Monday, November 29
06:41 AM

Burnout – Not the end of the road

4 Nov 2021 burnout

Hubert Vaz

Burnout refers to a collection of symptoms from physical exhaustion to irritability, lack of motivation, poor performance and disillusionment. The solution lies is in not letting yourself sink.

As per the World Health Organization, burnout is characterised by greater cynicism and reduced effectiveness at work. ‘It was a huge problem in healthcare long before the pandemic. But now, the short staffing and the crushing and unpredictable workload is contributing to epidemic levels of burnout.’

According to Nutaila al Kharusi, practising psychologist and founder-managing director of the Psychology Department at Al Harub Medical Center (AHMC), “The pandemic has given a rise to people experiencing higher rates of burnout. I think, it’s important for people to practice self compassion, to be gentler to their thoughts and feelings, to recognise that it is perfectly okay to experience these difficult emotions and thoughts, given what the world had to go through. People should engage in more self awareness exercises so that they are less reactive to their internal processes and practice healthier behaviours.”

She further advises, that it is okay to take a pause and engage in self care. “If one needs to take rest and watch Netflix, that’s okay. If you need to not show up at work and spend more time with your loved ones, that’s okay, too. It has been a tough time for all and it’s important to engage in ‘preventive measures’ so that when more difficult situations occur in the future, you have the tools to overcome them.”

According to a recent CNN report, surveys show that a record numbers of Americans have quit their jobs this year and more than 40% of workers are thinking about doing the same. ‘After 18 months of societal turmoil, workers are burnt out.’

Jeanie Chang, a North Carolina-based licensed marriage and family therapist, was quoted as saying, “The last year and a half has had a huge effect on burnout, stress, depression around the world, really, and so we’re not the same. This is a changed world, a changed workplace.”

While the concept existed before the pandemic – the World Health Organization recognised workplace burnout as a legitimate medical diagnosis only in 2019 – research has found it has soared in the era of face masks, social distancing, and working from home.

Causes for burnout

Burnout can come from not feeling valued at work, like being overlooked for a promotion. It can develop from being overworked, not having clear boundaries, and be compounded with, especially for parents and caregivers. It might even stem from indirect trauma, like emotionally fraught stories in the news.

Culture can also influence burnout. Having grown up in a culture reluctant to address mental health, Chang asserts, “You can love what you do but go into burnout because you’re not managing your stress effectively.”

Burnout may be the result of unrelenting stress, but it isn’t the same as too much stress. Stress, by and large, involves too many pressures that demand too much of you, physically and mentally. However, stressed people can still imagine that if they can just get everything under control, they’ll feel better.

Being burned out, on the other hand, means feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress feels like you’re drowning in responsibilities, burnout is a sense of being all dried up. And while you’re usually aware of being under a lot of stress, you don’t always notice burnout when it happens, say experts.

Spot your triggers

It’s crucial to learn to manage your stress on a daily basis. The first step is validating how you are feeling, and why. Learning to spot your triggers and boundaries will help you gain a sense of control.

Also, think about the things that get you excited in life and try to make them a daily habit. For some, it could be watching favourite television shows or going on walks, spending time with her family, or playing with pets.

You can build your own resilience daily. Everyone has resilience. We need to work hard to build it. And that’s the successful process of preventing burnout.

Coping with burnout

Spotting the warning signs that you might be headed for burnout and taking time out to relax and unwind can help you prevent it. Make sure to:

Take your annual leave. A lot of us haven’t taken as much holiday from work as we normally do as we haven’t been able to travel, but time off is important even if you are just at home. It helps one recharge.

  • Get enough sleep. Turn off your screens and do something to relax before you go to bed at night. If your mental health is causing you to have problems falling asleep, try sleep tips.
  • Try to finish work on time. Without the commute and with the pressures of homeschooling, it’s easier to work late into the evening to try and get everything done. Once in a while this is ok, but try to make sure you finish work on time most days.
  • Schedule in time for pleasant activities – Make time for relaxing, hobbies and calls with friends and family. Socialising plays a huge part in alleviating burnout.
  • Ask for help if you need it. If you are struggling with burnout it may be beneficial to take a few days off work while you recover. You might want to talk to your manager or to a psychologist for help in coping
  • Make exercise a priority. Even though it may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re burned out, exercise is a powerful antidote to stress and burnout. Aim to exercise for 30 minutes or more per day or break that up into short, 10-minute activities.

Physical signs

Feeling tired and drained

Frequent headaches/muscle pains

Change in appetite/sleep habits

Low immunity, frequent illness

Emotional signs

Self doubt and sense of failure

Lack of motivation

Feeling helpless/trapped

Increasing cynicism

Behavioural signs

Shirking responsibilities

Isolation from people

Outbursts of frustration

Using food/alcohol/drugs to cope


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