Burnout is a growing concern for many people. If you frequently feel like there’s not enough time in a day to get everything done, have trouble focusing, or feel like there’s no hope of ever getting ahead of your workload, you might be burnt out.
Burnout is more than just stress. It’s a serious concern that can lead to both mental and physical health issues if it goes untreated. Luckily, there are things you can do in your own life to both recover from burnout if it’s happening, and prevent yourself from becoming burnt out in the future.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. Symptoms of burnout can include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty staying motivated
- Feelings of cynicism or disillusionment around your job or relationships
- Feelings of hopelessness or powerlessness
- Altered sleep patterns (sleeping too much or not enough)
- Digestive issues
Historically, burnout has been mainly talked about in the context of work, but burnout can arise from other sources of stress as well.
For example, new parents may feel burnt out by the responsibilities of childcare. Burnout can also happen to individuals who unexpectedly find themselves in a caregiving role – for example, if a relative or loved one is very sick.
What can you do today to feel better?
While it might take longer to address the root cause of your burnout, there are things you can do right away to ease the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Is there a task that’s stressing you out just thinking about it? Consider what you might be able to do to make that task easier.
For example: if you’re feeling overwhelmed wondering what to make for dinner, try to understand why it’s causing you stress. Maybe you just don’t have the time or energy to cook a full meal while juggling other responsibilities. If that’s the case, do you need to cook something from scratch? Consider other options, such as:
- Can you afford to order in, just for tonight?
- Can you ask a family member for help?
- Can you make something quick and easy like sandwiches, boxed pasta, or a frozen pizza?
Don’t strive for perfection – if what you need to do is put food on the table, ordering a pizza will accomplish that need. It might not be a long-term solution, but if it relieves some stress today, then it’s worthwhile.
Managing burnout in the long-term
Avoiding feelings of burnout gets easier when you’re able to recognize and address them early on. Managing your risk for burnout takes some planning and boundary setting. Practicing these skills will help you manage stress more effectively over time.
But how do you manage burnout when you’re in a situation that you can’t walk away from?
Prioritize real self-care
Regardless of what self-care looks like for you, making time for it during your day is an important way to keep yourself healthy and build mental resilience.
Self-care can look like taking some time for yourself, to do something you enjoy. It can also look like taking care of things that need to get done to maintain your personal well being – like booking that dentist appointment, filing your taxes, or picking up groceries.
When we’re wrapped up in work, or caring for someone else, it’s easy to see self-care as less important. But really, it’s one of the most important tasks that you can devote time to. As the analogy goes, in an emergency, you need to put on your own oxygen mask before helping your neighbour with theirs.
Set healthy boundaries
Saying “no” can feel uncomfortable, but it’s an important skill to practice. Setting boundaries is a way to manage your time and resources. When you take on responsibilities within your limits, you’re better able to fulfill those responsibilities without overextending yourself. It’s good to remind yourself that you’re likely less productive when you take on too much.
Setting boundaries can look like scheduling that aforementioned time for self-care. If someone asks you to do something that you just aren’t able to take on, practice ways to politely decline.
You can decide what healthy boundaries look like for you – it may take a bit of trial and error, but over time it will get easier.
Having friends and allies can make a great difference in your ability to manage feelings of burnout. As much as possible, make time to connect with people that make you feel supported.
If you’re looking for support with a specific concern, like parenting or caregiving, it might be helpful to look for support from people who have similar experiences. There are numerous support groups out there for many different issues.
Another great option is to speak to a counsellor. Counsellors have training and education in helping people from all walks of life manage stress and feelings of helplessness or burnout. Whether your stress comes from work or your personal life, a counsellor can help by offering advice and support as you navigate your situation. A good counsellor can serve as a sounding board for you to talk through whatever you’re feeling.
If you’re dealing with burnout, or are in a high-stress situation and feel helpless, you’re not alone. Help is available. Speaking with a counsellor on the TELUS Health MyCareTM app is a great way to find immediate support, and talk through possible solutions for what you’re feeling. Book a virtual appointment to see a counsellor at a time that works for you, from the comfort of your home.