Burnout: How to Recognize it and Ways to Prevent and Treat it
Written by Christy Schaefer, MACP graduate intern
We all experience stress sometimes – this is a normal and expected part of day-to-day living. However, sometimes our stress levels get too high, and it all becomes too much, for too long. This is when we are in danger of burnout. Burnout is when we reach a state of complete physical and mental exhaustion, due to prolonged stress. While moments of stress and anxiety can sometimes motivate us to get our work done in a timely matter, being in a state of burnout eradicates this motivation, often leaving us feeling helpless, depressed and emotionally drained.
How do we know we are in a state of burnout or getting close to it? Here are some signs to look out for:
1) Physical symptoms: feeling tired all the time, headaches, gastrointestinal issues
2) Emotional symptoms: feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, increasingly negative outlook on life
3) Behavioural symptoms: procrastinating on tasks, withdrawing from others, irritability towards others
While some stress and anxiety can produce a sense of hyperactivity and urgency to get things done, burnout can be distinguished from this by its key symptom: a sense of detachment and disengagement from work, accompanied by the feeling that none of it matters. When someone reaches the stage of burnout, it is important to pause and make changes to treat it – trying to power through will only exacerbate the problem.
Some ways to Prevent and/or Treat Burnout
1) Connect with others: speak openly and honestly with your loved ones about any stress and anxiety at work, socialize with coworkers to create a sense of support and unity in the workplace to counteract workplace stress, speak with a therapist to help manage symptoms of stress
2) Develop a healthy work-life balance: Commit to leaving stressful work tasks “at the office” and when you are off work, engage in activities and hobbies that are enjoyable and/or create a sense of accomplishment and productivity.
3) Prioritize taking care of yourself: Make sure to set boundaries in your life that allow you to take time to rest, sleep, eat well, and exercise. This will look different for everyone but the idea is to find ways to daily nourish and fuel your body and mind, to renew your energy and build resilience.
It is important to remember that, while vacations and time off from work are essential, daily and regular breaks are also necessary to prevent burnout.