The term ‘burnout’ has been primarily used to describe the condition of a worker becoming so overwhelmed that their performance on the job is adversely impacted. In recent years, however, it has become apparent that burnout can result from a variety of causes and affect many areas of life–not just work.
Burnout During Covid
Burnout has been on the rise, especially since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. In an article featured in The Atlantic, Dr. Lucy McBride describes herself and her patients as “running on fumes.” They are experiencing increased physical health problems, such as high blood pressure and headaches, that are the direct result of burnout. Four times as many adults are struggling with anxiety and depression as there were before Covid, and there has been a 13% rise in the number of children and adolescents getting mental health treatment.
Dr. McBride believes that people need more than vaccination and rest: they need the opportunity to talk about everything they have experienced since March 2020 and be given support and empathy in doing so.
A Disaster Waiting to Happen
One reason Americans had so much difficulty adjusting to pandemic life is that life in the United States was already creating the perfect storm for people to experience burnout. Dr. McBride cites the following as contributors to pre-pandemic burnout risk:
Once the pandemic occurred, burnout was inevitable. Coping without our usual tools, while still being expected to work, parent, care for elders, and carry out so many other duties is simply more than most people are ready to manage.
Seeing the Signs
While burnout is not a clinical diagnosis, it is very real, and there are clear signs that a person is experiencing it. Mental Health America (MHA) shares the following indicators that burnout is imminent or in progress:
- Each day is a bad day.
- You cannot find the energy to care about things that used to matter.
- You’re continuously exhausted and may have seen changes in your sleep patterns.
- You’re frequently ill with headaches, muscle aches, back pain, etc.
- The tasks you’re doing most of the time are either boring and tedious or completely overwhelming.
- You don’t feel like your efforts are appreciated or making a difference.
Types of Burnout
WebMD lists three types of burnout:
- Overload – demands are too high or the environment is too chaotic
- Under-challenged – the person is bored because the tasks are too monotonous
- Neglect – the person is questioning their own competency due to feeling helpless
While burnout was previously associated primarily with work, it is becoming more widely understood that a person’s risk for becoming burned out stems from a variety of potential causes:
- At work – lack of control over what you’re doing, lack of recognition, unclear or overly demanding expectations, boring work, chaotic or high pressure environment
- In life – inadequate time socializing and relaxing, being expected to do too much for too many people, not having enough support, insufficient sleep, lack of supportive relationships
- Personal traits – being a perfectionist, having a pessimistic worldview, needing to control everything, not being able to accept help from others
- Loss – coping with the expectations versus reality of one’s career aspirations, losing the sense of identity the job once provided, loss of energy, loss of loved ones and sense of belonging in a community, loss of purpose or anything else that has required letting go.
How to Prevent Burnout
MHA offers a number of suggestions for how to keep burnout from happening to you:
- Start the day on a good note by spending the first 15 minutes of your day journaling, meditating, stretching, or reading something inspiring
- Practice good self-care by following healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise routines
- Refuse to be overloaded; only take on the tasks that you can manage
- Take a break from technology, including your phone, computer, and email
- Find creative outlets
- Learn more ways to manage stress
If you’re already feeling burned out, here are a few ideas for how to get back on track:
- Slow down – stop pushing yourself so hard, take a break, cut back on commitments, and give yourself some down time
- Get support – this can mean leaning on informal supports like friends and family or formal supports like a family doctor or therapist
- Take a step back and reassess – it’s possible that you are feeling burned out because what you’re doing doesn’t align with what you value. You may need to focus more on things that have meaning for you.
Failing to address burnout can lead to more severe issues, such as depression. It is important to acknowledge and address the factors that are contributing to your distress.
We are Here to Help
If you suspect that burnout is triggering mental health issues for you or a loved one, reach out to Highland Hospital. We can help you assess your situation and create a plan for renewal.
Looking for Charleston, WV mental health treatment? For more information about Highland Hospital and the services we offer, please call and speak with someone today at (800) 250-3806
. Highland can help.