Tackling stress head on4 min read

by Dr Olivia Ong

If constant stress has you feeling helpless, disillusioned, and completely exhausted, then you may very well be experiencing burnout. Whilst many may still take a flippant attitude towards the concept of burnout, it can actually be a serious medical issue.

What is burnout – and how it affects us.

Burnout is essentially a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.

Burnout tends to surface when you are feeling overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands.

This state of mental and physical exhaustion can zap the joy out of your career, friendships, and family interactions. Burnout reduces a person’s productivity and saps their energy, leaving them feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give and, left unaddressed, burnout can make it difficult for you to meet the demands of daily life.

Burnout can also cause long-term changes to your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu.

Why burnout needs to be dealt with

Because of its many consequences, it’s important to not only deal with burnout right away but take preventative measures. Although it is becoming a much more common occurrence, burnout isn’t always easy to spot, particularly in the case of medical professionals.

Medical professionals are undoubtedly pillars of our community. Working longer hours than most and constantly stretched thin, our doctors and nurses are always putting the health of their patients first. But what about their own?

Many medical practitioners are routine sufferers of burnout, reporting experiencing feelings of exhaustion, isolation and inadequacy.

Through my time working in medicine, and helping others in the field navigate the stresses involved I have found that over 40% of doctors and almost 50% of female physicians feel burnt out.

As a dual-trained Specialist Pain and Rehabilitation Medicine Physician, Keynote Speaker and Medical Leadership Coach, I am making it my mission to aid every frontline healthcare worker be recognised and valued for their true self-worth.

Knowing first-hand the struggles that doctors endure as an occupational hazard, I draw upon my experiences to help fellow medical doctors everywhere lead more balanced and inspired lives without burnout.

How burnout affected me so deeply

As a new young doctor having to learn to walk again after being hit by a car moving at high speed, the resulting spinal cord injury taught me a very important lesson: that of self-compassion.

Routinely being told I would never walk again, I remained focused upon my goal, finally able to walk after 4 brutal years of rehabilitation.

When I returned home to Melbourne, Australia in 2012, I continued my studies and I managed to advance my career as a dual-trained rehabilitation medicine and specialist pain medicine physician, I stepped up as a clinical leader at work using my compassionate leadership skills. I became a mum to two beautiful children whom I adore, and I had a very supportive husband, close family and friends.

But the combination of living with a spinal cord injury, motherhood, full-time work, and studying for fellowship exams exhausted me.

I ignored the warning signs, viewed burnout as a sign of vulnerability and weakness, and just kept pushing through. That is, until all at once, it became too much.

What burnout taught me

Experiencing the devastating effects of burnout for the first time, I realised that the only way forward was to implement a well-balanced lifestyle.

On a path to re-discover the passion in my work, restore my mental and emotional wellbeing, and reconnect with family, inner self, and identity beyond the physician, I discovered the true power of self-compassion and creative development.

These tools helped me thrive at home and at work and helped me learn how to take ownership of my thoughts to gain a whole new perspective.

My mission to help others with burnout

I was determined to create change within the medical industry, and now focus my efforts on helping medical entrepreneurs and leaders live heart-centred lives and live their life and business by design, not by roster.

Through my various programs, I offer 1:1 and group coaching, workshops and speaking engagements on burnout, compassion, fatigue and various traumas in doctors so they can stay in the game longer as a compassionate leader and leave a positive legacy for the upcoming generation of young doctors.

As a medical leadership coach, I also help medical entrepreneurs and leaders become more confident in public speaking and have more certainty and clarity in their core message so that they can amplify their voice, establish their authority and thought leadership and impact their circle of influence. My book, The Heart Centred Doctor, complements this, helping doctors to find their way back home to their heart and re-discover their passion in all aspects of life.

If you are, or know, a medical professional tired of feeling overworked, overwhelmed and out of balance, get in touch for help navigating the symptoms of burnout and help me guide you toward a more fulfilling, heart centred life.


If you’d like to see more content, news and articles then sign up for my monthly newsletter to get the latest straight to your inbox.

If you have any questions or feedback regarding this article and any of the issues it raises, or if you’d like to get in touch to find out more about fulfilling your true potential I would love to hear from you.

You may also like

Leave a Comment