Many of us have heard or even said the phrase ourselves: “I’m feeling burned out.” We constantly balance work, families, friendships, personal interests, and our needs daily. When juggling many things, it’s only a matter of time before something slips. It’s no wonder we feel so tired sometimes.
While work is very important, as it’s how many of us can afford to live our best lives, there comes a time when that ambition becomes dangerous to someone's physical and mental health. In fact, burnout can lead to a range of physical health problems, such as poor sleep or an increased chance of stroke. The mental health risks are in the same boat, with a greater chance of depression, anxiety, or even suicide. So what is burnout and how do we notice the signs?
What is Burnout?
Burnout is defined as the exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation, usually because of stress or frustration over long periods of time. Burnout is often synonymous with compassion fatigue among helping professionals, like healthcare workers and first responders. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) added burnout to the International Classification of Diseases, due to the severe consequences and its global health concern. Below are the details of those consequences, and how your physical and mental health are at risk from burnout.
How Burnout Affects Our Physical Health
Studies have shown that burnout has serious effects on our physical health, as it is another form of chronic stress. The symptoms of burnout can start small and include headaches, stomachaches, and irritability. But as time goes on, you may experience more severe symptoms like chronic fatigue, anger issues, and insomnia. According to the American Psychological Association, long-term stress (burnout) can result in heavy influences on major body systems like respiratory, nervous, and cardiovascular. In addition to the physical conditions, burnout can have a big impact on our mental health as well.
How Burnout Affects Our Mental Health
Burnout affects us mentally just as it does physically, maybe even more so. Our mental health is ultimately what keeps us going in our everyday activities. It’s what keeps us moving during the day, showing up to work, and following through with our plans. Burnout causes high anxiety and increases our risk for depression. You will also experience an increased likelihood of mental health needs like medication or hospitalization. Studies have also shown that burnout is so prevalent in many countries that there has been a connection to suicide. These are the effects of burnout on our mental health, and it’s important to take them seriously.
How to Cope with Burnout
The best way to cope with burnout is by first noticing the signs. When mental and emotional exhaustion becomes the norm, it is usually a sign of approaching burnout. Establishing a strong support system is a healthy way of coping with burnout when you start to see the early signs. In addition to this, increased relaxation, good rest, and nutrition are also great ways to deal with burnout. Most importantly, speaking with a professional about work-related stress and burnout can help alleviate some of the pressure, and ultimately get you in a better headspace.
Source: University of Utah (2023) How Burnout Impacts Your Mental Health
Source: Elizabeth Scott (2022) How to Recognize Burnout Symptoms
Source: Barbara Saunders (2023) Addressing Burnout Takes More Than Self-Care