American Association for Physician Leadership


Five Practical Ways to Prevent Burnout Through Compassion

Harvard Business Review

September 29, 2017


Some people simply don’t get burned out. Why? The answer lies in part with empathy.

Some people simply don’t get burned out. Why? The answer lies in part with empathy.


Instead of putting in more hours when you’re stressed, find ways to renew yourself. | 123RF Stock Image

If you really want to deal with stress, you’ve got to stop trying to be a hero and start caring for and about yourself. Physicians take note: Here are some practical ways to practice self-compassion and make empathy part of your normal way of dealing with people at work.

CURB THE URGE TO OVERWORK: When the pressure is on, we’re often tempted to work more hours. But just doing more usually makes things worse, because we are essentially manufacturing our own stress. So instead of putting in more hours when you’re stressed, find ways to renew yourself. Exercise, practice mindfulness, spend more time with loved ones and get more sleep.

STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP: Instead of letting self-criticism stress you out, acknowledge how you feel, acknowledge that others would feel similarly in the same situation, and be kind and forgiving to yourself.

BUILD FRIENDSHIPS WITH PEOPLE AT WORK: Real connections and friendships at work matter — a lot. Research has confirmed that having warm relationships is essential to health, well-being and happiness.

REALLY LISTEN: Instead of listening and understanding others, we only hear what we want. The resulting conflicts cause a lot of unnecessary stress. To prevent this, be curious about people. Ask yourself, “How can I understand where this person is coming from?”

COACH PEOPLE: Coaching others has positive psychophysiological effects that restore the body’s natural healing and growth processes and improve stamina. When we care enough to invest time in developing others, we can balance the toxic effects of stress and burnout.

Copyright 2017 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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The American Association for Physician Leadership has helped physicians develop their leadership skills through education, career development, thought leadership and community building.

The American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL) changed its name from the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2014. We may have changed our name, but we are the same organization that has been serving physician leaders since 1975.


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