Are You Experiencing Burnout?
Updated: Aug 30
This year has uprooted millions of lives across the country and throughout Colorado. Service workers have been asked to work in high risk environments, without pay increases, during a pandemic. Healthcare workers have faced extended hours, under frightening conditions and without proper protection, often while experiencing pay cuts. Teachers transitioned from having a classroom of 25 to helping parents and students alike transition to at-home learning. Parents have not only had to adapt to working from home -in some circumstances- but also learning to be teachers or provide full-time childcare while working under the same expectations and demands. And the list goes on and on… the bottom line being that this year has been incredibly stressful.
Living and working under stressful conditions is not sustainable and often leads to burnout, which is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. People experiencing burnout may have low motivation, feel emotionally detached or withdrawn, have low energy, struggle to concentrate, or note increased eating/ substance use/ sleeping.
Burnout may show up in your relationships as feeling like you are always exhausted and have little to give/share with others. We can also experience overall life dissatisfaction if we are experiencing burnout, which can lead us to question our relationships and feel unsupported. It can show up as irritability, frustration, anger, or sadness that may be noted by those that we are closest to. Have people around you noted that you seem more stressed or distant? Do you feel like you are showing up in relationships differently, or isolating?
Burnout can also present as physical health concerns and may show up in your body as stomach discomfort/GI issues, regular headaches or neck tension. Do you feel like you always feel tense or nauseous before/after a shift or school day? Do you feel like your stress may be impacting your sleep or how you feel immediately upon waking? It is always good to rule out any physical health causes with your doctor, but it is possibly these are symptoms of burnout.
When left unaddressed, the symptoms of burnout can increase depression, anxiety, panic, and/or substance use disorder symptoms. It is important to address burnout when we realize it exists and, while much of the current situation is out of our control, some ways to address burnout include:
Focusing on what is in our control:
Burnout often stems from living/working in environments where we do not have control and are being negatively impacted. With the pandemic, so many of the changes that have been made are out of our control. Yet, focusing on things that are within our control can help us sustain difficult situations and determine what we need. If you’re being asked to work longer hours or feel uncomfortable at work, could you incorporate calming/fulfilling things into your morning or evening routine? If you feel completely drained/overwhelmed by managing your work schedule and being a teacher for you kids, what do you enjoy doing that has been moved to the back-burner and would be fulfilling to restart?
When our jobs or demands are chaotic and unpredictable, our brain stays on high-alert so that we are ready to respond at all times. This can lead to fatigue, anxiety, and increase burnout. Is there any room for additional structure within your day? If not, can you get outside on your breaks or find ways to check in within yourself physically/ emotionally/ spiritually throughout the day to create internal structure?
When we are under a lot of stress, it is not uncommon for our lives to become unbalanced. Our attention naturally shifts to what feels the most pressing/important and the little things we do for ourselves quickly feel like a much lower priority. But, they aren’t. In fact, we know that continuing these activities -making yourself breakfast, exercising, getting outside, connecting with others, etc.- actually sustains us, can decrease depressive symptoms, and increase resiliency.
Finding areas we can control, developing structure, and restoring balance are big tasks that can feel overwhelming when we are experiencing burnout. Know that you are worth it! Start with one small, positive step and don’t hesitate to reach out for support if you need it!