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Beware of burnout

Have you ever felt a sense of dread on your way to work in the morning? If so, you may be suffering from work-related stress, which is the negative reaction we have to pressures at work. In other words, it is how we feel when the demands at work exceed our ability to cope.

Stress in the workplace is unfortunately an inevitable fact of life. It is however important to recognize early on if you are chronically suffering from high levels of stress and to address this as soon as possible. By prioritizing mental wellness, you can also prevent work-related stress from ever reaching a level that is unhealthy for you. Stress is not all bad. A healthy dose of “good stress” can simply motivate you to perform to the best of your ability. How much stress is “too much” differs from person to person. It is important for you to know your own “stress limit”.

Burnout is a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and has three main characteristics: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job), and feelings of reduced professional ability. More simply put, if you feel physically exhausted, start to hate your job and start performing poorly, and begin to feel less capable at work, discouraged or cynical you are showing signs of burnout. Burnout may be accompanied by a variety of mental and physical health symptoms as well. If left unaddressed, burnout can make it difficult for an individual to function well in their daily life.

Why does burnout happen?

We all have a breaking point, a point at which we can longer cope. This is different for different people. Burnout happens when we ignore all the warning signs our body is giving us. Often people will say they started to get the flu often, or they felt tired no matter how much sleep they got. They started to get easily irritated and would spend the day daydreaming instead of working. These are all signs your body is giving you to stop and take a break. When we don’t do this burnout happens.

There is a certain amount of stress for everyone that makes them work at their full potential. However, this is a balancing act. You need to balance stress with self-care. If we don’t do this, the amount of stress increased and our bodies can no longer cope.

Things that may impact burnout:

  • Too much work or the wrong kind of work

  • Feeling helpless in your environment

  • Inadequate gains – low pay, no job satisfaction, conflict, high stress

  • Isolation – not feeling a sense of community or belonging

  • Unfair environments

  • Unethical environments

  • Although burnout can happen to anyone, there are some personality types that are more at risk.

  • People who are inflexible

  • People who feel that they are not in control

  • People who don’t have good balance but work in extremes

  • People who find it difficult to be present and engaged in their lives

  • People who struggle with depression and/ or anxiety

  • People with poor coping mechanisms (rather turn to alcohol or unhealthy eating to cope instead of exercise or meditation).

  • People with unrealistic expectations

  • People with a poor sense of self (easily feel negative about who they are or don’t feel good enough)

Burnout happens for men and women and can happen at any age. Even children can feel burnout.

How to prevent burnout

  • Self-care

  • Learn to listen to your bodies cues

  • Keep healthy – exercise, eat foods that are good for you and hydrate

  • Have balance – don’t just work, do things you enjoy. Do things for yourself, cultivate your relationships.

  • Sleep – don’t sleep too much or too little (7-8 hours a night) and try and keep a routine

  • Make time for self-reflection, this is a time for pause and peace

  • Create small goals for recovery. It can be difficult to find hours in a week. Rather set out to do one self-care activity a day. This can even last for less than an hour. Even 5 minutes of self-reflection is better than none at all.

  • Be kind to yourself. Be aware of the thoughts that chip away at your self-esteem. Thoughts have high expectations that are difficult to meet, thoughts that are extreme, thoughts that put you down. You need to be your own emotional cheerleader.

  • Manage your time – consider what you do in an average day or week. Where does most of your time go? For most people if you had to analyze your how you spend your time you might find that a lot is wasted on things like social media or tv. Or maybe you would be shocked to see how much time you spend at work, or doing work at home. Take some time and do a personal time audit for yourself. Consider where you spend your time in comparison to where you would like to spend your time.

  • Focus on what you can control, on what is your responsibility and learn how to let go of what is not in your realm of change

  • Practice engagement.

  • Reframe – everything in life needs to have boundaries, our relationships, work, studies even our hobbies. Consider all the spheres in your life. Where is most of your stress coming from? Do you have appropriate boundaries for that sphere? Reframe the way you look at the sphere. For example, work should not be your life, your relationship should not be the beginning and end of your happiness. Reframe these elements with balance.

Speaking to someone about stress in your life can be another way to cope and deal with it before it leads to burnout. Our team at Meaningful Minds Psychologists will help you identify the triggers of stress and find positive coping mechanisms to help you deal with stress and burnout. Contact us now to book an appointment with a psychologist.


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