What is burnout?

April 14 | 3 min

Article by MensLine

In 2020, we were forced to weather a global pandemic, worldwide economic crisis’, and widespread social unrest. The resulting changes to our workplaces meant many non-essential workers were forced to work from home, fundamentally reshaping our domestic lives. Suddenly, our living rooms became the backdrop for important video meetings on a relatively unknown program called Zoom, and the lines between home and “home office” slowly became blurred.

Contributing to the blurring of home and work is not just bringing our work into our homes, but also the longer hours we spent working. Due to lockdowns, being unable to socialise or take part in our usual activities (gym, going to a bar, eating out) meant the weekdays and weekends morphed into one.

Not surprisingly, the resulting burnout after a year of ongoing, and seemingly never-ending, COVID challenges was swift. Some of us experienced mental burnout, pandemic burnout, and work burnout, sometimes at once!

Burnout is a term that describes feelings of long-term exhaustion, both mental and physical, as well as disinterest with work. Caused by excessive and prolonged stress, burnout can make you feel overwhelmed and exhausted. You may also feel like you can’t complete simple daily tasks.

You may develop burnout if you have focused all your energy on your work for a long time and neglected other areas of your life, such as your health, family and friends.

Common symptoms of burnout

People who are feeling tired and stressed may feel as if they are experiencing burnout, but not all feelings of work-related stress are burnout. Feeling burnt out is different to feeling stressed and anxious about work, though some of the symptoms and signs can be similar.

People who have burnout often experience the following symptoms for a long period of time:

  • Emotional exhaustion – feeing constantly tired, drained and low in energy
  • Stomach pains, digestive issues and headaches – physical symptoms are common in people with burnout
  • Negativity – feeling negative and cynical about work and colleagues
  • Concentration difficulties – as well as lacking in creativity.

People who have burnout may also begin to disengage from work, perform worse at work and feel negative about their job. Feeling stressed and anxious, on the other hand, tends to be less extreme than burnout. People who feel stressed about work may be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and don’t feel the mental exhaustion and lack of motivation that people with burnout may feel.

Tips for coping with burnout

If you’re experiencing burnout, the good news is that it is possible to overcome your symptoms and recover.

Here are some strategies for coping with burnout:

  • Give yourself a break – make time for yourself and do something that will make you relax and feel happy, like playing a sport or exploring somewhere new
  • Set boundaries for work – prioritise what you can do, and try not to accept too many commitments
  • Limit your access to work-related emails – these days, we have 24/7 access to our emails which isn’t helpful for people with burnout; limit your exposure to work emails after hours
  • Spend time with your loved ones – enjoy the company of the people who make you laugh and bring out the best in you
  • Eat a healthy diet – a good diet can boost your mood and energy levels; aim to eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean dairy, and reduce processed foods
  • Exercise regularly – exercise will boost your physical and mental health, and help you to switch off from work-related stress
  • Reduce alcohol and coffee – stimulants like alcohol and coffee can increase feelings of stress and anxiety
  • Practise good sleep habits – try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

Where to get help

Burnout can lead to ongoing fatigue and chronic stress, so it’s important to see a health professional or a GP if you feel you may be at risk.

You can also contact MensLine Australia 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call them on 1300 78 99 78.

April 14 |  3 min

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