Burnout: Discussion With A Nurse & Burnout Educator
By: Dr. Tomi Mitchell
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In this episode, I, your host, Dr. Tomi Mitchell, had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Kara Acheson
About our Guest
Kara is a burnout educator and she offers practical ways to recover from burnout so you can find how to feel good. She knows what it’s like to experience burnout firsthand, as she has unfortunately experienced burnout, twice. She describes it as a subtle feeling at first.
She has worked in health care for over a decade. And have her Bachelor's of Science in Nursing. Her area of passion and expertise is in health promotion and prevention. This means she looks for ways to improve health and wellness while preventing people from getting sick. She shares her experiences with you and how she's recovering from burnout and preventing it from happening again in hopes that stress won't take over your life as it did her.
During this episode, You will know that you are not alone in your experience with burnout. You are not a failure for having experienced burnout and that there are ways to recover from it and prevent it from happening again. Stress doesn't have to take over your life.
SPEAKERS Kara Atchison, Dr. Tomi Mitchell Dr. Tomi Mitchell 00:05 Hello everyone, this is your host, Dr. Tomi Mitchell from the Mental Health and Wellness Show. Today I have the pleasure of introducing Kara Atchison. She is a burnout educator and she offers practical advice to recover from burnout, so you can feel your best. And she knows from a personal experience what it's like to burnout even twice, she's experienced that. She acknowledges that often burnout is subtle at first, but it builds up over time. She's also a healthcare professional and has worked in the healthcare field for over a decade. She has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing. Her area of passion and expertise is in health promotion, and most importantly, prevention. She looks for ways to improve health and wellness while preventing people from getting sick, and she shares her experiences with others. So you know that you're not alone. And it can happen to everyone. With no further ado, I'd love to introduce my guest Kara, Kara welcome to the show. Kara Atchison 01:02 Hi, thank you for having me. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 01:03 Yeah. So tell audience a little bit about you. Kara Atchison 01:06 Thank you. You said a lot of really wonderful things right there. But yeah, in a nutshell. I still work full time. But I work in healthcare. I've been there for a decade, my Bachelors of Science in Nursing, super passionate about health promotion and prevention. And that started kind of selfishly, when I'm like, Oh, how can I live a really great life, and I didn't do so well like burnout a couple of times. And then I thought, why didn't I know this, why it wasn't on my radar? And then I looked around at my colleagues, and I thought oh my gosh, I don't think you know this either. Husband conversations, and then that kind of transitioned into where I am today. And why I'm here today. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 01:43 Yes, did you? So what was the moment you realize that you were burnout? Do you remember what the situation? Kara Atchison 01:48 I do? It's interesting, you have those moments where you're can almost close your eyes or hear a song or there's a smell or something that comes on and you can just transform back there. And I was sitting at my desk at work. And it was a Thursday, and I had just broken down in tears again for the third time that day. And I was like, this is not normally me, I'm not wanting to cry in public. I'm not wanting to cry in front of other people. Usually I can find appropriate time for myself to cry. And I couldn't I just I couldn't I couldn't control it. It just took over. And it just had to get out. And I'm like this something. I think that was the moment. Well, I think I know that was the moment when I finally said something all the reading I've been doing, I'm burnt out. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 02:27 What did you do when you realize? Kara Atchison 02:29 Well, I held into my cry, I finished my cry. And then I kind of put one foot in front of the nest and finish my birthday. And as I was driving home, I had a note in my hands from an application, you can work on stressfully. And I said, I'm going to submit that tomorrow. Like I before I left that day and made an appointment with my manager say hey, I need to meet with you. And then I went home and loaded everything to my husband, and this is what I'm gonna do tomorrow. He said definitely. Why didn't you do this sooner? So, what I did not Friday, I packed up my stuff and then the copper on my. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 03:04 Thats it. How do you feel being off cause I'm sure with your profession, you're usually on the go, so a whole month. Kara Atchison 03:11 It honestly, that was the scariest thing to do was to I had the note in my hand, I talked with my health care professionals, they were in support, my family was in support. But me personally, it was like this mental block I had to get over because there is this expectation like you can do this. But keep going you can do it or try different things like why, why can't you do this sort of thing like keep trying. So it was that mental block that I had to get over to say, I'm trying everything and I need to try something different, something I've never done before. Because what I'm experiencing right now, I've never experienced this before for the thing to this extent. So it was really surreal. I mean, we still have our personal life. So it's not as if I could just sit at home and read books and drink coffee all day, like have a family and I had little ones. So it shifted into like whole mommy mode. And it was really nice not to have to think about work for a month off. