Going the distance

Don't push yourself to the point of burnout

By Edward T. Creagan, M. D. November 2, 2016

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Resiliency, stress, and burnout have become common topics in the corporate community.

Resiliency means that bounce back factor, that inner strength to overcome adversity, suit up, and get back into the arena despite the setbacks. Burnout has really reached epidemic proportions. So what do you do about this?

Everyone recognizes the importance of reasonable time management, which is actually self-management. But let me share with you the rest of the story.

Several close family acquaintances are commercial airline pilots. As part of mandatory training, at least once a year they go to corporate headquarters to be updated on technical aspects of navigation and also on the psychology and physiology of travel.

They shared compelling data that to be cognitively restored, you may well need one day of rest and recuperation for every time zone of travel. This isn't science fiction. This is real.

Professional opportunities and obligations afforded me the opportunity to travel to Europe recently for an intense two-week tour involving five major cities and multiple contacts with professional and civilian colleagues. It was rewarding yet emotionally draining, especially exposure to some aspects of the Holocaust.

The flight from Western Europe back to Minnesota was approximately eight hours with travel through several time zones. That means approximately seven days to get back on target. Instead, you push the envelope and pretend you're not tired. What can you do?

  • Set one day of recovery for every time zone means exactly that. If you're not up to speed, you make mistakes. For example, I typically put my car keys in my valise. While preparing for a presentation and walking to the venue, I didn't do this. Guess what? When I got to my car that evening, the keys had disappeared. I hadn't followed my routine. Later, I found the keys.
  • You're creatures of habit. You have a normal circadian rhythm, and you need to be aware of time zone changes.
  • You need to recognize that if you're not physically fit prior to such trips, your recovery may be protracted and extended.

So the bottom line is clear: You're mortal. You can only push yourself so far before your ability to function at a high level becomes impaired.

With

Edward T. Creagan, M. D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Join the discussion at #Stress.

Nov. 02, 2016