Throughout this past year, we have all been affected by COVID-19. Protocols in response to the pandemic, which keep us physically safe, also keep us distant and isolated from others. Loss of income and economic instability caused by the pandemic adds financial burdens. Some have even lost family members or friends.
While much of the prominent research into burnout addresses the workplace, the same principles apply to any area of life or relationship in which you bear some responsibility, such as parenting or caretaking. Prolonged stress has been shown to have consequences on our mental and physical health. A higher degree of stress, plus fewer support measures, make us more prone to compassion fatigue, psychological distress, and burnout.
What exactly is burnout? It is emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion due to prolonged stress.
What causes burnout? While there are interpersonal factors that tie into burnout, research shows that a lack of control, purpose, and support plus prolonged or chronic stress consistently results in higher rates of burnout.
What does burnout look like? Symptoms of burnout will differ from person to person. However, in research on occupational burnout, Christina Maslach & Michael P. Leiter (2016), identified three specific areas: “overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment . . . and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.”
Burnout has also been shown to have many physical and behavioral symptoms, beyond fatigue, such as gastrointestinal problems, headaches, and substance and technology misuse.
What can be done? Self-care is crucial in both preventing burnout and managing its symptoms. Exercise, sleep, and nutrition are important aspects of our well-being and pertinent to positive mental health, as is fostering and investing in relationships with others. Take time to plan and schedule out how you will care for yourself throughout the week. Hold yourself accountable for doing so and be willing to ask others how they are doing in turn.
Consider implementing the following:
1. Relax your standards for yourself, setting aside perfectionism for good enough.
2. Practice self-compassion and extending grace towards yourself.
3. Break goals and projects (stressors) down into smaller, more manageable tasks to address.
4. Identify your core beliefs and engage in activities that align with them. Do something you find to be meaningful once per week.
5. Identify the things you have some control over and make a plan for dealing with them. Practice letting go of the need to change those things which you have no control over.
6. Allow yourself time to grieve the losses you have experienced.
7. Practice setting healthy boundaries and learn the importance of saying “no” when you need to.
Finally, and most importantly, talk about it.
Let your employer, co-workers, family and friends know how best to support you and be willing to ask for help. For further steps about self-care, check out this article in our last newsletter.
One way to assess yourself for burnout is by taking a Needs Assessment Questionnaire.
Such a measurement provides an objective viewpoint of how you are doing physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, etc.
Doing so can help you pinpoint areas in your life that require some TLC, or even an overhaul.
Remember, take care of yourself.
Sometimes that means seeking specialized and professional care.
If you need a therapist, please reach out and get connected with one of the clinicians at CCPC Counseling and Wellness Center.
We’re always here to help!
Written by: Zach Autry, ACMHC, NCC