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 04:06 Definitely, yeah, I can, I can totally relate with that. No, I too, had reached that point of burnout where I, they said I was done and had to take a long break, months actually just because it was other circumstances going on as well. But yeah, that realization and having that cry of relief I call ugly cry too. It's just like. Kara Atchison 04:26 Yeah, they're, they're not pretty cry. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 04:28 You're not pretty, It felt good to get it go because you've been strong quote unquote, but you need to also be human and listen to your body. Pay attention to your emotions and know that you are more than just an employee. Kara Atchison 04:41 Yeah, it's interesting. There's so much or I've built my life up where there was this expectation that there is so much identity and work wrapped up in your work that like you said, you almost lose who you are, what you're doing or why you're doing it. Yeah, the lines kind of all seem to get blurred. What am I doing? Why am I here? When it starts to affect your health. It wasn't my case. I'm like, this isn't okay. Like I can't, I can't then keep showing up for the job. Even if I loved it, it's affecting my health and well being. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 05:07 Definitely yeah. When it affects your personal relationships did you find or friendships? Kara Atchison 05:12 It affected everything. It was like subtle at first that I had almost rationalize it like, oh, it's not related to work oh, it's you know something else or you know, I got a bad night's sleep or whatever it is trying to tell myself. And then yeah, it's very irritable at home. I had no patience for friends. But my children, like the children are little I mean, they make mistakes as well as humans. So just even that I was just miserable. At work and outside of work. I'm really trying to isolate myself as well, which was interesting. I didn't want to connect with people, because it was just not a thing I had to do that I didn't have energy for. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 05:46 Yeah. Kara Atchison 05:47 Which, in hindsight, you look at all those different decisions. And you're like, oh, yeah, those are huge legs. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 05:53 Definitely, isolation is a big one. So now that you've experienced burnout, and you've experienced the points, how do you see people you see people around differently, who are working and perhaps are in the early stages of burnout, but unaware? Kara Atchison 06:06 Yes, so definitely the, what I sharing what the experience I had, where it's crying, and I couldn't control it. That was my second time. And I didn't fully realize until probably well into my recovery, probably at least six or eight months into my recovery, that it was actually the second time because the first time I had a bit of other things going on. So it was I can't handle this position, I need to switch positions. So that mappings are allowed that yes. Now being back seeing what I'm doing from a day to day, but I saw from going back into burnout and sitting in this even listen to the words people use when they talk about the disengagement when they talk about like, like, what's the point? It's like, we just do the same thing every day. Nothing ever changes like that kind of like hopelessness. You'll hear themes when people talk. And then like, oh, like how's your stress? Because people don't usually say that they're not like I'm stressed and overwhelmed. Like so much kind of grass, it's not usually those words, they use the other kind of the themes that you start to notice. So it's neat to kind of touch them on how is your stress? And how are you managing stress? And what are you doing prefer the day to day? Because it's been something that's gone on for a while? Or is it you know, just a one off kind of thing? Dr. Tomi Mitchell 07:12 Hey, so speaking of stress management, were there any tools or strategies that you found to be helpful on your recovery? Kara Atchison 07:18 Yeah, I, for the longest time, I didn't think I got stressed out. So you can kind of hear like a denial to, you know, my early life. And then I thought I was actually handling stress really well. And I thought I could just haul the stress to go away, like the stressful event paths, like Monstress Lee, that I had a rude awakening on my recovery when I started actually reading about it. And it's just it's a little thing that you can do routinely, that make a world of difference. And you just even being mindful, I was so disconnected from what I was doing, the actions I was doing, and how that was making my body feel. So you just keep going through the motions kind of that autopilot. So just even mindfulness, and then that can take so many different forms, gratitude, but it's not that whole don't understand you do the things that are more difficult to tell them that appreciation, things that you're thankful for. My inner critic that was really interesting, her inner critic really got onto that soapbox when I was burnt out. And I did not realize how loud it was yelling at me and how much mental energy I was giving it or living it. With just those things seem to help me identify stress. And then kind of I mean, take a step back from it almost saying, okay, and stress, labeling it as stress or this is what I'm feeling. And then you kind of have your response from my due to that. