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Burnout During COVID, Part I

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

At Grit Therapy, we are seeing higher rates of burnout in our clients than we ever have before. In this blog series, we will explore what burnout is, how to identify it in yourself and others, ways to prevent burnout, and what to do if you think you might need to make a job or career change.

So what exactly is burnout? How do you know the difference between stress in the workplace and actual burnout? It is important to note the difference between stress and burnout as burnout is a very serious experience that can lead to physical and mental health problems. It is widely accepted that burnout has three defining features that when present, indicate that you are more than stressed out at work, you are experiencing burnout:

Exhaustion (emotional, mental, and/or physical)

Cynicism (depersonalization)

A reduced sense of accomplishment and personal identity

If you're unsure whether you are just feeling a manageable amount of stress, or experiencing burnout, The Mayo Clinic suggest you ask yourself the following questions. If you answer yes to any of them, you may consider talking with a mental health professional to get additional support, and making changes in your work life:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?

  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?

  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers, or clients?

  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?

  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?

  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?

  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?

  • Are you using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?

  • Have your sleep habits changed?

  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

They also note that you may be at a higher risk of experiencing burnout if you have the following risk factors:

  • You identify so strongly with work that you lack balance between your work life and your personal life

  • You have a high workload, including overtime work

  • You try to be everything to everyone

  • You work in a helping profession such as health care

  • You feel you have little or no control over your work

  • You job is monotonous

So what gives? Work has always been stressful. Why are we even more burned out during a time when many of us can work from home and skip our commute? When COVID first hit, some of us thought it might be one long work-from-home-stay-cation where we would bake sourdough bread, organize our garages, and finally pick up that acoustic guitar that has been gathering dust in the basement. Unfortunately, the reality has been much more difficult and demanding than that. Instead of an easier time at work work, people are feeling more stressed than ever. Think of how the following issues might be leading taking away from your sense of satisfaction at work and leading to burnout:

  • Working from home is incredibly difficult for many workers, especially those juggling parenting and schooling, a room mate situation, or those in care taking roles

  • Workers often feel less effective in their home environments. Feeling effective is key to experiencing job satisfaction

  • Most industries have had to make significant changes in response to work, leaving most of use learning new skills or working in areas we haven't before

  • Many of us feel exhausted by the stress of living through a pandemic

  • Job and financial insecurity has left many people with significant stress, and has led some people to overwork in an attempt to keep their job

  • We have lost the ability to recreate and self care in many of the ways we used to including taking vacations, going out with friends and family, attending sporting events, seeing live music, etc.

  • We find it incredibly difficult to continue living under the stress of a pandemic when we don't know when it will end

Due to the serious implications of continuing to work while experiencing burnout, we are very motivated as therapists to help our clients prevent, identify, and heal feelings of burnout. Tune in next week to hear our thoughts on prevention and ideas about how to address burnout.

Experiencing burnout and need help? Reach out today to schedule a free consultation with one of our therapists, and find out if working with us is good fit for you.

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