Part Two: A letter to high-achieving healthcare professionals in the midst of burnout
By Amber Pena Posey, APRN, PMHNP-BC, FNP-BC

“Sadness is but a wall between two gardens.” —Kahlil Gibran

As I noted in my last article, a self-assessment provides clarity for both your particular risks and unique solutions for burnout. Along with standard acts of nourishment, it is pivotal to align your values and use your strengths to recapture your inner vitality.

My journey was long. Though I work in mental health (and unfortunately maybe even because of this) my self-assessment, insights, and interventions were hard-won. I did have one advantage, however, as I worked in the eating disorder field. I helped the most complex patients reverse the symptoms of high-achieving perfectionism turned awry. The similarities in healthcare professionals are easy to see. Our field self-selects and reinforces rigid thinking in the name of safety. Mix this along with burnout and it’s a recipe for a death grip on control patterns.

It was time for a dose of my own medicine. 

So, what did I do to recover and increase my nourishment, vitality, and sense of caring?

  1. Found support. I knew going at this alone would only be gasoline on the fire. There was solace in support from a wise guide who successfully traversed their own healthcare burnout.
  2. Defined, refined, and aligned my schedule to mirror my true values and pruned all engagements that didn’t actually fit into my intentional lifestyle design. 
  3. Reduced my work hours, accepting my financial resources may decline temporarily confident that as I regained my own vitality, I would have the capacity and energy to expand my income on my new terms. 

Essentially, I created new levels of self-compassion and lush spaciousness in both my external and internal environment. My solitude in nature took priority. I was determined to nourish my emotional, physical, and spiritual vessel. Moving forward my embodied wisdom was front and center.

These steps opened up space to access my creative spirit. Particularly by experimenting in activities without any end goals or sense that I was “good” at them. Perfectionism abounds when one is focused on what they are guaranteed to excel in, and for me, that became my career. I had become one-sided and lost some of the very spontaneity I avowed as paramount to feeling alive.  So, I started writing, painting, and throwing clay. Hoping that as a novice, I would find some joy. And the ROI has been mind-blowing. 

However, these steps were tinged with fear as my professional identity was plagued with thoughts surrounding my drive and success. Yet this curated space allows the necessary introspection to come with more ease. I pieced together more of myself and again found my desire to help others from an impassioned place. My growth and resilience came from immersing myself in all of my human condition and choosing myself–flaws and all. 

Precision in my work, yes. 

Perfectionism in my life, no. I offer you an invitation to allow yourself to be transformed by your experiences, trusting the vessel will hold. Your ability to blaze your trail ensues. And your true home never leaves you.

Amber Pena Posey is an Integrative Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. For over 15 years she has worked with gifted high-achievers and creatives plagued by high-functioning anxiety, ADHD, perfectionism, and eating disorders. After her own recovery from compassion fatigue and burnout, she founded a be-spoke coaching and consulting service for helping professionals and entrepreneurs to tap into actual, embodied self-care and inner vitality so they nourish themselves as the trailblazers they are vs following the crowd into burnout. Connect with her on LinkedIn and her website.

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