Doctor addresses burnout
For Doctor Neha Sangwan, the moment she realised that she was about to crash and burn came 11 years into her career in medicine.
She had been living off the adrenaline that came with being a medical student and then a successful doctor without paying attention to her own needs.
She kept going by turning to caffeine, sugar and wine - anything that would numb the physiological signs that her body was sending her to slow down.
Sangwan found ways to block out those signs until everything came crashing down on day five of a typical six-day shift cycle.
Sangwan had asked a nurse to prepare some medication for a patient. The issue was that she had asked the same question of the same nurse four times already with no memory of doing so.
This was the lightbulb moment. she realised that she needed to perform CPR on herself.
Sangwan was put on medical leave and took time to refocus her career path and values. She now coaches other highachievers to see the telltale signs of an impending burnout in themselves and to work towards greater self-awareness and self-care through holistic methods.
Sangwan is a self-professed perfectionist and said it was those personality types that could get into the most trouble.
Her coaching applies to those in every walk of life - particularly women who have been brought up in a society where they are trained to please others.
Admitting to her own burnout meant she had to face embarrassment and feelings of failure. She worried about what others would think of her and whether she was a loser.
Not everyone was understanding and she faced condescension and judgment from those in a profession where giving to others comes above all else.
But Sangwan learnt to train out the negative voices and pay attention to what mattered.
She said the basic signs of burnout were initial exhaustion which if ignored could lead to cynicism and ineffectiveness. A few times before her moment of burnout, Sangwan found herself getting impatient and angry with the patients that she was there to help.
She said to overcome those feelings, quiet reflection was the most important and rewarding practice.
Dr Neha Sangwan visited New Zealand to talk about burnout and how to avoid it.