How to face YOUR burnout from the pandemic

When’s the last time that someone stopped to ask you how you are doing? No really, think about it.

There has been great focus on employee burnout, as it should be. But, sometimes we neglect our leaders, YOU, who have gone through the most traumatic work experience of your life: the pandemic.

So…how are you? Are you doing things to take care of yourself?

I don’t need to tell you that health care worker burnout is real. In August 2022, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an acknowledgement of health care burnout and a strategy to move forward.

He said what you already know. When the pandemic started, a large segment of the workforce stayed home, BUT health care workers stayed on the front lines, often encountering anger, hostility and even death threats.

And, most important to this what we are talking about here, many healthcare workers deferred 2 years worth of self-care.

Dr. Murthy has declared this crisis a national priority.

You don’t need the good doctor to tell you this, but you DO need to take care of yourself.

Here we discuss 3 steps you can use to address YOUR burnout.

Step 1 - Acknowledge and be brutally honest with what you have been through

How often have you been in conversations with friends or family and heard someone say, “I was so bored during the pandemic” or “Our company went remote and it was really hard to stay home”

I have had this happen personally a few different times and my honest first reaction was anger. My experience was for sure different. And I’ll bet your experience was different as well.

It was the hardest time of my professional career.

Work from home jumped to nearly 45% when the pandemic started

When the pandemic started, the number of people who worked from home skyrocketed. And I was honestly happy for the people in my life that got to experience this unprecedented shift to working at home. But, for health care workers, it was a much different story.

As a nursing home administrator and consultant working with home care agencies, this time during the pandemic was extremely difficult, almost too difficult to put into words. The experiences that healthcare workers have had, certainly other industries as well, will have lasting impacts that we don’t fully understand yet.

It changed our healthcare system forever.

This picture could really be any of us experiencing pandemic extreme situations

Does any of this speak to what you have been through?

If so, I want you to take time to reflect on what you have experienced. This will help to prioritize and plan intentional time to care for yourself.

In our new world, caring for yourself and being successful in business can not only coexist, BUT I believe is a necessity for our healthcare leaders post-pandemic.

Action Step: Be honest and reflect on your pandemic experience

To help you evaluate your pandemic experience, I highly recommend what I call a “what the heck check”

To do this, you take some time to reflect on the pandemic experience. Look at the questions below and think about what you have gone through. Record these thoughts on your phone, Word, pen and paper, lipstick and mirror, whatever works for you.

The goal is to be honest with yourself to say, “wow, what the heck did I really go through”

Answer these questions and check in with yourself:

What was life like at your business before the pandemic?

How did the pandemic REALLY affect you?

Did the pandemic result in a job or lifestyle change you were not expecting?

What did you enjoy to do that you haven’t done as much or at all?

While this may bring up some strong emotions, it doesn’t have to be all bad. The point of this exercise is to reset and move away from burnout.

Ok…go ahead with the exercise.

Step 2: Turn your actions towards self-care (and away from burnout)

I get questions from healthcare leaders along the lines of “what can I do to stop this burnout?”

A few insights that I find helpful:

  1. Burnout is a mental choice. As difficult it is to write this, burnout really does start and end in your mind. Each day WE decide whether it is another day of burnout in our life or it is the FIRST day of recovery. It starts in the mind.

  2. Building a system of self-care is the only way out. If you have ever gone to work the week after listening to a motivational speaker, you might be familiar with the feeling of a return back to normal. Have a simple system setup that is easy to repeat BEATS motivation every time.

So…instead of trying a bunch of different things to combat burnout, ask yourself “Do I want burnout to stop?”

If YES, then GREAT!

In this step, we look at options to not just survive in healthcare, but to thrive.

Self-Care Options:

  1. Using nature to reconnect and ground yourself

Spending time in nature can have positive effects on your physical and emotional well being.

Here are just some positive effects:

  • improve your mood

  • reduce feelings of stress or anger

  • help you take time out and feel more relaxed

  • improve your physical health

  • improve your confidence and self-esteem

  • help you be more active

  • help you meet and get to know new people

  • connect you to your local community

  • reduce loneliness

  • help you feel more connected to nature

  • provide peer support

Being outside and in nature is a great way to take a pause on a stressful week, realign your thoughts and make sure you are on track for the week.

Two easy ways to be in nature:

Zero RFs Nature Walk:

Having electronic devices near your body transmits radiofrequency (RF) energy. This has an impact on your body’s EMF (electromagnetic field). The same as keeping your phone charging at night by your bed, as well as holding your cell phone to your head while talking, your EMF is impacted and makes you weaker.

