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Managing Fatigue and Combatting Burnout

Optometrists around Australia are still feeling the effects of COVID-19. As States have juggled snap lockdowns throughout the start of 2021, this too has impacted the way they work. Having to reschedule and adapt to changing working schedules, coupled with the last-minute influx of patients before health insurance limits reset, practitioners may be starting to feel exhausted and depleted. It’s no surprise that burnout is on the rise.

You may be saying: “But it’s only April! I shouldn’t be feeling this way!” – but it is important to take stock of the events from 2020, and the ongoing impacts still being felt.

Continual feelings of limbo can take a toll on our wellbeing. While there may not be much we can do to change our current situation, there is much that can be done to support your wellbeing, and protect your mental health.

Tips for Combatting Burnout

Protect Emotional Resources

When we identify that we are experiencing emotional exhaustion, we can work to reduce how much our emotional resources are drawn upon during certain situations. When we focus our time and energy on things that are within our control, we feel empowered and can make a plan for rising to the challenges. Identify the moments in which we begin to feel overwhelmed or depleted, and see if we can alter how the situation plays out. For example, if we feel overwhelmed every time our phone pings with a news alert, switch off these notifications and choose to only watch the news once a day. These circumstances may be situations at work, or at home, relationships or tasks.

Safe Practices for Our Work Lives 

In order to regain a sense of control over our work-life, we need to engage in useful strategies to re-create the boundaries we once had. Discuss with your team (or sit down by yourself) the expectations on your work hours/daily patient numbers factoring in additional time in between patients for cleaning. Stick with these targets, and don’t be tempted to extend your working hours to “fit in” additional patients. This will give you a chance to rebound from the day, replenishing your emotional resource stores and spend time with family or doing activities you enjoy. A healthy work-life balance is a key indicator of a positive and safe work culture.

Switching Off Rituals

Ensure each day, you engage in “switching off” rituals to assist with winding down and “leaving work, at work” again. Often, we can feel too tired at the end of our days to engage in non-work activities, but now is actually the crucial time for these activities. Do a brainstorm and write down all of the non-work activities which you enjoy that promote feelings of relaxation, control and mastery. It may be cooking, exercising, gardening, playing with your children, going for a walk with your partner or even engaging in mindfulness practice. While these activities won’t remove the stress in our lives, they will put us in a better position to face the stressors with a different mindset and use them to our advantage rather than disadvantage.

If you are feeling increasingly overwhelmed and burnt-out during this time, you might benefit from speaking to someone. Visit your GP and discuss taking out a Mental Health Care Plan to help get you back on track.

Optometry Australia members can register for The Resilience Box which is a new, free digital platform that provides all the tools for boosting your mental health and wellbeing.

Please Reach Out for Help

Optometry Australia’s Optometry Advisor Helpdesk also offers members dedicated, experienced optometrist ready to provide confidential support. Contact [email protected] or (03) 9668 8500

Lifeline: 13 11 14 (available 24/7)
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 46 36 (available 24/7)


Published with permission of Optometry Australia.