Just need a break? Or is it burnout?

By: Kristin Matthews

This is often a very busy time of year for many people. Juggling work, school, the demands of home, and prepping for the holidays, this time of year can feel stressful and exhausting.  More, and more, I am hearing from my clients how exhausted and stressed out many people are feeling right now. Not to mention, the added stress many people are still experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This prolonged stress can have big consequences to your health that should not be ignored. Some important symptoms to watch for are physical and emotional changes including a change to your eating and sleeping habits, a decline in energy and concentration, and changes to your mood. All these symptoms are common when experiencing life stressors but should resolve on their own within a short period of time. However, when stress is unresolved for prolonged periods of time it can be a recipe for burnout.

At its core, burnout has 3 main signs:

  1. Chronic physical and/or mental fatigue.
  2. Negative thoughts and feelings related to activities that you used to enjoy. This may include avoiding activities you used to enjoy and an escapist and/or a pessimistic mentality.
  3. Difficulty coping and a reduced ability to perform regular tasks both at work and at home.

The consequences of burnout can be significant and long lasting, and can include physical illness and pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and substance misuse. Therefore, taking action to address burnout quickly if it arises is important. Managing burnout is not a one-size-fits-all approach, although some starting points for addressing burnout are outlined below:

  1. Identify what factors are triggering your stress. Start by asking yourself what is the most stressful part of your day/week?
  2. Identify what parts of your life help you better cope with stress. Ask yourself what activities do you engage in that help you feel more calm, energized, or optimistic?
  3. Make small changes to your routine by creating healthy boundaries. Adding clear start and stop times to your daily tasks help create better defined boundaries. This action can create more space for the activities that help us feel good!
  4. Seeking support! Reaching out to loved ones, colleagues, or friends can help us feel like we are not alone.

Last, if you have tried to address your stress or burnout on your own and are still struggling connecting with a mental health professional or your family doctor is important. If you are interested in working through your symptoms of stress or burnout together in counselling, I would be happy to connect.

Kristin Matthews
Registered Psychologist