3 Mindsets to Nip in the Bud to Prevent Burnout
Dr. Sharon Grossman has worked with many high-achieving professionals (like you!) who have recognized that they’re on their way to burnout. A psychologist, author, and now public speaker, Dr. Grossman has battled burnout herself. During the recent Champions of Wellness conference, she shared evidence-based tools that have helped her and many others build resiliency and combat burnout. I'm hoping they help you too!
Before sharing her message, she first gave a few disclaimers. The first is that big dreams require hard work! Though these interventions work, they are not quick fixes. For these mindset hacks to truly be successful, the application of them must be matched with self-discipline, effort, and being honest with yourself. This requires a commitment to change; your success is dependent on your initiative.
Additionally, these interventions are best for people who have recognized that they are experiencing burnout and are interested and willing to put in the work to improve their wellness, prevent complete burnout, and even save their career.
Here are 3 mindsets that high achievers need to change or improve in order to prevent burnout!
1. Imposter Syndrome
If you’re a nurse or another health care worker, you are likely familiar with the term “imposter syndrome”. This is a mindset that can easily lead to burnout. You may feel like no matter what you do, you are a fraud who is about to get discovered. If something positive happens, you likely attribute it to luck or outside sources.
Those with imposter syndrome might be afraid of looking silly if they don’t know the answer to a question. You may constantly be seeking new certifications or learning opportunities so that you finally feel like you are smart/knowledgeable/experienced enough to be an expert in an area, only to find that you still feel the same after completing the experience.
You may be very detail oriented, and your life might lack balance. You can find it hard to accept compliments, and you tend to discount how important your accomplishments are.
You might see “down time” as unproductive, which can make you easily exhausted. If you feel like an imposter, you tend to push yourself extremely hard, leading to burnout.
How do you fix it?!?!?
First realize this is due to the mental image and story you tell yourself about who you are and what you can and cannot do. This isn’t about developing new skills in the workplace – this is about re-developing your perception of yourself.
Consider someone you look up to who is both competent and confident. Do they acknowledge themselves, or wait for others to acknowledge them? Do they ask for help when they need it, or try to do everything themselves? Visualize yourself as a inspirational, confident worker and as the version of yourself that you want to be.
Another way to empower yourself and reduce the feeling of imposter syndrome is by improving your mindfulness to catch yourself when you have a negative thought or prediction. When this happens, flip the narrative. Instead of believing a negative internal dialogue, consider who you want to become and align thoughts with this self-image.
2. Glass Half Empty
The second mindset is a tendency to see the glass half empty. If you have this pessimistic mindset, you might worry about future failures even if things are going well. Negative thinking can lead to feeling more stressed, drained, anxious, and eventually burned out. Focusing on the negative can lead you to believe that you’re incapable of changing your circumstances; you tend to externalize your sense of control.
The good news? Even if you’ve been a pessimist your entire life, you can change your outlook. To do this, recognize negative self-talk and choose to think about areas in your life where you have control. Perseverance, decision-making, and focusing on your goals are all things that are within your control.
Shift towards self-compassion and trusting yourself instead of second guessing yourself and the world. Remain hopeful about success in the future even during times of failure. Remember that failure is temporary, is external to you, and that you can learn to overcome it next time it comes around.
3. Perfection Seeker
The third and final mindset is the Perfection Seeker. One of the problems with this mindset is time management. As you strive to perfect something in your professional life, other items demand your attention and continue to pile onto your to do list. Perfectionism can stem from the fear that whatever you do is not good enough. Your self-esteem may depend on your achievements; you are more likely to experience depression and anxiety when your tasks must be perfect to be completed. Of course, as you can imagine, this causes more stress and can eventually lead to burnout.
With this mindset, you expect perfection in yourself and believe others also expect this. You may doubt if your work is good enough, find it hard to delegate tasks, take a long time to complete assignments, worry about being criticized, and create unrealistic expectations for yourself.
Focus on getting the job done rather than getting it perfect. Consider what else is on your plate! This can help you gather perspective and identify that this task is only part of a larger list of items. The challenge in this is keeping high quality work while getting more done. When you accomplish something, take a moment to celebrate your completion of a task and give yourself credit for your hard work!
Unlearning perfectionism is tied closely to self-compassion. Instead of beating yourself up for not accomplishing an unrealistic goal, engage in kind self-talk that replaces judgement! Remind yourself that you are human; you can make mistakes without allowing them to consume you.
Do you notice the commonalities in the intervention of these mindsets? All three require deep reflection and a commitment to change mentality and be more mindful; these are ways to reduce and prevent burnout. It’s not easy work, but it’s evidence-based! As Dr. Grossman asks, “Are you managing your mind, or is your mind managing you?”. Your results are a product of your actions, and your actions are a product of the thoughts you create for yourself!
We are reminded that we have to turn internally and reflect in order to shift the results we are getting (such as burnout). She offers these questions as good starting points for reflection:
· Are you satisfied with your career?
· Are you thriving at work?
· How fulfilled do you feel?
· Is your career everything you hoped it would be when you first started down this path?
She also recommends finding a mentor that knows you well, understands what your goals are, and whom you can be transparent with. This mentor can help you get where you want to go by keeping you accountable and providing insight when you need it!
Her next steps for you include this short checklist:
· Create a mental image of how you want to feel.
· Improve your self-talk.
· Work strategically while employing self-compassion.
· Invest in mentoring.
Food for thought: a palliative nurse collected the regrets of her dying patients in a book titled The Top Five Regrets of The Dying. Two of their most common regrets were “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard” and “I wish I had let myself be happier”. Often, these two things can be achieved by living in the moment, giving yourself grace, and enjoying the comforts of your life as they are.
We know that if you work in healthcare, law, or education you are more likely to burn out than all other professions. If you are reading this, it might be because you want to contribute to the world and you know you can make a difference! The above mindsets are counter productive to resilience and are tied closely to burnout. Hopefully you found this information as helpful as I did and can use this knowledge as a starting point for increasing your self-compassion, mindfulness, and ability to be positive.
Dr. Grossman offers many resources, including a free 7 day burnout bootcamp online (can be found by searching). Additionally, she wrote The 7E Solution to Burnout, which you can read for more information!
Grossman, S. (2021). Three Mindset Hacks High Achievers Need to Avoid. Champions of Wellness. https://www.championsofwellness.com/summit-recap-videos-2021/?submissionGuid=a46a3fa7-ab83-4a19-a980-de2a5d3a1057