Dr. Shelly Bhowmik, MD MPH, healed herself with the belief that “mindset is medicine.” She used her expertise in Preventive Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine to found Platform Wellness and created the ReST method (Revive, Strive, Thrive) to empower women and people of color to experience professional growth and success without having to sacrifice their personal health and wellbeing. Dr. Shelly’s personal story is the epitome of what happens when burnout becomes life-threatening. On her website, she shows a video of how close she came to jumping in front of a New York City subway before changing her mindset and embarking on a journey of healing.
This journey began at birth for Dr. Shelly. As a South Asian woman with dark skin, she felt she was judged to be less than others, because she is a woman and for having dark skin. This world view caused her to strive to be the best at everything she did throughout her life…until the day when it all came to a head and she began to rebuild her mindset and use it as medicine. Through her ReST method and Platform Wellness, she uses her experience and works to help others before they reach this point in their lives.
How to Recognize Burnout
Dr. Shelly says that the textbook definition of burnout, given by the World Health Organization in 2019, is “an occupational syndrome, not a disease, but it’s due to chronic workplace stress that’s not well managed.” Dr. Shelly says that for her, it meant she reacted to things on autopilot without intention and integrity. Unfortunately, when you’re on autopilot and too busy putting out fires, you may fail to recognize you are suffering from burnout until it starts to affect you physically. You may even experience . You may suffer from headaches or GI pain before you seek treatment or realize something is wrong. Dr. Shelly says that chronic stress causes inflammation and that can eventually become a disease if it isn’t addressed.
She lists three characteristics to look for that are caused by burnout:
- Low energy or feelings of depletion
- Depersonalization, which makes you have negative or critical thoughts about your work
- Lack of professional efficacy, which results in low productivity.
Dr. Shelly says that once she realized that she could choose how she could think about herself, it was “truly transformational.” Not only did she feel like it was her duty as a physician to make sure she communicated the message of mindset being medicine, she says, “I want to make sure I pass on that message to other women, to other people of color because…I don’t want them ending up at that same edge or extreme.”
Platform Wellness and the ReST Method
Through Platform Wellness, Dr. Shelly helps people in several ways. She works directly with corporations that benefit from offering her program to their employees and she also helps individuals through individual assessments, clinical services, coaching and her group Master Class. As a double board-certified physician, she uses a holistic approach that focuses on the biopsychosocial aspects of health and wellbeing to help improve clients’ overall quality of life.
ReST is a three-part framework and stands for Revive, Strive and Thrive. It contains a total of nine steps, but the very first step is to detect stress. It continues to amaze Dr. Shelly that with all of her training and education, she failed to recognize stress in herself. She says to look first at the symptoms you ignore most. Are you losing weight? Gaining weight? Losing your hair? Chronic stress causes different chemical reactions in your body. She says that these reactions cause an inflammatory response and with constant exposure, “your system starts to wear down. There’s wear and tear…that is different for different individuals.”
Another step is seeking support. Dr. Shelly says that “in times of stress, we rely on one another to keep us safe and healthy.” For survival we need to be in community. She points out that your community need not be your family or your coworkers. You can create your own inner circle to be part of your support system. Bottom line, she says that it’s a cultural issue within an organization and depends on their ability to “establish a culture of psychological safety…where employees feel safe going to one another without being reported to higher ups.” She admits that it takes a lot of work to shift the culture, but ultimately if we want to prevent burnout on a large scale, we have to be able to ask for help.
Listen to or watch this conversation for more information about Dr. Shelly’s views on burnout and how this is affecting the Great Resignation. Check out her website, shellybhowmik.com for more information about her 9-step coaching method–ReST Revive, Strive and Thrive TM–her FREE Master Class, and to listen to her podcasts.