Have you reached your limit on work/life stress? Do you lack motivation and energy to get through your to-do list? Feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day? You’re not alone. Many of us have had to manage massive upheaval in our work lives in the past year.
However, if the physical and emotional barrier of going to work is starting to feel overwhelming, you may be suffering from job-related burnout. Unsurprisingly, therapists and other mental health providers are seeing an increased incidence of burnout right now, including among our own ranks.
Job-related burnout can have a serious toll on your physical and emotional health, but there is hope. In most cases, burnout is relatively easy to treat.
HOW TO IDENTIFY BURNOUT
Burnout is most often caused by ongoing stress from being overscheduled or overworked. It can also result from a disconnect between workload and compensation—that is, when the financial reward doesn’t make up for the hours or effort you’re putting in.
The signs of burnout include:
Exhaustion: People who suffer from burnout often feel drained, tired, listless or hollowed out. Even simple tasks can become a source of dread and cause for tearfulness.
Decreased Motivation: Burnout sufferers tend to lack the energy and interest to tackle their work. In addition, positive emotions—such as pride and happiness—often give way to negative emotions such as irritability, anxiety, loneliness and sadness. As a result, productivity can drop.
Withdrawal: People with burnout often withdraw from optional events and meetings. Irritability, conflicts with co-workers and feelings of cynicism or disillusionment with their work are also common symptoms of burnout.
Physical Health Problems: It’s not unusual for sufferers of burnout to report chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines and other physical issues.
RISK FACTORS FOR BURNOUT
Burnout tends to occur more often in “helper” professions, such as therapists, social workers, teachers, and doctors and nurses. People who work long hours are also at a higher risk of burnout.
However, burnout can affect anyone. That is especially true this year, when we’ve seen sources of chronic stress multiply across the spectrum. COVID-19, job and financial insecurity and the 2020 election have created a background of constant negative messages. On top of that, many people have had to navigate a sharp learning curve with working from home alongside remote schooling. And for those in people-oriented professions—such as healthcare, teaching and therapy—spending more time interacting online than in person can be a cause of strain.
It’s no wonder that feelings of being overworked and stretched thin are so prevalent this year.
HOW TO TREAT BURNOUT
Now for the good news: Burnout is not forever. You likely don’t need to take an extended sabbatical or jump ship on your career. In most cases, sufferers can find relief by taking intentional time to focus on self-care. Schedule time off. Take up or recommit to a hobby. Join a club or engage in sports. Go for a walk, visit a museum, or try meditation. Set aside a regular time for exercising. Decrease time on devices outside of the workday.
This may sound easier said than done. It’s hard to make time to step away when you already don’t have enough hours in the day.
If that’s the case for you, then take smaller steps. Instead of taking a day off, schedule a longer lunch once or twice a week. If you aren’t taking a lunch at all, then start making time for a mid-day break. Ask for help with your workload. Commit to shutting down your laptop and disengaging from email at a set time each night. Carve out a few hours for yourself on the weekend to do something you enjoy. Make time to talk with people who love and support you.
Above all, have grace with yourself. It’s OK to not be able to “do it all.” There is no shame in asking for help, either with managing your workload or working through your feelings. It’s OK to give yourself permission to take time to focus on your health.
If you still have trouble seeing a way forward, then consider scheduling time with a therapist. Mindfully’s good-fit model will connect you with a therapist who specializes in what you’re going through. Many of our therapists offer tele-therapy, which is a very convenient option if you feel pressed for time. Scheduling that first appointment can be a big step forward to rediscovering joy in your work and your life.