The new surge in COVID-19 cases continues jamming emergency rooms and swallowing what few ICUs are left. There’s no shortage of mostly Google-based opinions on the issue, but one indisputable truth is the toll it’s taking on ER nurses and doctors.
While the pandemic enters its inevitable fourth wave, another virus is infecting health professionals everywhere – and three’s no vaccine or drug to treat it.
“Burnout” is a word used rather liberally, but it’s more than a dramatic way of saying “I’m tired.” Burnout is a medical condition that, if left unaddressed, could destroy your body and mind. Many exasperated doctors and nurses express their burnout in statements to newspapers and on social media.
But new CBD research could provide a glimmer of hope for the people risking their lives every day.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is mental and physical exhaustion brought on by consistent stress.
Although doctors and nurses are in a rough spot (to put it mildly), everyone across every profession is vulnerable to burnout.
Work is often a source of this issue. But family, friends, and close relationships can also trigger burnout.
If you have lofty goals or perfectionist tendencies, you might burn yourself out trying to accomplish the impossible.
Regardless of the cause, this will eventually touch every aspect of your life and snowball out of control.
Burnout symptoms are pretty obvious, but few employees seem to have the support systems to identify and address the problem before it escalates.
At first, you might notice some small physical or mental changes, but as exposure to the stressors continues, more signs pop up.
- Feeling tired
- Chronic head or body aches
- Appetite loss or gain (stress-eating)
- Lack of motivation
- Feeling helpless or stuck
- Avoiding work or other responsibilities
- Self-esteem issues
- Personality changes (cynicism, detachment)
- Use of drugs or alcohol as coping tools
We’re nowhere close to the complete list of symptoms and long-term complications of burnout, but this should give an idea – and a better appreciation – of what healthcare professionals face.
How to Recover from Burnout
To recover from burnout, you need a mix of mental and physical self-care.
Open a dialogue with your employer. You’d be surprised how accommodating organizations will be to keep workers happy and productive.
Also, keep in mind you have certain protections through your union or labor laws. If burnout results from discrimination, harassment, or bullying, make sure you explore your options.
Create Healthy Habits
Try to start a healthy routine. Exercise works wonders for mental wellbeing, so take the opportunity, even if it’s just 15 minutes once or twice a week. Given your emotional and psychological state, starting a physical activity routine may be a challenge, so start small.
Give Yourself a Break
Kit Kat may not be talking about burnout with their decades-old slogan “give me a break,” but this might be an excellent time to take their advice (chocolate is optional).
Time off, such as sick leave or a vacation, allows you to focus on your needs and provides time to recharge your batteries. If that’s not an option, ask for modified duties or reduced hours. Labor laws in your state may entitle you to specific accommodations.
See a Professional
The emotional toll of burnout isn’t something you can handle alone. You may think you have it under control, but that’s not true. Only a professional therapist can help you sort through those problems and give you valuable coping tools.
If all else fails or you feel your situation is too toxic, it’s critical to remove yourself. This applies to any stressor, including jobs, friends, and even family.
How Might CBD Help Reduce Burnout for Frontline Healthcare Workers?
CBD isn’t a miracle cure for the unimaginable amount of difficulty frontline healthcare workers face. However, a small August 2021 study published in the journal Psychiatry has some encouraging news.
The study builds upon what we already know about CBD, specifically its potential benefits against various symptoms and conditions, which happen to arise from burnout.
According to the study (and any outside observer): “Frontline health care professionals who work with patients with COVID-19 have an increased incidence of burnout symptoms.”
That’s arguably the understatement of the century, but published studies aren’t known for their creative and dramatic flair. Let’s see what the new research tells us.
Experts at Ribeirão Preto Medical School University Hospital in São Paulo, Brazil, looked at 120 participants, which included doctors, nurses, and physical therapists.
The researchers administered CBD treatment for 28 days. They then tracked the subjects’ progress using the Maslach Burnout Inventory, focusing specifically on emotional exhaustion.
Some subjects received 150 mg of CBD twice a day, while others used CBD along with “standard care.” In other words, they had access to therapists and informational resources to help cope with burnout.
By day 14, 118 subjects showed a noticeable improvement, with that trend continuing until the study ended on day 28.
The CBD was well-tolerated. Only two recipients had to stop treatment due to adverse effects. However, they quickly recovered.
Still, there are some noticeable shortcomings to this study. For instance, the results relied on subjects’ self-reporting. Consequently, bias could influence the supposed therapeutic effects.
Another problem was that this wasn’t a double-blind study. In other words, no placebos were used, so the CBD group knew what they were taking. Given all the news about CBD’s potential benefits, it’s possible the placebo effect skewed the results.
How Does CBD Help With Burnout?
From what we’ve seen, there’s evidence suggesting CBD could help reduce the mental and physical impact of burnout when paired with regular self-care. But the number of holes in the study cast too much doubt to make definitive claims.
Does CBD help with burnout, or was this study a wild goose chase? To better answer that, we need to break down CBD’s effects on burnout-related symptoms. Many health issues arise from burnout, so we’ll cover some noticeable red flags.
Anxiety can have various temporary or chronic causes. Whether you’re nervous about an upcoming job interview or suffer from an anxiety disorder, CBD might help mitigate the problem.
A 2015 preclinical study published in Neurotherapeutics declared CBD could help reduce anxiety symptoms from conditions like PTSD, OCD, and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Those benefits can easily apply to burnout-related anxiety.
Headaches and Migraines
Many headache sufferers swear by CBD, although research is a bit light in those areas. More importantly, headaches and migraines are expected consequences of burnout. Frankly, they can ruin an otherwise good day, so imagine dealing with that and an endless wave of sick people.
A 2017 review of existing publications shows promise for migraines and headache disorders. After combing through a sea of data, the authors concluded that CBD and other forms of cannabis could be handy for headache treatment.
They concluded by saying: “Although placebo-controlled clinical trials are still needed to determine efficacy appropriately, it appears likely that cannabis will emerge as a potential treatment for some headache sufferers.”
Millions of people worldwide use CBD oil for pain, with some firm – but not solid – data behind them.
The extent of CBD’s analgesic abilities hasn’t received the research it deserves. However, preliminary studies and a bottomless well of personal testimonies point us in a positive direction.
A January 2020 study in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine looked at the effects of THC and CBD on terminally ill subjects experiencing pain. THC consumers primarily vaped, while topicals were the preferred choice for CBD.
According to the small study, some patients thought cannabis (THC or CBD) was curing their illnesses.
This again brings up the dreaded placebo effect. Although cannabis’ therapeutic abilities are more undeniable by the day, there’s no evidence that THC or CBD can cure anything.
Who doesn’t want better sleep? Getting a good night’s rest is crucial for mental and physical health. Working nights – as many nurses and doctors do – can demolish your sleep cycle.
Any support could make a big difference.
2019 research published in The Permanente Journal examined anxiety and sleep in 72 otherwise healthy participants. Almost 80% of the subjects reported reduced anxiety by the end of the study, while about 67% noticed improved sleep.
- Burnout is a state of mental, emotional, and physical depletion brought on by prolonged, constant exposure to stress.
- Frontline healthcare workers are among the most affected by burnout, thanks to the COVID-19 crisis.
- Preliminary studies suggest CBD may help reduce burnout-related symptoms.
- Always practice self-care, with or without CBD.
- Don’t take your healthcare – or those who provide it – for granted.