It goes without saying that the pandemic has transformed our professional lives. For the past year, we’ve joined Zoom meetings in pajamas and fielded conference calls while juggling the kids. As offices resume in-person operations, it’s important to remind yourself of what a healthy work-life balance looks like. How can you take care of your mental health during this transition? Above all else, we advise you to be aware of the major signs of burnout.
Burnout Definition: Stress and Fatigue
Even before the pandemic, the United States was dealing with a nationwide crisis: burnout. Now recognized as an official medical diagnosis by the World Health Organization, this condition is a reaction to prolonged stress.
Not all stress is bad. A brief jolt of cortisol can help you to work more efficiently, retain information and remain engaged. However, when your stress response is activated for a prolonged period of time, it can cause significant physical and mental strain. The human body isn’t meant to remain under stress 24 hours a day, and if you push it too far, the result is burnout.
Burnout can usually be chalked up to three major causes:
Lack of Control
You may experience burnout if you feel like you have no control over your current position, your future or your recovery. Without structure and strength, you may develop feelings of learned helplessness that prevent you from making much-needed changes.
Lack of Stability
Some workplaces are just bad for your health. If your office is a high-stress place full of negative people, party culture, chaos or intense competition, you’ll likely find yourself anxious and fatigued before long.
Lack of Balance
Devoting too much time to your profession can be damaging. If you’re staying late at the office, bringing paperwork on vacation or worrying about a meeting over the weekend, burnout is on the horizon.
Signs of Burnout
This diagnosable condition affects you physically, cognitively and emotionally. Individuals who are continually anxious and stressed about work may find themselves unable to relax while off the clock. They’ll also be plagued by unexplained headaches, stomachaches or other aches and pains.
Burnout doesn’t happen all at once; it worsens over time. This means that many people may unwittingly write off the early warning signs, setting themselves up for a worse experience down the line. We advise you to make yourself aware of the major signs of burnout. That way, you’ll be able to remain proactive about your physical and mental health.
The primary burnout symptoms are:
- Feeling overworked or constantly stressed
- Exhaustion and inability to complete tasks
- Disengaging from your work as a result of fatigue
- Reduced creativity and zeal
- Changes to sleeping and eating patterns
- Inability to concentrate on tasks, daydreaming and brain fog
- Taking more sick days or cutting corners at work
- Unexplained headaches or stomachaches
- Ongoing negativity and anger
- Anxiety, depression and tension
- Being constantly overwhelmed by daily tasks
How to Overcome Burnout
Luckily, it is possible to combat this condition. No matter what’s at the root of your exhaustion, there are steps you can take to overcome burnout. We recommend that you:
Move Your Body Every Day
Whether it’s a relaxing yoga session or a kickboxing class, movement can help you to relieve the tension of the day. Exercise creates endorphins, reduces stress and improves your physical health. It can also be a helpful shortcut to better sleep. When you take care of your body, your overall mood and self-confidence will also improve.
Pay Attention to Your Diet
Many folks in recovery understand just how detrimental nutrition can be. While our stressed selves may want nothing more than to plop down on the couch with a family-sized bag of chips, we know better. When you’re getting the proper vitamins and minerals, your brain is able to operate more efficiently. You’ll also have more energy and feel better, to boot.
Socialize with Others
Many people with burnout report a lack of energy in other areas of their lives. This leads to isolation, which is a recipe for depression. Individuals who socialize are happier, more connected and benefit from community support. Even if it’s tough, try to make time for friends and family.
Seek Mental Health Care
You don’t have to go through this alone. A clinical professional can provide coping mechanisms and stress-reduction techniques that work for you. Regularly checking in with a therapist or counselor protects your recovery, reduces stress and helps you to make strides forward.
Ask for What You Need
If you’ve worked for three solid years without a vacation, you’re going to be exhausted. Set aside time to speak with your supervisor and make some adjustments. Whether you need a few days off, would like to change your hours or shift some of your responsibilities elsewhere, there is probably room for compromise. If your employer is reasonable, they’ll be happy to help you find a happy medium.
Protect Your Recovery
Burnout is primarily an occupational hazard, but it can also arise from other areas of your life. If you’re in an unhappy marriage, worried about the health of a loved one or struggling with thoughts of relapse, you’re probably in the same boat as the individuals above.
Cumberland Heights can help.
Through expert clinical care, innovative relapse prevention programming and a strong alumni community, we support individuals in recovery each and every day. If you’re in need of assistance, we’re happy to help. Contact us for more information about our services in Middle Tennessee.