8 tips a psychiatrist can use to prevent burnout

As a mental and behavioral health provider, what can you do to improve your self-compassion and empathy?

In 2018, the American Psychiatric Association found that psychiatric burnout is nearly 50%.1 This number is likely to be even higher as we endure increasing global endemic, social and political unrest, and economic stressors. In many states, the collateral impact on health care will only be exacerbated by reversing recent Supreme Court decisions. Law vs WadeThis has led to an increased burden on psychiatrists, our patients, and medical colleagues who look to us for help.

It is important to note the term burnout It can itself be polarizing and create stigma. It can hold individuals accountable and does not take into account systemic or structural barriers that lead to unpleasant suffering. At the heart of burnout is an imbalance between empathy and self-compassion.2

So what can you do as a mental and behavioral health provider to improve your self-compassion and empathy? My answer: Remember to help yourself before helping others. Hmm. Below are eight tips.

1) Isolate the problem. It seems obvious, but it’s not. Fundamental signs of declining compassion and empathy include emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and decreased personal fulfillment in work and life. In the patient’s best interest, we need to identify it in ourselves and among our peers, and a self-assessment such as the Maslach Burnout Inventory can help.

2) Know that you are not alone. We are all part of the human condition. Psychiatrists are not immune to what our patients and society are going through. Admit it. Do not cram.

3) Stay connected. On a personal and professional level, there is an increasing need to address loneliness and isolation among family, friends, patients and peers. The loneliness epidemic predated his global COVID-19 pandemic, but it is exacerbated by it. Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, Chief Surgeon of the United States, has emphasized the importance of connection in our lives. Make time to reach out to colleagues, family and friends.3

4) Practice self-care. Proper sleep, diet, and exercise are most important, even though it can be difficult during times of stress and a hectic schedule. Do not Remember that starting small can make a big difference. Whether you’re gardening, taking a walk in nature, or just committing to less screen time at night, you can take positive steps.

5) Reduce or avoid substances of abuse. We are well aware of the effects exogenous neurochemical inhibitors and stimulants have on our patients. On the contrary, doctors are in danger. If you or your colleagues need help, ask for help. There is an anonymous resource through the Federation of State Physician Health Programs.Four

6) Prioritize teamwork. Studies show that being part of the care team not only improves patient outcomes, but also fosters clinician well-being. Even if you are not attending group practice or an academic center, you will still have the opportunity to collaborate and share your knowledge. When you’re in a remote, individual practice environment, companies like SonderMind can help foster a virtual, supportive peer community.

7) Be curious. Continue to learn and grow, not only in your area of ​​expertise, but also in order to better serve your patients, but also for yourself. Do some self-inquiry and ask how certain situations and circumstances affect how we feel and react.

8) Remember your purpose. We are drawn to the profession of helping others. We are mission-driven individuals, but for many, psychiatry is not the only endeavor that gives us joy and purpose. Find a creative or philanthropic outlet that fills your cup. Whether you want to call it altruism, religion, or spiritualism, research shows that a higher sense of purpose promotes happiness.

Finally, remember, you don’t matter. But caring for yourself and staying connected with others can be a solution.

Dr. Newton Chief Medical Officer at SonderMind.


1. Ad Hoc Working Group of the Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association. Psychiatrist well-being and burnout. 2018. Accessed 1 August 2022.

2. Neff K. Self-compassion: the proven power of being kind to yourselfPaperback by William Morrow; 2015.

3. Mercy VH. Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a World Sometimes LonelyHarperwave; 2020.

4. About FSPHP. Federation of State Physician Health Programs. Accessed August 1, 2022. https://www.fsphp.org

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