Try dialing *#07# on your cell phone. This lists the specific amount of radiation that enters your body from your phone. Ahh! It’s a lot.

Not only does a cell phone interfere with your energy, you might look like this while walking.

My point is: leave your phone behind and go for a walk. Plan out to walk 3 days per week for at least 1 mile on a trail, path, sidewalk (something with trees, birds, sunshine, etc.). This has so many positive effects on your mental health.

Foot Grounding:

Also called earthing, this technique involves doing activities with bare feet that “ground” or electrically reconnect you with the earth. While there isn’t a ton of research yet, I challenge you to try it and not think it helps.

A great practice is to start in your own yard or nearby park grass. Take your shoes off and put your bare feet in the grass. Spend 15 to 30 minutes walking around, even if you just do yard work, and people have seen reduction in stress, pain, depression and fatigue.

There’s something magical about it and your body’s electricity.

There’s even a movie about earthing.

There are also many other ways to engage your body that include exercise. Yoga, weight lighting, running, meditation, meeting to talk with a friend, etc.

  1. Exploring therapy options for the first time or again

Mental health has been moved front and center with this pandemic. The good side of this is that more people than ever, including healthcare workers, are seeking out mental health professionals for help.

The stigma attached to things like therapy has been mostly eliminated.

Online therapy is within reach for many healthcare workers.

The number of psychologists who reported receiving more referrals this year almost doubled from last year (from 37% in 2020 to 62% this year). Almost 7 in 10 psychologists (68%) with a waitlist reported that it had grown longer since the start of the pandemic. - American Psychological Association

Companies like BetterHelp and TalkSpace have therapists available via video chat or even texting. It’s never been easier to reach out for help to talk about how difficult it has been working through the pandemic.

If there ever has been a time to recruit a therapist to be a part of your self-care plan, it is now.

  1. Be aware of what brings you joy

There’s a reason why each of us get out of bed and work each day. Sometimes it’s because your daughter has to get braces and your wife was certain the right thing to do was take her to the most expensive orthodontist in town, versus just ordering from SmileDirect Club online, and now you have to find a way to pay for it.

Hypothetically, of course. But, there’s a reason that you do what you do.

What was your reason you got into healthcare? Maybe a parent or grandparent was a nurse or doctor. Or you are passionate about working with our seniors. Or you found a mentor when you were younger who was in healthcare.

Do you remember your why?

There are things that bring you joy in your life. Family, friends, hobbies, vacations, co-workers, your work…

Be intentional about recognizing things that bring you joy in your life. Recognizing a couple things each week can make the difference in a great or bad week.

Action step: Pick 2 self-care activities and put it on the calendar

Don’t try and put too much on your plate. You’re working in healthcare during a pandemic for heaven's sake. Put a plan together that will be simple and achieve this goal: Prioritizing Self-Care Each Week to Defeat Burnout.

Look at the options in Step 2 and pick 2 of them for the week.

Example: Nature walk for 30 minutes without my phone on Monday and Thursday by the trail I always drive by on the way to work & bringing my Yeti water bottle with me each day and drinking at least 3 bottles

Here you pick 2 self-care activities for the week and then all you have to do is DO IT! Take baby steps. Then start to building some consistency.

Step 3 - Reward yourself for taking care of yourself

Did you know that drinking wine helps you to live longer? As well as many other benefits.


Studies show that antioxidants in wine help the body fight off free radicals that can damage our cells and organs. Like me, I’m sure that’s the reason you may drink wine.

When building new habits towards your self-care, don’t forget to reward yourself. If you put together a weekly self-care plan and it’s all tough stuff, the changes you will stick with it are not great.

So…if you like wine, give yourself a glass (or three) for a Saturday night reward for checking the items off your weekly plan. Or chocolate. Or a trip to your favorite store.

The TRUTH about beating burnout.

If you want to truly defeat burnout, you have to come to terms with two truths:

  • Truth #1: You’re NOT alone in this - millions of people are experiencing BURNOUT. Tap into this. Ask a referral partner to do a walking meeting with you.

  • Truth #2: We don’t have to suffer in silence. If there is one thing the pandemic has helped with, it is normalizing mental health and prioritizing boundaries.

If this has helped you in any way, I would love to hear about it. Please respond and let me know. This journey of self-care is so important in our industry and keeping important leaders in healthcare is a difficult problem.