Emotional stress is an occupational hazard in the medical professions. Long hours, a lot of patients, and even unsavory co-workers can make for a non-ideal working environment. The problem is, these issues could mean life and death for your patients in this setting. So you should know when it’s time to take a break.

There are several warning signs signaling a physician’s burnout. Some of these include increased irritability, lower patience, and higher anxiety. If the pressure forces you to step back and re-assess your situation, it’s best to be critical about the problem to find the cause. Here are five questions you can ask yourself in times like these:

  1. Is my schedule bogging me down?

Work schedules are some of the biggest causes of stress. You might be doing desk work one minute, then treating patients the next. You might even be pressured to extend your hours because of all the patients in the clinic.

If this is the case, try to find ways to adjust your working hours. Putting a quota on the number of patients you can see is one of them. Another option is to assess your office schedule and see what you can trim down to streamline your work process.

  1. How have I been treating my co-workers?

Disagreements in the workplace are inevitable, especially if more than one doctor is working on a case. Symptoms, treatments, and causes of illness are some of the things that can be contested. And if you’re stressed, it’s possible that arguments might even occur even when they shouldn’t.

If these have been happening more often than not, try to talk to your superior. You might need an unbiased third party to clarify and resolve any miscommunications. If possible, see if you can talk to your colleague when the moment blows over.

  1. How have I been treating my patients?

Doctors are expected to maintain a professional demeanor when talking to patients. But there will be times when the pressure in the workplace can prevent you from providing that needed level of empathy or support needed.

When asking yourself this question, think back on times when you’ve had problems communicating with your patients. If you can get help from a co-worker who had similar experiences, it might be best to get his or her opinion on the matter.

  1. What side activities can I do?

Succeeding with a career in the medical field can get challenging if you don’t have any particular distractions. Thankfully, there are plenty of activities you can try to improve your wellbeing. Engaging in sports, hobbies or other tasks can often help put your mind at ease whenever you feel burned out. If you really want to maximize the time you spend recovering from stress, it’s best to do something you like. This is true whether you enjoy listening to music, building models, or even reading a book.

  1. Have I talked to someone I trust?

Reaching out to someone is highly recommended in times like these. You may be experiencing problems dealing with a colleague, feeling burdened by a long schedule, or other personal matters. But talking with someone you can trust will always help relieve the burden. In addition, a confidant can better judge if you might need to rest up and take a much-needed vacation.

The causes of physician burnout can stem from more than one problem. This is why taking the time to identify the most likely source is crucial. Above all, it lets you take steps to correcting the most important issues you need to address. It doesn’t matter what the root of the problem is. Careful self-assessment can help nip any possible issues in the bud.