What is job burnout ? Know its symptoms and how to deal with it

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We’ve all had days when we didn’t look forward to going to work. It could be just the regular “Monday blues” or a vacation hang over. But have you ever experienced Monday blues so bad that it prevented you from getting out of bed?

What’s the difference between stress and burnout?

Workplace stress is when you feel so overwhelmed with the day’s prospects that you start feeling physical and emotional symptoms like headaches, muscle pain, constant fatigue or anxiety. But despite these, you are still able to go to work and fulfill your responsibilities. If this continues and stress symptoms continue to pile up, the result is burnout. Burnout is “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things resulting in a decline in their job performance” (David Ballard, The American Psychological Association). While both share similar symptoms, you’ll know that it’s burnout when you can’t function anymore. This will be evident in a slipping job performance, lack of motivation, and an overall negative outlook in life.

What is burn-out? WHO recognizes it as an “occupational phenomenon”, Global News

Burnout is “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance”

You are at risk for a burnout when you:

  • work more than 10 hours a day and you are on call even at home
  • prioritize work above all else
  • regard being busy like a badge of honour

Newcomers are especially susceptible to burnout because of the extreme pressure to “make it” in their careers and settle successfully. Add to this the challenging job search many face. This is why once employed, many push themselves to the limit and prioritize their jobs, often times to the detriment of their health and relationships.

How do you know that you’re burnt out?

Three symptoms:

  1. Feeling depleted of energy – exhaustion
  2. Feeling mentally distanced or cynical about one’s job
  3. Problems completing one’s job tasks successfully

These manifest in the following physical, mental and behavioural signs:

  1. Feeling tired all the time
  2. Frequent illness
  3. Headaches or muscle pains
  4. Change in appetite or sleeping habits
  5. Sense of failure, helplessness
  6. You dread going to work
  7. Loss of motivation
  8. No sense of accomplishment
  9. Increasingly negative outlook
  10. Slipping job performance

Seek immediate help if you recognize these symptoms. Consult your family doctor. They can recommend dietary and lifestyle changes that can help you cope, or refer you to more help like counseling or therapy. Check if there are supports in your workplace. Smart companies invest in wellness programs for employees because they know that burnout can take a chunk out of productivity. Talk to your HR for options or approach newcomer serving organizations to access the right kind of service. Consider taking a vacation to rest and assess your situation.

Managing stress

Stress is a normal part of life. It only becomes bad for you if you don’t deal with it the right way. Here are few tips to manage stress:

  1. Prioritize self-care – Don’t feel guilty when you take care of yourself. You will become more effective when you take care of your needs first. Have reasonable working hours, take breaks and unplug after a day’s work. Take time to relax and pursue sports or recreation on weekends. Eat well, exercise, meditate. Do things that make you healthy and happy. You deserve it.
  2. Focus on the cause – Figure out where the stress is coming from and work on minimizing it. Check if it is self-imposed or if it’s due to ineffective systems in the workplace (or a combination of both). For example, if you are struggling with too much work, it may be because you don’t know how to say no, don’t prioritize well, or fail to delegate tasks. On the other hand, poor communication/feedback systems in the workplace could also be the culprit. Talk to your boss or HR to help figure out ways to make work more efficient and less stressful.
  3. Take regular vacations – Vacations are essential for physical and emotional health. Sometimes a change in scenery is all we need to be refreshed and energized. You don’t even have to go far or spend a lot of money to have a good vacation. There are so many awesome places in Manitoba you can explore. Try camping with your family and make happy and lasting memories with them (don’t forget to physically distance and sanitize).
  4. Seek professional help – You don’t need to be burnt out to seek a professional. Counselling and therapy can help you adopt better habits that can build your resilience. Check out the services of Aurora Family Therapy or ask for a referral from your family doctor or immigrant-serving organizations nearest you.
  5. Cultivate a life outside of work – There is more to life than work! Strive to become a well-rounded individual by having varied interests and hobbies. Many say that volunteering is the best-kept secret to maintaining mental health. Helping others, connecting with the community and generally doing worthwhile activities are the best antidotes to stress and anxiety.

For physical and mental health resources during COVID-19, check Top tips and resources to keep yourself healthy while in quarantine. The Province offers a free Mental Health Virtual Therapy Program (AbilitiCBT) for Manitobans experiencing low to mid symptoms of anxiety due to the pandemic.

Article updated September 29, 2020.
Sources: What is work burnout and how can we avoid it? Heather Gillin, Texas A&M University (Texas A&M Today); 10 signs you’re burning out and what to do about it, Lisa M. Gerry, Forbes; What is the difference between stress and burnout? Dawkins Brown, FCCA, CA, ACFE, LinkedIn. Accessed July 19, 2019.

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Community Resources

Read 5 habits to help you achieve work-life balance for more tips.

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