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How to Reduce Stress & Burnout and Build Resilience

How to Reduce Stress & Burnout and Build Resilience, tips featured by top radiation oncology organization, SROA

By Mel Kauffman

In a recent SROA webinar, Dr. Natalia Peart shared how to reduce stress and burnout and build resilience and engagement.

“The greatest ability we have as humans is the ability to see beyond our circumstances. It’s about the choices we can make, the choices we need to make now are the in order to move into growth mode in everything you do.” Dr. Peart

Dr. Peart shared that all stress is not created equal, and not all stress is bad. We perform optimally from the stress, that stress energizes us, keeps us focused, and work feels effortless. The problem now is that we are living in the extreme and have become distressed—to the point of fatigue, exhaustion, ill health, and, ultimately, breakdown and burnout. She explained that when faced with threats from burnout our body goes into one of three modes: fight, flight, or freeze. Today’s stresses are constant changes and disruptions to our “normal.” Our response is controlled by two systems: the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. Too much time in stress mode leads to burnout and strips us of our emotional resources. There’s a gradual depletion over time.

The goal is to stabilize by using breathing as a reset button, to allow our subconscious to kick in. By using a deep breathing technique you are able to put space between the stimulus and your response, this allows you to create the power to choose our response, to think, and to the reaction to a situation. Take slow deep breaths to reset and rein in emotions.

To Reduce Burnout, Use three Internal Skills to Increase Effectiveness

  • Build mental strength.
  • Go from the fear zone to the learning zone: The fear zone is filled with panic, anger, complain, being disoriented with what will happen next. The learning zone is the place to become aware of situations, identify emotions, and learn how to act reflectively. Here we can evaluate information before spreading something false.
  • The transition from the learning zone to the growth zone: Growth is about getting our footing back, find ways to move forward from our current situation, be focused on the future and move though emotional states without being stuck with negative thoughts.


Types of Coping Skills

Dr. Peart shared the six types of coping skills and examples of how you can use each coping skill to reduce burnout.

  • Crisis Plan – Contact information of support and resources when coping skills aren’t enough such as Family or friends, Therapist, Psychiatrist, a crisis hotline
  • Mindfulness – These are tools for centering and grounding yourself in the present moment. Examples: meditation or relaxation recordings, ground objects such as a rock or paperweight, yoga, and breathing exercises.
  • Emotional awareness – Tools for identifying and expressing your feelings. Examples: list or chart of emotions, a journal, writing supplies, drawing, or art.
  • Self-Soothing – Comforting yourself through your five senses. Examples: holding a stress ball (touch), listening to music (hear), looking at happy pictures (see), eating a favorite candy or food (taste), burning a candle of your favorite scent (smell).
  • Distraction – Taking your mind odd the problem for a while. Examples: puzzles, books, crafts, crossword puzzles, movies, or music. 
  • Opposite action – Doing something the opposite of your impulse that’s consistent with more positive emotion. Examples:  Affirmations and Inspirations – looking at or drawing motivational statements or images. Something funny or cheering – funny movies, TV or books

We can control how we start our day and moments during the days. We can also create new routines and be kind to ourselves. Stress can destroy us, define us or be an opportunity.

Managing stress is about building habits of mindfulness, movement, meaningful connection, and mastery to build healthy coping skills. We always have the option to choose what we need more of, what we need less of, and what we need to add to our lives to manage the physiology and emotions associated with stress.

HERO to Build Effectiveness

  • Hope – A sense of energy to persevere. Move towards our goals through proactive planning. 
  • Efficacy – A belief in our own ability to produce positive results and achieve self-defined goals. 
  • Resilience – A positive way of coping even when it seems there is no solution to negative solutions. 
  • Optimism – Being and remaining positive about the likelihood of personal success, now and in the future.

Dr. Peart stressed to build our resilience we must grow our “I am.” Many of us define ourselves by our careers and when a path ends, often we are lost. We think “If I can’t do this, then what can I do?” Changing our “I am” to our “why” to build resilience, change direction, and bounce back rather than being stuck. She recommended constantly verbalizing, “I am, I decide, I choose.”

Stress within Radiation Oncology Organizations

Like individuals, organizations go through the same steps of stress and tend to use a short-term response to stay afloat or just manage to “get through the now.” They are not as skilled at taking care of people. Organizations need to develop a toolbox to build resilience within the organization. An organization can build resilience and functional teams by:

  • Developing appreciation
  • Building employee engagement
  • Increasing the sense of purpose

The disconnect happens organizations go into stress mode because it fuels stress and employee burnout, which costs a lot. Organizations need to think long term. They need to manage expectations, communicate with employees, and create a compelling vision that aligns with what will inspire staff.


Interested in taking a deeper dive and learning more? Watch to the full webinar here.


We want to hear from you!

When you are feeling stressed, what coping skills work best for you?



Related content: 

Small Steps to Tackle Workplace Burnout

8 Tips to Avoid Workplace Burnout & Ensure Job Satisfaction



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