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 08:32 Alot of highly mentioned the inner critic, that's a topic that we'll definitely talk about a few times on this podcast. And for those who are listening, that's the little voice that can tell us that we're not good enough that, what are you doing? Like it's not the most encouraging voice? Kara Atchison 08:46 No. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 08:47 So, It serves a purpose but it has to be kept in check, was physical activity part of your recovery? Kara Atchison 08:53 Yes, I think physical activity the thing that comes first is exercise like exercise class are structured, something that I totally shifted that to movement, just moving your body. So something as simple as walking your kids to and from school, you're moving your body getting out in the garden dancing, people love seeing nice sight, they'll see that I sometimes have a good song that comes on and I just take a step back and I just dance and any movement is so important for completing your stress cycle. And it's so important for managing your stress. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 09:22 Exactly, movements is key another highly said you don't need a class or something specific that you go to you just need feet moving, like park further away, walk places, as long as it's safe to do so. Kara Atchison 09:35 Yeah, I know that was a big thing of how do I add another thing to my to do list a cloth they have to be there or kind of financial needs to shift it into that or little bit making it practical everyday. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 09:45 Yeah, making it practical. So to listeners, it's really important that you find creative ways to increase your activity. I know we're all busy, some of us arguably have visited others. So I tell people if I can do it, you can do it. Preparing multiple businesses and running after little people. So make it your priority. Kara another thing that from my own experience and experience with others, eating a nutritious diet is really important. Not so much having a diet per se, like follow the Atkins or something, but eating whole foods. What are your thoughts on that? Kara Atchison 10:19 Yes. So that's what my passion is health promotion and prevention. Nutrition is key in the sense of preventing disease and helping you feel good in the moment. So I've never bought into the diet culture, but eating nutritious foods, whole foods, eating foods in their natural state shopping the perimeter of the grocery store, versus up and down the aisles, just those few little things, valuing what you're putting into your body because then it will give you either positive or negative kind of hoped. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 10:47 Love it. So referring to energy and food is meant to give you energy not draining, you know it's like, some people might notice that let's say they eat like a pine of burgers, ice cream, or whatever their favorite is, they'll feel sluggish and gross and tired. Well, that food perhaps not quantity wasn't the best choice for you. Our foods should be in a manner that is easy for us to digest and doesn't sit in our gut for days or weeks. So food is important. So what are you doing now to prevent burnout happening the third time? Kara Atchison 11:17 So it's, it's a fine line? Because I mean, stress is a normal part of your everyday life, our stress response, it's automatic. So once I figured that out that I can't hide from it, I can't deny it. It's okay, how do I approach it? So it's kind of balancing the stress management technique, as well as completing my stress cycle. But I didn't realize that you had to do at first and you said one of the things moving my body. And again, it's the simple things. So what would I enjoy doing and nutrition? What foods do I enjoy eating? And what is the energy? How do I feel after something, sleep has been a big thing, my kids are not necessarily waking up at nighttime, but I'm still waking up at nighttime. And definitely as my stress starts to increase, the 3am wake ups and myself where my brain mind turns on. So just being mindful of that and thinking, oh, did I do stress and patient cycles today? So that constant purposeful action as well as reflecting could I've done something different or what's going on in my life so that mindfulness. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 12:16 Definitely i've done that. Now we're both in the healthcare field and interestingly, we've both been in it for over a decade now that are aging ourselves. Call me an archives. Kara Atchison 12:25 I call myself a geriatric millennial the other day. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 12:29 Me too, I am one, a millennial barely. Kara Atchison 12:34 Right definitely, write down one of the ways. