Do I Have Burnout?
Updated: Oct 14
During this pandemic, a lot of us are being pushed to our limits whether we know it or not…whether we are essential workers or not. We all have to adapt to this new world. While some are faring alright, others are struggling at their jobs, in their families, and/or in life. One struggles we have been hearing more of (even before the pandemic) is burnout. It seems to be getting worse and not better. Let’s start from the beginning…
What is Burnout?
Burnout is chronic stress on our body and mind. It can appear as exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and/or feeling ineffective and unaccomplished. The exhaustion can also show up in our emotions. It can show up as anxiety, depression, anger/irritability, appetite changes, attention/concentration difficulties, fatigue, trouble sleeping, and/or susceptibility to illnesses or body pains.
With cynicism, people can feel a lack of enjoyment in life, engage in more negative self-talk, and overall disconnection from others. When people don’t feel effective in their lives, it may lead to hopelessness and worse performances at work and/or in relationships. More people have been reporting experiences of burnout leading to the World Health Organization’s inclusion of it in their International Classification of Diseases (2019).
What Causes Burnout?
Burnout is nondiscriminatory and can happen to anyone. In this blog, we talk more about work-related burnout, but caregiver burnout (also known as compassion fatigue) is very much real. Some of the tips may be helpful for that as well.
Work-related burnout can happen in a multitude of ways, such as having to take on more work than time allows, a toxic work environment, lack of time for self or work-life balance, lack of boundaries, and/or not having coping skills to deal with difficult work situations, resulting in potential suppressing or avoiding of emotions about work. In times of COVID, those work boundaries and balances are more difficult to find and set.
What Can Be Done About Burnout?
The first step is always awareness. If you connect with any of the symptoms listed above, think about implementing some of the following suggestions:
Make sure you take care of the basics, such as getting enough sleep, eating enough, and drinking enough water. If we don’t take care of those basic needs, our mental health suffers.
Incorporating exercise. Exercise can be a great coping skill to reduce built-up tension from stress stored in our bodies from work.
Setting boundaries. If you are constantly overwhelmed, reflect on it and see if you can set some boundaries by saying no to some tasks at work. If not possible, think about whether it is worth it to stay at your current job.
Take breaks and engage in self-care. If possible, schedule in regular breaks. Engage in self-care whether it means a 30-minute bubble bath or a 15-minute walk around your block. It can be a hobby or another activity as long as you are not doing work. Taking breaks means not answering work emails during your down time.
Be mindful of your thoughts. If you are experiencing increased negative thoughts, they may be contributing to the problem. Try some gratitude exercises or distracting yourself without invalidating your own experience of distress.
Seek support. This can be done by connecting with a loved one or seeking professional mental health services. This helps you feel not alone, especially during these times.
You may notice these suggestions are similar to those trying to cope with depression. There is a significant overlap between burnout and depression, so if you have any of these symptoms, it is important to be aware of them. Those with preexisting depression may have worse burnout symptoms, and burnout symptoms can turn into a major depressive episode.
The good thing is burnout exists on a spectrum. If you have started seeing some of those initial signs, try some of the suggestions. If you are experiencing moderate to severe symptoms of burnout, please seek professional mental health services for additional help. For those with moderate/severe burnout, it means having a majority of those burnout symptoms and an inability to function outside of work or even at work.
If you are struggling with burnout and want therapeutic services with us, feel free to reach out to us through our site.
Stay tuned. The next topic is "Emotions."
World Health Organization. (2019, May 28). Burn-out an "occupational phenomenon": International Classification of Diseases. https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases
Written by Elena Duong, Psy.D.
Edited by Susanna La, Ph.D.