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Mental wellness

October 10, 2019

5 ways to avoid burnout

Is your current routine tiring you out? Find out about the symptoms and causes of burnout. And learn how to put a stop to it.

Stop us if this sounds all too familiar.

Deadlines that aren’t usually a problem are starting to pile up. Or you’re missing them entirely. That list of chores at home seems to be getting longer too. And that sense of accomplishment you used to feel when you finished a major project at work? It’s practically gone. You just start dreading the next deadline.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. You could be experiencing burnout. The World Health Organization says burnout is “a feeling of intense fatigue, loss of control, and an inability to produce concrete results at work.”

Today, 77% of working Canadians admit to having uncomfortable levels of stress. Six out of 10 retired Canadians say they’re stressed out. That’s according to the 2019 Sun Life Barometer. The survey measures Canadians’ attitudes about their health and finances.

Workplace stress and burnout affect your job satisfaction and your quality of life outside of work. But critically, they also impact your health. Studies have linked excessive stress to higher risk of heart disease, stroke and even cancer.

Identifying the early symptoms of burnout not only helps you lead a happier life, but a healthier one too. Here’s how to tell if you’re on the cusp of burnout and what to do to turn things around.

Assess your risk of burnout

Burnout is most commonly linked to a few professions – like health-care providers, entrepreneurs and lawyers. But it can affect anyone, explains Dr. Mariyam Ahmed, a Toronto psychologist. “Anyone can be at risk for developing burnout, regardless of occupation. Burnout is really on the rise across the board.”

To assess your risk of burnout, look beyond your job as well. A personal crisis or life event can also add to your stress. And your risk of burnout. Even positive life events, like planning a wedding or having a baby, can temporarily up your risk.

Look for early warning signs of burnout

Burnout can affect both your physical and mental health, explains Dr. Ahmed. Creeping workplace stress can cause a range of symptoms.

You might notice a shift in your approach to work. This could go from meeting deadlines easily to last-minute efforts to try to finish. That can cause you to feel less satisfied with your job. You might also feel sad, anxious, irritable and less productive. You may even dread getting out of bed in the morning, she says.

Finally, burnout and stress can also cause physical health issues. Watch out for unexplained headaches, GI problems or difficulty sleeping, Dr. Ahmed advises.

How to handle stress at work and prevent burnout

Many Canadians aren’t taking advantage of supports available to them. According to the 2019 Sun Life Barometer, 59% of working Canadians have experienced a mental health issue. And 60% of working Canadians experiencing mental health issues aren’t accessing workplace benefits to help them. Almost 4 in 5 (78%) haven’t used government-funded services.

You don’t have to be stuck in the cycle of stress. Here are 5 ways to avoid it.

  1. Lighten your demanding workload as much as you can. Look for tasks you could delegate or deprioritize to streamline your workload. Ask your boss about shuffling your responsibilities – it could help your work feel fresh and exciting again.
  2. Manage your work-life balance, so you truly have a break. Set your phone to do-not-disturb at night and limit email to work hours to ease your stress.
  3. Make health a priority, even when you’re tired. A balanced diet and regular exercise both nourish your body and help relieve burnout, advises Dr. Ahmed. Try a healthy meal-delivery service if you’re short on time to cook. Download a meditation app that can coach you for 5 to 10 minutes a day. And try a brisk walk outside if you don’t have time for the gym.
  4. Reach out to your loved ones. Support from your friends, family and colleagues can help ease your stress, says Dr. Ahmed.
  5. Get professional help. The right mental health-care provider is an outlet to share your worries. They can also help identify personalized solutions to manage your stress. Be sure you’re maximizing your workplace group benefits to access counselling and support. Lumino Health is an easy-to-use resource to find the right provider for you.

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