Burnout

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briandc
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Burnout

Postby briandc » Thu Sep 05, 2019 12:24 pm

Hi everyone,

I thought I'd start a thread where anyone could talk about this important and pervasive problem, as it can happen in just about any field, including programming!

Has anyone here experienced burnout, especially in relation to using computers and/or music? What did you do to deal with and overcome it?


brian
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My sound synthesis biome: http://www.linuxsynths.com

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milo
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Re: Burnout

Postby milo » Thu Sep 05, 2019 2:07 pm

Good topic. This is one I have some interest in because of my day job. Occupational burnout is a huge problem among healthcare workers, and much of what I know about the subject is in that context. I have done some writing and speaking about burnout, and just this week it came up as a subject for discussion in a meeting I attended at work.

Over half of practicing doctors (in the USA, not sure about elsewhere) have at least one symptom of burnout, and that puts us on par with active duty military and law enforcement. And it is not just a benign nuisance. It is associated with poorer health outcomes for our patients and depression, substance abuse, and suicide among doctors.

Burnout in my first job is what led me to move back home to Utah, and that was a very good thing for me. I read a great self-help book on occupational burnout for physicians (the only self-help book I have ever read, I think): https://support.thehappymd.com/stop-physician-burnout-book. This is a huge topic, and it's easy to fall down the rabbit hole with it. There are many causes for burnout, and some of them will be unique to your occupation.

There are four general approaches to mitigating burnout, which can be organized into a 2x2 matrix: On one axis you have personal versus organizational approaches, and on the orthogonal axis you have work stress reduction and recharging. Your employer is in charge of organizational efforts to make the workplace less stressful and to organize parties, retreats, etc. to help you recharge. You may or may not have much influence over those things at your job.

But the big cognitive breakthrough for me was that I am in charge and accountable for my personal efforts to reduce my stress at work and recharge myself when I'm away from work. There are a lot of things that are in my power to do, which I don't need permission from my boss to do. Over the past few years I have improved my personal efficiency at my day to day work. I did this by keeping a spreadsheet to track the number of patients I see, how long it takes to write my notes, how long it takes me to wrap things up and go home after seeing the last patient, etc. Studying this data taught me where I was being inefficient, and I was able to focus one thing at a time on changes that had the biggest impact. I am in a better place in my career now, and I have more free time. Music is an important part of my burnout mitigation strategy. It connects me to my human side, keeps me learning and creating, and provides an expressive emotional outlet. Trail running is also a big part of how I recharge.

I have also experienced burnout in music, but because it is just a hobby I haven't worried about it. I can leave my music for weeks or months and then come back to it. My most prolonged absences from music were not from creative burnout, though. They were from being too busy in other areas of my life so that I didn't have time for my hobby for a while. During my residency I went years without recording any music.

If you are in the throes of occupational burnout, don't give up! There is reason for hope! As Tom Petty said:
"I'm takin' control of my life
I'm takin' control of my life
I'm takin' control of my life now
Right now
Oh, yeah!"


If any of you are interested, here are a couple of things I wrote on the subject of burnout, also incorporating a religious perspective:
https://latterdaydoctor.com/2018/02/11/it-becomes-you-part-vi-living-the-dream/
https://latterdaydoctor.com/2016/10/22/burning-out-and-back-again/

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briandc
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Re: Burnout

Postby briandc » Sun Sep 08, 2019 1:35 pm

Thanks milo,
I enjoyed reading your post and links. Of the stress reduction and recharging, I think we often forget about the recharging part of it.

What kinds of things are good for recharging? Is recharging simply the result of stress reduction?


Brian
Have your PC your way: use linux!
My sound synthesis biome: http://www.linuxsynths.com

folderol
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Re: Burnout

Postby folderol » Mon Sep 09, 2019 10:38 am

I make week long trips away from all contact with the Internet and computers, at least once a year, usually twice, and occasionally three times spread though the year.
Added to regular nearby country walks, I find this completely refreshes me.

