It is not surprising that people are feeling anxious and exhausted given that more than half of the country is under some form of lockdown and that many of the social assistance programs on which we rely have been put on hold. These kinds of emotions, if left unchecked, can eventually lead to burnout for some people.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, burnout was almost always thought of as a problem that was caused by one’s line of work. However, our research has shown that burnout can occur in people in settings other than the workplace. This includes people who are juggling multiple sources of stress in their lives, such as providing round-the-clock care for a loved one.
Now, as a result of the Pandemic, It Appears That Rates of Burnout Are Increasing
This is especially true considering that working remotely means workers are frequently obligated to “do more with less” and to be accessible and online 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, children who are home-schooled face the same demands. We have been researching burnout to better understand how to recognize and treat it. This research is outlined in a book that was just recently published and is summarized here.
What Exactly is Exhaustion?
The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), which is the most popular method for assessing burnout, defines it based on the following three criteria:
- Fatigue, the loss of compassion towards service recipients, or pessimism directed toward one’s job can all lead to a reduction in professional achievement.
However, the MBI has received a lot of criticism. The fact that it ignores key signs that are prevalent in burnout and could be particularly crippling, such as memory impairment, is one of the concerns regarding this theory (which might include forgetting things or not being able to concentrate).
The fact that it was derived solely from research on burnout in people who work directly with clients or patients such as employees in the healthcare industry and people in other caring professions, is yet another cause for concern. It’s possible that some subtleties of burnout that can take place in other contexts were overlooked.
The Substitute That We Offer is Called the Sydney Burnout Measure
In the course of our research, we polled more than one thousand individuals who self-reported having been through burnout to find out what their primary symptoms were. They worked in a variety of contexts, ranging from paid employment roles to more “unofficial” job positions such as having to care for elderly parents and/or children.
We discovered that the syndrome included not only fatigue but also cognitive problems, withdrawal and disassociation from the world and others around you, and diminished quality of work (if that be in paid employment or duties you are responsible for at home). Additionally, the syndrome was frequently accompanied by depressive episodes, anxiousness, and sleeplessness. The symptoms of burnout can include withdrawing from the world or becoming disconnected from the people in your immediate environment.
We compiled a list of the symptoms of burnout that we found and used that as our measurement. The Sydney Burnout Measure, also known as the SBM, is a checklist that includes 34 signs and symptoms of burnout. If you have a high score on our measure, you may be experiencing burnout.
However, it is also feasible to get a high score due to a different underlying illness, such as depression, that shares several symptoms of burnout. It may be necessary to consult a primary care physician or another mental health professional to evaluate the likelihood of this possibility.
The clinical expertise of these professionals will be utilized to determine whether or not the symptoms you are experiencing are most likely the result of burnout or whether or not they could be the result of a different mental health condition. Clarity of this nature is necessary because different psychological conditions frequently call for treatment approaches tailored to the disorder in question.
Taking Action About the Outside Source of Stress
What should be done about burnout once it has been determined that it has occurred? The first thing you need to do is figure out what led to your burnout in the first place so you can start working to mitigate its effects.
The workplace (for example, being swamped, being passed over for a promotion, working overtime), as well as the home (for example, caring for numerous kids and/or older parents, being mainly tasked with domestic duties), can both be external factors that lead to burnout. Due to the pandemic, many individuals are juggling multiple demands at the same time while working from home.
It may be helpful to seek a resolution from your manager or boss to overcome some of the stressors associated with your work. Are they able to extend your deadlines or provide you with flexible working hours so that you can accommodate your responsibilities as a parent?
It may be helpful to ask relatives for assistance in juggling the various tasks that need to be completed around the house or to investigate the possibility that some of the duties can be delegated (for instance, can you employ a housekeeper or a caregiver once a week?).
Implementing De-stressing Techniques
When avoiding these stress factors isn’t doable, you may need to carry out some de-stressing techniques to reduce your burnout symptoms. Stuff like workouts, meditation, and learning mindfulness are continuously shortlisted by our survey respondents as most useful.
These types of activities are not just to help you to take your mind off of things and relax, but they also have been shown to have several positive physiological effects, such as lowering the stress hormone levels found throughout the body. A professional in the field of mental health can also be of assistance in this regard, as they will be equipped with several distinct cognitive strategies that help decrease anxiety and stress.
Taking Into Consideration a Risk Factor Known as Perfectionism
Our research showed that predisposing personality characteristics, particularly perfectionism, may also play a role in the development of burnout. While stressors encountered at home or work may catalyze the development of burnout, it is also possible that these stressors may not be the only cause.
People who strive for perfection typically make excellent workers because they are extremely dependable and conscientious in everything they do. However, they are also more likely to experience burnout because they place unreasonable and unyielding expectations on their performance. These standards are, in the end, impossible to meet.
As a result, we believe that to effectively manage burnout, one must not only modify any predisposing personality styles in addition to dealing with triggering work stressors and employ strategies for de-stressing oneself, as suggested above.
It is More Important to Get It Done Than to Make Sure That It is Perfect
The thoughts and actions associated with perfectionism can be modified using several different strategies. A common effect of perfectionism is procrastination, which can be mitigated by developing skills such as learning to concentrate more on the “big picture” instead of the more minute details of a task.
Therefore, when you begin a task, you should confront it to complete it (regardless of how poor the quality), instead of ensuring that it is perfect from the very beginning of the process. You will be able to rectify the situation at a later time.
The ability to think in shades of gray rather than in absolutes, such as “If it goes very wrong, I will undoubtedly lose my job,” is another crucial component of an effective treatment plan for perfectionism. Think about the nuances of the situation, such as “If this doesn’t work out, I can attempt to confront it from a different angle.”
A mental health provider could also be of help in this regard because they can provide therapeutic techniques, which are frequently taken from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). These techniques assist people in recognizing and modifying unhelpful patterns of thinking that are prevalent in perfectionism and end up making them susceptible to stress and anxiety.
In general, the most important step in effectively managing burnout is to determine whether the highlighting problem is burnout or another condition instead. If burnout is the issue, it is necessary to identify the primary drivers, which may include the influence of the individual’s personality. After this step, management strategies that specifically target each causal factor can be implemented.