Schedule a Consult

Are you resting or chasing down the poisonous snake?

May 06, 2024

While I was driving the other day, the host of a radio station posted a question. She asked the listeners if they were bitten by a poisonous snake, would they rest and recover or chase down the snake and ask why it poisoned them. I would propose another option: to ignore the fact that you are being poisoned and go about your daily activities.

The answer is probably obvious. The next best step is to rest and recover from being poisoned. Yet there are people who ignore the injury and keep going, even when they are not feeling well. This happens at work, to many physicians – including the past me.

I still remember when I was a brand new attending physician over a decade ago. All those years of hard work prepared me for that – to be a physician to help others with their diseases, and to connect with the patients. Gradually, the work load increased. I was going home later and later. Before I realized, a typical work day was to see a full schedule of patients for 8 hours, followed by four or more hours of paperwork, charting, phone calls and other administrative duties.

It was not an overnight process. Looking back, it probably started a year or two after becoming an attending physician. I felt tired easily. In fact, I felt drained most of the time. There was this feeling of physical exhaustion even though I did not have the time to exercise. It seemed to take me longer and longer to finish the same amount of work as I was having a harder and harder time to focus and concentrate. Needless to say, I was far from being efficient.

As I was going through the motions of working, it gradually became an operation of survival. Making it one day at a time. There was no mental reserve for me to connect with patients. It was easy to be irritable. That empty feeling kept reminding me to address the question: What is the point?

I could not find a good answer to that question. What was the point? All I could think of was to keep going. That seemed to be the correct thing to do. To keep the financial stability. All I had to do was to keep working, keep doing my job, even though I was about to shut down, not feeling fulfilled or satisfied, I told myself to keep going.

I was like that person who was bitten by a poisonous snake. The poison was gradually and chronically affecting my well-being. My mode of approach was to ignore the poison. I convinced myself that it was a normal rite of passage for physicians. I also convinced myself that I could handle it. So I kept going. I kept working more and more. There was no joy at work. There was no fulfillment. There were complaints, criticism and irritability. That was not the way to live.

The first thing to do after being bitten by a poisonous snake is to acknowledge that you are being poisoned and find a way to recover from it, instead of hunting the snake down. When you feel stressed, overwhelmed and burned out at work, acknowledge it. Allow yourself the time to pause and rest. The road to recovery from burnout is to let yourself the chance to recharge mentally, physically and emotionally. Take a mental and physical break allows you to have a clearer thought process. Give yourself grace. Allow yourself the time to recover – the amount of time you need is different from person to person. When you ignore the problem, it will not go away. It will only get bigger and bigger, to the point that it is difficult to manage. Do not hesitate to talk to someone about it or to seek professional help. Only when you feel better can you function better and find the solution to the problem. Well-being starts from knowing when you are injured and take the time and patience to let it heal before you continue on as if nothing happened.

Are you ready to stop feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Are you ready to have more time to do what you want?


Get your FREE ultimate guide to combat burnout now!

Start your journey of clarity and to be true to yourself. Don't wait to feel better!

I'm Ready!