Stress and burnout during the current global situation – how to safeguard yourself.
As the pandemic is creating increasing demands on us and the potential of a 3rd wave of infection looms, the risk of experiencing burnout may be greater than we would like it to be. If constant tension, strain, and worry has you feeling helpless, disillusioned, or completely exhausted, you may be heading towards burnout.
In this newsletter, we discuss the symptoms of burnout, as well as techniques to help us avoid or to recover from it.
What is burnout?
The phrase “burnout” was coined by Herbert Freudenber, a psychologist, and describes an acute stress condition that leads to severe physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. Much worse than ordinary fatigue, burnout makes it challenging for people to cope with pressure and handle day-to-day responsibilities.
Burnout does not go away on its own and, if left, it can result in serious physical and psychological conditions. Unlike flu or other viruses, burnout does not hit all at once but occurs gradually. Being aware of the symptoms and stages will assist in taking appropriate action. Some of the stages of burnout include:
- Neglecting your own needs and sacrificing self-care like sleep, exercise, and eating well.
- No time for nonwork-related needs or activities or withdrawing from family and friends.
- Being impatient with those around you mounts.
- Behavioural changes, those on the road to burnout may become more antagonistic and lash out at loved ones for little or no reason.
- Feeling detached from your life and your ability to control your life.
- Inner emptiness or anxiety. People may turn to thrill seeking behaviours to cope with this emotion, such as substance use, gambling, or overeating.
- Life loses its meaning, and you begin to feel hopeless.
- Mental or physical breakdown impacting ability to cope. Mental health or medical attention may be necessary.
How to prevent burnout.
Stress may be unavoidable; however, burnout is preventable. Implementing some (or all) of the techniques below may prevent apprehension or worry from getting the best of you:
- Ask for help – During stressful times, it is important to reach out. If asking for assistance feels difficult, consider developing a self-care “check-in” with close friends or family members so that you can take care of each other during demanding times.
- Eat a balanced diet – Consume a healthy diet filled with omega-3 fatty acids. Adding foods like flaxseed oil, walnuts, and fish to your diet may help give your mood a boost.
- Exercise – Not only is exercise good for physical health, but it also gives an emotional boost. There is no need to spend hours exercising to reap these benefits – mini workouts or short walks are convenient ways to make exercise a daily habit.
- Laugh – Laughter is one of the best remedies. Watch funny videos or films until your body cries with laughter.
- Meditate – A recent study found that meditation reduced anxiety ratings by as much as 39 percent. Sit in a quiet room for 5 – 10 minutes and focus on your breathing, gradually increasing the time to 20 minutes. There are numerous applications you can download to get started.
- Power Down – Turn off your smartphone or laptop at least 2 hours before bedtime. Watch old comedies or movies; read a book; play board or card games with others. By disengaging from technology, we reprogram habits.
- Practice good sleep habits – Your body needs time to rest and reset, making healthy sleep behaviours essential for well-being. By avoiding caffeine before bedtime, establishing a relaxing bedtime ritual, and banning smartphones from the bedroom you can promote sound sleep patterns.
- Practice gratitude: According to The Greater Good Science Center people practicing gratitude show enhanced brain activity in two primary regions associated with emotional processing, interpersonal bonding and rewarding social interactions. Practicing thankfulness may enhance the quality of your relationships.
Being exposed to persistent stress can cause burnout. Feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, and isolating from friends or family members can be some of the signs to look out for. Eating a balanced diet, regular exercise, and getting a good night’s sleep may prevent fatigue.
Burnout can be avoided by making self-care part of your daily routine. Try going for a walk, reaching out to someone, move, laugh, or watch an enjoyable program on television. Small self-care gestures can prevent stress from turning into something more serious.
Until next time, remember to sprinkle in some laughter, engage in good eating and sleep habits and practice self-care each day.
Live it! Love it! Do it!