5 Steps to Avoid Burnout While Working in Public Health | Aug 30, 2016

The field of public health is incredibly important for the wellness of populations across the nation. However, in an industry where professionals give so much to help others, sometimes public health workers can forget to take care of their own needs. When this happens, it can result in burnout, a state of mental, emotional and even physical exhaustion that sometimes leads to valued staff members leaving the profession.

To help others to the best of your ability in your career, you need to first make sure that you are taking care of yourself emotionally, mentally and physically to ensure that . If you work in public health, take these steps to avoid burnout in the workplace.

1. Take breaks during the day.
As a public health professional, you likely have a number of important tasks vying for your attention at any given time. However, the Harvard Business Review reported that taking breaks is important for avoiding burnout. Giving yourself an opportunity to restock your mental energy can actually help you to be more productive the rest of the day. If you do not have time for a full hour lunch break, consider a 15 minute walk to get coffee down the street, or a visit to the other side of the office to chat for a few minutes with a colleague.

2. Clarify expectations.
Oftentimes burnout can be the result of stress caused by the pressure of workplace expectations. While you likely will not be able to eliminate any and all sources of stress, you can minimize some of it by asking for your role and responsibilities to be clarified. The Mayo Clinic reported that uncertainty can keep you from feeling comfortable in your workplace.

3. Consider a long weekend.
To avoid burnout, sometimes you really just need to get away for a while. Though you may not be able to take a week off for a tropical vacation at the last minute, it is more than possible to find some time to relax in a shorter amount of time. If you are able to, consider taking off a Friday or Monday to make a long weekend away from the office. If possible, try traveling out of town to a location you find relaxing, such as a cabin in the woods or a relative’s home on the beach. But if you cannot get away, consider a staycation at home, where you unplug from your electronics and indulge in your favorite hobbies for a few days.

4. Make time for yourself.
While you may not be able to plan a getaway every weekend, you should make self care a regular part of your routine. To avoid burnout, it is important to make sure you have time every day that is separate from the stress of your position. Try to avoid taking work home or putting in long hours of overtime if you feel yourself becoming burned out. In public health, it may be hard to leave the worries of the job at the office, but you need to be careful that you create your own space.

5. Recognize the signs
Ultimately, preventing burnout comes down to recognizing the signs and taking action before you get to a point where your personal or professional life is negatively affected. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of burnout include:

  • A lack of desire to come into work in the morning.
  • A change in sleep habits.
  • Increase or decrease of appetite.
  • Feelings of disillusionment about your work.
  • A cynical or critical attitude about your job.
  • Impatience and irritability toward those you interact with.
  • A lack of energy or inability to be productive.
  • Desire to self-medicate with drugs, alcohol or food.
  • Unexplained physical ailments, such as headaches or backaches.
  • A lack of satisfaction over achievements in the workplace.

If you recognize these symptoms in yourself, do not delay in taking steps to give yourself some space to relax and be refreshed. If not addressed, burnout can lead to much bigger problems, such as depression, or even cause you to quit your job. You can only help the people that you work with in public health if you are taking care of yourself.