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Burnout Awareness & Recovery

March 8th, 2022

It’s no secret that people everywhere have been struggling the past few years. Shifting work environments and priorities, managing an increasingly demanding work-life balance, and stress and anxiety around COVID-19 contagion and social restrictions have contributed to widespread feelings of physical and mental exhaustion for workers everywhere. Left unmanaged, for some people, this burden of fatigue, low motivation, and stress can lead to a syndrome known as burnout. 

Though burnout has been a debated topic over the years, in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) clarified that burnout is a syndrome thought to result specifically from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Risk factors for burnout may include unrealistic or perfectionistic expectations at work, heavy workload, conflicts in the workplace, short staffing, feeling undervalued at work, poor self-esteem, and poor coping skills in terms of stress management.

The WHO characterizes burnout by looking at three dimensions: 

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 
  2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativity or cynicism related to one’s job; 
  3. A sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.
  • Other common symptoms may include:
  • Little to no motivation at work
  • Feeling like you’ve lost your confidence or creativity
  • Social isolation
  • Amplified anxiety and dread about your workday
  • Sleep difficulties and appetite disruption
  • Feeling emotionally overwhelmed
  • Feeling easily triggered
  • Behavioural changes, such as lashing out at colleagues or family members, or regularly showing up late or leaving early from work

Burnout can look a lot like depression, and they do share some similarities, such as experiencing low motivation, exhaustion, and difficulty performing tasks, but there are some crucial differences. Usually, burnout results from the workplace and doesn’t interfere with functioning in other areas of life. Depression, on the other hand, permeates every aspect of functioning and typically gives rise to persistent feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and powerlessness.

Recovery from burnout is possible. The first step is to recognize and accept that you are struggling; there is no shame in needing a break or needing to change things up in order to get back on track. You may also benefit from sharing about your struggle with your employer and seeing if extra supports or changes can take place, or if you may be able to take some time off work.

Take some time to really think about your work schedule and your work/life balance. Where could you make some changes? Small steps to start are key. Some ideas may be to:

  • ensure that you are taking your breaks;
  • learn some stress management strategies;
  • practice effective self-care and ensure you are getting time to wind down;
  • set effective boundaries around work and personal time (especially if you work from home and feel like you are always accessible);
  • learn to say “no” to additional or unrealistic workplace demands until you’re feeling like yourself again;
  • make time to move your body in some form of exercise each day;
  • let your doctor know how you’ve been feeling;
  • reach out for counselling support.

If you need support in navigating this difficult time, please consider reaching out to one of our counsellors today. We would be happy to help you identify challenges and reach your goals in managing work-related stress and burnout. Learn more about our Counselling Services and how we can support you. 

Reference: ICD Statistics


Jennifer Baker, MEd, RCC, PMH-C

Manager of Counselling Services & Registered Clinical Counsellor