Burnout is a term that is all too common in our current society. The rise of online messaging apps and work-from-home positions has opened the door for the boundaries between a person’s work life and personal life to become blurry.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with occasionally working long hours, your employer and team members being able to message you at any time, or remote positions, they can open the door for serious burnout after a time.
This is what I want to cover today: some causes and symptoms of burnout, burnout as it relates to healthcare workers, and some tips that anyone can use to take care of their own well-being. I’ll also go over some common signs and symptoms of burnout so that you can catch them before it becomes serious.
What is Burnout?
Something that I want to address right away are the misconceptions surrounding burnout. It’s more than just feeling tired or stressed, and it goes beyond having a few rough weeks at work.
Burnout is a state of complete exhaustion, both mentally and physically. It’s caused by excess stress that a person has been under for a long period of time. A person experiencing burnout may feel unable to do their job, have symptoms of anxiety and depression, and may no longer see the value in the work they’re doing.
Unlike stress, which can be temporary based on your current situation, burnout often requires taking active steps in order to stop symptoms and return to a state of well-being.
What Causes Burnout?
Since everyone is different, there is a range of issues affecting whether or not a person feels burned out. A fairly common cause is severe stress at work, including prolonged hours spent pouring over assignments and communicating with colleagues without taking breaks.
Burnout can also come from a combination of factors. Stress at work can be exacerbated by stressful situations at home, such as tensions within personal relationships.
Symptoms of Burnout
Burnout can present itself in a range of ways, but here are a few common telltale signs:
- Feeling like you have to drag yourself to work each day
- Dreading work
- Having difficulties being productive on a consistent basis
- Feeling cynical about the work you’re doing
- Any physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches and stomach pains
- Feeling a loss of creativity
Experiencing Burnout in Healthcare
While all jobs and careers experience varying levels of stress, first-hand experience has shown me how prevalent burnout is within the healthcare field. Long hours on top of stressful situations, time crunches, and consistently high and demanding expectations from colleagues and patients can push people past their breaking points. This is not to mention the affect their personal lives may have on their emotional well-being overall.
According to a study by NEJM Catalyst, 96% of clinicians agree that burnout is an issue in the field.
If you’re a healthcare professional experiencing burnout, or know someone who is, here are a few resources that you may find useful. Remember, there is always help available. You’re not in this alone, and there’s never any shame in asking for assistance.
- Mental Health America has a great article for recognizing burnout, as well as tips for combatting it.
- The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has some helpful statistics, as well as ideas for intervention at the administrative level.
- The American Psychiatric Association has a host of resources, from informational videos to toolkits, to reading materials and interventions.
Signs of Future Burnout
One of the earliest ways you can tell if you’re about to experience burnout is feeling constantly exhausted. It doesn’t matter how much rest you seem to be getting, you may feel like you never have energy for sustained periods of time.
Difficulty at work is also an early warning sign. If your job performance seems to be slipping due to an inability to focus or perform tasks at the level you used to, it could be an indication that you need some form of intervention.
Or, maybe you’ve become obsessive about your work, constantly thinking about it even when you’re not there. These thoughts and feelings may make you feel anxious or hopeless about your ability to do the jobs you’re asked to.
You may even feel like you’ve been experiencing more health problems recently. You might be noticing more chest pains, stomach problems, or even severe headaches. You could have even considered not coming to work because of the onset of illness.
Fighting and Preventing Burnout
When left unchecked, burnout can be harmful to both your physical and mental health. If you start recognizing signs of burnout, try making some adjustments to your schedule.
This might include creating time for physical exercise several times a week. You may also consider creating a bedtime routine so that you give yourself time to unwind and get quality sleep. Along with quality, it’s also important to ensure that you’re getting enough sleep. It’s best to aim for seven to eight hours per night, so try to adjust your schedule accordingly.
Take an active stance against burnout by trying new tactics at work. For instance, maybe you could take some time to lay out a schedule in order to prioritize your tasks and get more done in a manageable amount of time.
When you get to the end of the work day, make sure that you have a daily schedule that tells you when it’s time to stop. Check your email one last time, finalize your schedule for the next day, and then put your work materials away. Try to do something constructive after work, like taking a walk, reading a book, or picking up a hobby, if you’re able.
Make sure to set healthy boundaries for work. For instance, you shouldn’t need to be checking emails and messages all hours of the night. Unless there’s an emergency, you should find a way to leave work at work, even while operating out of your home.
Finally, if you find yourself struggling, it can always be helpful to speak to a trusted friend or family member, coach, or even a professional therapist.
Burnout is common, and even expected, for many workers. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. If you can recognize the signs early, set some healthy boundaries, and find a way to take your mind off of work during your downtime, you’ll set yourself up for a healthier, more balanced life.
If burnout is common in your office, or you just feel like you need some more strategies for combating burnout, get in touch with me to schedule a meeting. I can provide you with some resources that will help you actively combat the problems you may be experiencing.