February 1, 2023

Unpacking Burnout and How to Cope with It

From stay-at-home parents to healthcare professionals to retail workers, stress levels are high and so are the levels of burnout associated with it. What can be done about burnout especially when it’s associated with your passion or source of income? To figure this out, we first need to take a look at what burnout is.

What is Burnout?

By definition, burnout is a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion due to prolonged or chronic stress. Some symptoms of burnout can include feelings of ineffectiveness, physical and emotional exhaustion, a reduced sense of accomplishment, cynicism, and detachment.

Is Burnout a Mental Illness?

No, burnout isn’t classified as a mental illness. Instead, it’s a condition that can have a significant impact on mental well-being. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently recognized burnout as an occupational phenomenon, which is defined as "a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed."

While burnout isn’t a mental illness, it’s often related to work, which is likely have a negative impact on one’s mental health. It’s important to seek help and support if you’re experiencing burnout, as it can lead to other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety if left untreated.

What are the 5 Symptoms of Burnout?

The top five symptoms of burnout are:

  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Cynicism and detachment
  • Sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment
  • Physical and emotional fatigue
  • Reduced productivity and accomplishment

Who is Most at Risk for Burnout?

People who are most at risk for burnout are those who are in high-stress occupations. Most healthcare workers, first responders, and social workers are the ones most vulnerable to burnout. Clients who have a high level of responsibility, have a lack of control over their work, or have a high level of job demands are also at a higher risk for burnout.

How Do You Know If You’re Suffering from Burnout?

There are several signs that may indicate that someone is experiencing burnout, including:

  • Exhaustion: Includes both physical and emotional fatigue; feeling mentally and emotionally drained.
  • Loss of motivation: Feeling unenthusiastic and apathetic towards activities or work that were once pleasurable.
  • Decreased productivity: Difficulty in completing tasks, feeling a sense of ineffectiveness or lack of accomplishment.
  • Emotional detachment: Feeling emotionally detached or distant from colleagues, friends, and family.
  • Negative attitudes: Feeling cynical or critical towards oneself or others.
  • Physical symptoms: Having headaches, muscle aches, and other physical symptoms without any underlying medical conditions.

Note that everyone has a unique experience with burnout - some people may have most of the symptoms, while others may experience only a few. If you suspect that you may be experiencing burnout, it’s best to consult with a mental health professional to develop a comprehensive treatment plan.

burn out

How to Tell the Difference Between Burnout and Depression

Burnout and depression are two separate conditions, but they share some similarities. Both can be caused by chronic stress and both can have a negative impact on mental well-being. There are some key differences between burnout and depression that are important to note:

Note that burnout and depression can co-occur, and people with burnout may develop depression and vice versa. A mental health professional can help to properly assess and treat both conditions.

How Can You Spot Burnout in Others?

To recognize burnout, it’s important to look for signs of physical and emotional exhaustion like fatigue, insomnia, and loss of appetite. Meanwhile, other signs can include cynicism and detachment, a reduced sense of personal accomplishment, and feelings of ineffectiveness.

How Can Burnout be Treated?

Treatment for burnout can include a combination of strategies like resiliency building, relaxation strategies, and stress management techniques among a slew of others.  

It’s important to address the underlying causes of burnout, such as chronic stress, and to make lifestyle changes to reduce stress. When burnout is left untreated, it can lead to more serious physical and mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular disease.

How Do We Avoid Burnout?

To avoid burnout, you must find ways to manage and reduce stress. Some of the most effective ways to do this include exercise, meditation, and time management techniques.  

Make sure to set boundaries and prioritize self-care, as well as taking regular breaks from work and engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation. It's also crucial to have a good work-life balance, look for a job that aligns with your values, and create your own positive social support network.

Can CBT Help Treat Burnout?

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative patterns of thought and behaviour. It can be used to help treat burnout by addressing the underlying causes of the condition, such as stress, high levels of responsibility, and unrealistic expectations of yourself, the people around you, and your current situation.  

CBT can help clients to develop healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, set realistic goals and expectations, and improve their overall mental well-being. CBT can also teach people how to identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs that may be contributing to their burnout.

Choose Archways to Fight Burnout

Archways Centre for CBT is always here to help you. Archways offers an Anxiety & Mood Clinic where we work with clients using strategies grounded in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) to help you get well and stay well. We work with adults up to approximately 70 years of age and we even have a Child & Adolescent Program.

For more information on us and our other services, visit our website or give us a call at 519 472-6612 to see if Archways is the right fit for you.