The “B” Word — What is Burnout?

What is Burnout

The “B” Word — What is Burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. It is most commonly associated with work-related stressors, however, it can also appear in other areas of life such as school, care-taking, relationships and parenting.

As a therapist, I have observed and experienced the prevalence of burnout throughout this past year, as we have all been living through a pandemic. With such extreme changes and disruptions to our day-to-day lives, and so much unknown, we have been forced to adjust to new ways of working, communicating, socializing, exercising, learning, etc.

Many have had the added challenge of finding new ways of doing all of these things at once. It has been all too easy to either miss the signs of burnout or find yourself experiencing burnout quicker due to the inability to engage in the self-care typically used to prevent or address their burnout in the past.

For all of those who can relate, here is a helpful reminder of some signs of burnout to watch for and simple ways of addressing burnout if it occurs.

The Warning Signs of Burnout

  • Difficulty sleeping or any significant changes in sleep patterns
  • Noticeable increase in negativity or feeling overly critical
  • Increase in irritability
  • Becoming physically ill
  • Unexplained exhaustion
  • Headaches
  • Increase in anxiety
  • Feeling inadequate or hopeless
  • Decrease in motivation
  • Feeling numb or apathetic about life
  • Not getting as much enjoyment out of things you used to enjoy

Simple Strategies to Address Burnout

Create Boundaries — Boundaries can be difficult to create and set on your own. From experience, work boundaries have been particularly difficult to maintain while working from home over the past year. When they are not naturally created for you, being mindful of setting limits and sticking to them is important. Remember, it is ok to say “no” or ask for what you want or need (hint: DBT skill DEARMAN).

Seek Support — Seeking support can help reduce burnout and is an effective way to try and problem solve. Whether it’s from a boss, coworker, friend, partner, or a professional, using your resources and support system to prevent burnout or address burnout can be extremely beneficial. You don’t have to do it alone!

“Me time” — Prioritize time for yourself. This has been a challenging time to do so, as many in our home, work and community environments have been in need of attention and support. And it does not mean you have to completely neglect yourself. Make sure you are setting aside even just a few minutes a day for you. Whether it’s simply just to take a deep breath, call a friend, go for a walk, read a book, or enjoy some peace and quiet, engaging in something for YOU each day can help reduce stress. Give yourself a break!

Authored by: Jessica Oppenheimer, LCSW