What is burnout?

Health & Wellness

The Mayo Clinic says that “burnout is a state of physical or emotional exhaustion also involving a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”

Symptoms include cynicism, trouble getting started, impatience, lack of productivity, difficulty concentrating, and lack of satisfaction with achievements.

Burnout can also affect our physical health. It can lead to sleep habit disruption, excess alcohol and drug use, weight gain or loss, headaches, stomach upset, and more.

Everyone is at risk for burnout, and it’s often related to our work–paid and unpaid. People who are at higher risk for burnout often have jobs with a heavy workload and long hours, work in a helping profession, and feel they have little or no control over their work.

And although parenting and burnout are not often talked about together, parenting young children maps particularly well to these burnout risk factors.

On a personal note, from Malia: I’m writing about burnout today because I am living it. When I handed off the EIC role to my colleague Dr. Dowd here at Dear Pandemic, I found that the change in cadence suddenly made it all but impossible for me to do… well, anything. I’ve been really productive at organizing my house. And not much else.

What do we do about burnout? Advice from the Mayo Clinic:

🤝 Evaluate your options. Discuss specific concerns with your supervisor. Maybe you can work together to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions. Try to set goals for what must get done and what can wait. (If you are a stay-at-home parent facing burnout, substitute “lower your expectations for yourself” for this one.)

👐 Seek support. Whether you reach out to peers, friends or loved ones, support and collaboration might help you cope.

🏃‍♀️ Get some exercise. Regular physical activity can help you to better deal with stress. It can also take your mind off work.

🛌 Get some sleep. Sleep restores well-being and helps protect your health.

🧘🏽 Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of focusing on your breath flow and being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment. In a job setting, this practice involves facing situations with openness and patience, and without judgment.

✨ Do something new. This can help refocus your mind and let your emotional batteries recharge from whatever has burned you out.

📅 Take some time off. Some restorative time off can help you refocus on what you love about your work and be more creative about how to move on from what you don’t.

⏲️ Give yourself time. New creative seeds will sprout soon enough. 🌾🌾

As for me: I am finally going to use that yarn you’ve all seen in my zoom background. I also have plenty of weeds to pull, walks to take, and a whole basement left to organize. I’ll be a regular writer here at Dear Pandemic, but expect some topics that aren’t COVID-19.

Mayo Clinic: Job burnout: How to spot it and take action

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