whipped your hair back. And suddenly, he let go and there you were. Still peddling. Still laughing.

Afraid? Hell, yes!

Outside of your comfort zone? Most definitely. Feeling the joy? Yep.

Look beyond your comfort zone. The joy you seek is there, just outside that circle.

And don’t worry. You’re not alone. We’re here to help each other.

You’ve got this.

CATEGORIES: Blog on October 29, 2014 by Starla Fitch, M.D.

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3 thoughts on “Is Burnout In Your Comfort Zone?

  1. Pam Pappas

    I love the “Joy Zone” concept, Dr. Starla! Even though it might make us breathe a little faster, and be a wee tad scared. 🙂 I well remember flying down my street on my bicycle as a kid, over and over again. Gosh, that was fun. Thank you for encouraging me and all the rest of our colleagues to find that sweet spot again, in our adult doctoring work and lives. Many blessings to you!

    1. Starla Fitch, M.D. Post author

      Dear Dr. Pam,

      Yes, isn’t the idea of a “Joy Zone” hopeful? It’s not too big of a stretch, at least for a part of every day. Today I got to tell a patient that the serious tumor she had was not cancer, after all. Now, there was a Joy Zone moment. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Does Multitasking Lead to Doctor Burnout?

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