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 12:37 Yeah, I am on the wrong ways definitely more more verse wiser. Kara Atchison 12:43 Guess wiser, with the wiser millennial? Dr. Tomi Mitchell 12:45 Wow. Yeah, exactly. So we're both in health care. And you know, this is pandemic and even before the pandemic burnout was a real thing. Some people even call it moral injury, which is basically one of the best you can but in situations given to you were not the most positive. Many providers who are working in ICU during COVID are frontline doing primary care, it can be exhausting. So what do you think makes healthcare providers at such high risk for burnout? Kara Atchison 13:15 The question, it's really, I mean, if we show up for a shift, the expectations or the situations we find ourselves in are very unique. I mean, first responders, but there's other professions that have similar or comparable situations that they might be in, but from like a healthcare lens you could face on an inertia, moral distress, trauma, death, and there's this expectation that you're gonna carry on. There's also this culture, I guess, of, well, we have to keep going, all the stuff used to get done, and not necessarily that environment where you have the time, or you have the comfort and vulnerability to say things aren't okay for me. So when you're trying to keep going with all your expectations, and you're facing all these different situations, it's now the end of your shift. And what do you do with all that or you know, that you're unsure next responsibilities, your family responsibilities or parental responsibilities? It's almost there's not a time to catch your breath, nor a culture of allowing you to share whatever needs to be shared. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 14:21 Yeah I love how you said that, you don't know what you're getting. No, there are days where you really see extremely tragic situations. You know, in my case, with primary care, you get to know patients for a long time. And sometimes you have to their back and it's. They become like family, and it's next to impossible to take turn off humanity. I believe as humans weren't intended to be under constant stress 24/7 Like it was supposed to be to see like a bear or whatever, a lion or something for a period not month after month after month after year. So for those health care providers and those who are feeling burned, please take time for yourself and burnout or can affect every aspect of your life. Everything that you value, if you're not careful, could be tainted, it's like gangrene. Once it sets in, you have to literally amputate the part that is, burnout is no different. And it doesn't make you weak. It just makes you humans. So advocate for yourself, create healthy boundaries, surround yourself with people who understand, what it's like to be in this situation. Unless one has walked the path of a healthcare provider, I feel that they don't necessarily understand what we go through. And you might find even your partner who may or may not be in health care may not understand where they can turn off after work, and maybe go sit in a couch and watch TV. You're thinking about decisions made outcomes people's lives, it haunts you and burnout and a piece of haunting is PTSD. That's also very common, especially in first responders, I find because they literally are picking up the pieces in tragic accidents or whatnot. So take care of yourself, everyone burnout it is does not have to happen largely it's in our power to prevent it or at least reduce it by being mindful as Kara said by incorporating movement eating whole foods taking a break reaching out and knowing it's going to be okay that alone Kara, is there anything else you'd like to add to our listeners? Kara Atchison 16:18 I just said have a flurry of emotions here. You talk about that. I love that we're normalizing burnout. I love that we're talking about stress because it's the silent that that kills. Having the conversation talking just even I'm not okay, just even starting there, having the courage to share that and finding somebody who can relate or who will listen, it's not a fun place to be. You don't need to stop there with other people who can help you if you are there. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 16:44 Yes, and if you're there, it's often so easy to start feeling guilty that you're not you know, working at your full capacity or at work but you know what, the only day you are, you are there's only one of you and your you need you and your family needs you. And I said this to people in the past and some people have been offended, but I'm gonna say it again, our jobs will replace us we are replaceable, that's something were to happen to you, they will find a replacement and that business will go on. Kara Atchison 17:10 It's hard to think about when you care so much about your job or you see yourself as such a valuable team player but if you're not well then you can't be there either you're sick or unable to show up to work then you're not helping your team either. Dr. Tomi Mitchell 17:22 Exactly, so that positive note everyone I hope you take our words to heart and if you feel that this is something that resonates with you, this is something that potentially you're going through or your loved one please find somebody who understands the old way of thinking suck it up buttercup, or all that jazz, that's toxic, no, healthy boundary, balance, you deserve to be healthy and happy. So with that being said, this is Dr. Mitchell with a lovely Kara for the Mental Health and Wellness Show. Till we meet again everyone. Bye!