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milo
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Re: Burnout

Postby milo » Mon Sep 09, 2019 3:48 pm

Recharging means different things to different people. Usually it involves some periodic departure from the occupational stress, and doing something for pleasure: creating, exercising, traveling, reading, hobbies, religious observance, learning new things, etc. You need to put your occupation into proper perspective, to help you see that it is just one important part of your life. Then you can get a clearer view of what your goals are, or what your reasons are for working. What is your real motivation, your "why?"

This is why music is such a great hobby for me, and why I will never try to turn it into a job. I don't want my music to turn into an occupational stress. (Besides, my day job is awesome.)

I love folderol's idea of disconnecting for a whole week. I get outside of cell phone range regularly on my trail runs, but they only last a few hours. And I like to go camping a few times a year with my kids, which usually gets us away from the network, and that makes a real difference to how I feel. There are also ways to limit your use of networks when you are at home. Leave your cell phone on the counter top instead of keeping it in your pocket, for instance. Delete your social media accounts, or place limits on when and why you check them. Stuff like that. The point is to assert control over these tools, so that you are their master, not their slave.

One reason why I think this thread is so important is that there are some cultural taboos against talking about occupational burnout, at least in my line of work. These taboos are counter-productive and just make the problem worse, because the person experiencing burnout feels isolated and unable to reach out for help. I think we should be more open in discussing how burnout affects us, and how we deal with it and overcome it. We could save lives by simply being willing to talk.

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Re: Burnout

Postby jonetsu » Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:41 pm

I think Milo nailed it with the I am in charge. Effectively, despite all odds, it's really up to the person. To an unbelievable degree. The amount of 'power' contained within and without is great. By 'power' I do not mean a terrific power but rather a 'blooming' capacity of sorts, of fulfilling oneself.

I do not think that a specific religion has a role to play in this but, all religions tend to gravitate around a certain inner state often called 'prayer'. I'm not religious, but I do qi gong and such 'internal martial arts' (neigong) things to which I was attracted because it seemed to be such a fun and relaxing thing to do. One of the core activity is zhan zhuang or standing like a post. This is an activity in which one simply stands up, straight but not stressed, actively relaxed perhaps, and start visualizing all parts of the body relaxing. The amount of stress we put daily in every muscle is incredible, and unneeded.

The main thing is to 'get out of the way' so to speak, and let a certain part of 'nature' flowing. What's neat with this approach is that one does not 'fight' the monkey mind always thinking about things because it is put to visualize relaxing muscles, it is being occupied by something.

And the same goes then with moving. The quiet relaxed state is carried over with walking smoothly and doing all kinds of movements (eg. tai chi and others). With time it feels like peeling away layers and getting somehow closer to what might be essential in life.

And at the same time it has physical benefits. I used to have an asthma that developed over time and I was needing one of those blue spray thing from time to time to help in breathing. One of these days, without me noticing it I realized that the asthma was gone. And it never cam back. Stress has an negative impact on the immune system. The less stress, the better the immune system. And by 'stress' I mean the bad stress, the one that eats away at the potential, of which burn out is a symptom.

I always thought that there's nothing to it, to stand up for 10, 20, 30 minutes. Near the beginning I thought that's it, I'm relaxed now ! only to find out months and years later that when I thought I was relaxed back then, I was not. I was better, but relaxed, no.

Is it possible to say that activities like zhan zhuang, qi gong, tai chi can be spiritual ? I think so, depending on the level and deepness of involvement. And this is when those activities truly become an exercise on their own, when one starts reaping benefits on one hand, and on the other hand starts to feel some kind of connection with the universe.

And this can be done anytime, independent of any situation. It is a question of will to start and continue, and then at one point even the will fades as it becomes more pervasive.

Cheers.

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briandc
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Re: Burnout

Postby briandc » Fri Sep 20, 2019 6:45 pm

Thanks to everyone for the posts. I agree that burnout is an important subject in a lot of fields, and computing is no exception! When you think of the amount of concentration and precision that it requires (all it takes is a comma or letter or digit out of place and all goes haywire!), it's important to take time away from the binaries regularly and enjoy the simple, natural things around us.

Interestingly, taking long walks in nature is something I enjoy doing too.. I try to get an hour in, whenever the weather is nice...which is almost daily right now. :)

Brian
Have your PC your way: use linux!
My sound synthesis biome: http://www.linuxsynths.com


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