First, do no self harm by Cait Donovan for Thrive Global

First, do no harm. We think of it as part of the oath that doctors (and some acupuncture schools!) take as they finish schooling and enter into the workforce. The history of it is scattered, it wasn’t really Hippocrates and not all medical schools go through this particular version of it, nonetheless, we all know the saying: First, do no harm.

I have been thinking about this a lot since more and more doctors have been in touch with me for help turning around burnout. When we were digging through this with a client recently, we found that underneath his burnout there was this belief:

The more I sacrifice, the more valuable I am.

So it becomes a game. The more of yourself that you can give up, the more needs you can erase and ignore, the more desires you leave unfulfilled, the higher your perceived value.

And we wonder why we burn out.

What would happen if we all pledged to ourselves right now:

First, Do No Self Harm

What would be the smallest change that you could make to stop harming yourself?

Could you send yourself a rebuttal when your internal voice says that the article you just wrote isn’t good enough?

Could you allow yourself to go to the bathroom when you have to go instead of holding it?

Could you go grab that glass of water when you’re thirsty even if it means asking your zoom room to sit tight for the 45 seconds it will take you to fill up a glass?

When we think of self-harm, we think in extremes, but I’d love for you to consider thinking in mini harms. Burnout happens because of the incredible amount of mini harms that we deem unimportant and ignore, and we heal when we start treating ourselves well – when we decide that the first rule of being an adult human is:

First, Do No Self Harm.

What’s your easiest fix that you’ll start today?


  • Caitlin Donovan

    Burnout Expert

    Caitlin Donovan is one of New York City’s leading burnout experts, host of “Fried – The Burnout Podcast,” and author of the book The Bouncebackability Factor. Her master’s degree in traditional Chinese medicine enables Caitlin to combine Eastern wisdom with her natural practicality. After treating more than 25,000 patients, Caitlin added 1:1 coaching, corporate workshops, and keynotes for companies such as PTC and Lululemon – all with a focus on burnout. She has been featured on podcasts and online magazines such as “Elephant Journal,” “Thrive Global,” “Addicted 2 Success,” and “Your Story. Your Health.” as well as quoted in Oprah Magazine. Caitlin and her husband spent 12 years living in Europe, but now make their home in New Jersey. When Caitlin is not speaking or coaching on burnout, you can find her with her husband and their white fluffy dog hiking around NJ and NY.