May 05, 2022

Burnout: How is it affecting your life and your finances?

By Jillian Stinson

Is your current routine tiring you out? Find out about the symptoms and causes of burnout. And how it may be affecting your finances.

Are you feeling anxious, sleeping poorly, or having stomach aches? You might be experiencing burnout. Recent research from Ceridian found an extreme level of exhaustion among Canadian workers. Living with constant stress can push you to your limits and lead to burnout. Burnout may be affecting your mental health – and causing financial stress.

Read on to see what burnout is, how to spot the signs and what you can do about it.

What is burnout?

The World Health Organization describes burnout as “a feeling of intense fatigue, loss of control, and an inability to produce concrete results at work.”

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 diseasestroke and even cancer.

How can you spot early signs of burnout?

Identifying the early symptoms of burnout not only helps you lead a happier life, but a healthier one too.

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

  • Changes in personality. If you’re working from home or working in an essential service, you might notice a shift in your approach to work – say, from meeting deadlines easily to working at the last minute. That can cause you to feel less satisfied with your job.
  • Changes in mood. You might also feel sad, anxious, irritable and less productive. You may even dread getting out of bed in the morning, she says.
  • Changes in physical health. Burnout and stress can also cause physical health issues. Watch out for unexplained headaches, GI problems or difficulty sleeping, Dr. Ahmed advises.

How can burnout affect your finances?

With everything you’ve been juggling, revisiting your finances, or making time to plan may seem like a daunting task. And financial stress – or worries about money – is on the rise. In fact, for many Canadians, money worries are the greatest source of stress. Even before the pandemic:

  • 48% of Canadians say they’ve lost sleep because of financial worries.1
  • 44% say it would be difficult to meet their financial obligations if their pay is late.2

It’s no wonder money and financial stress is a contributor to burnout.

Watch for these signs that burnout may be affecting your finances:

  • You’re not paying attention to how you’re spending.
    Are you ordering food delivery more often? Is your impulse buying in overdrive? These extra expenses can quickly add up – and add to your overall stress levels
  • You’re avoiding looking at your account statements.
    When your emotional bandwidth is stretched, it’s natural to avoid other sources of stress, like money. However, avoiding the facts can add to your overall stress levels. Knowing where you are financially can help give you a sense of control you might not be feeling elsewhere.
  • You’re making decisions without considering your budget or plan.
    Making financial decisions – whether big or small – without consulting your budget isn’t a good idea. By doing so, you may prolong your savings goals. Spending your money mindfully, and sticking to a budget, can help reduce your financial stress.
  • You’re putting off paying your bills.
    Whether it’s from job loss or indifference, putting off paying your bills will likely only make you feel worse. Debt can accumulate interest quickly. So, skipping even a few months can cost you. It’s best to treat your bills like a routine and stay on top of them as they come in.
  • You’re missing out on opportunities.
    Maybe the lockdowns and working from home means you to save more than you expected. But, if you’re overwhelmed, you may be putting off deciding what to do with your extra savings. As a result, you’re likely missing out on saving opportunities.

Are your finances stressing you out?

A Sun life advisor can help.

How can you get back on track financially?

If burnout is affecting your finances, you don’t have to deal with it on your own. Just like you’d see a doctor if you’re sick, an advisor can help when your finances get off track.

While it’s another item on your to-do list, talking with an advisor isn’t onerous. It can be as simple as making time for an annual review. One hour is really all you need. This review can help you make sure you’re:

  • on the right track and
  • not getting sidetracked from your long-term goals.  

If you don’t have an advisor, you can find a Sun Life advisor. And then take a minute to see how you can prepare for your first meeting.

How can you assess your risk of burnout?

Burnout is often linked to a few professions – like health-care providers, entrepreneurs and lawyers. But it can affect anyone, explains Dr. Ahmed. “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. Things like a personal crisis, money, life event can add to your stress. This therefore adds to your risk of burnout – she explains. Even positive life events, like having a baby, can temporarily up your risk

How to handle stress and prevent burnout

Unfortunately, most people facing burnout can’t just quit their jobs. But, if you’re dealing with burnout or just starting to feel its effects, you don’t have to be stuck in the cycle of stress. You can take small steps, even while you’re just trying to get through the day.

Here are 5 ways to help deal with burnout:

1. Lighten your demanding workload or ask for flexible hours

Look for tasks you could delegate or deprioritize to streamline your workload. Ask your boss about shuffling your responsibilities. This could help your work feel fresh and exciting again.

Or, talk to your manager about having flexible work hours. This can help you set aside time to take care of your family. That way, you can avoid or reduce the amount of interruptions you may get during your working hours. While it may be tough to talk to your boss about your mental health, having the conversation can help.

2. Manage your work-life balance, so you truly have a break

Do whatever you need to improve your work-life balance. Consider setting 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 healthy meal preps to get you started. Or, download a meditation app that can coach you for 5 to 10 minutes a day. Get in a few minutes of exercise at homepractise self care, or try a brisk walk outside if you can.

4. Reach out to your loved ones

Support from your friends, family and colleagues can help ease your stress, says Dr. Ahmed. You may have periods of not being able to see your family, friends or co-workers in person. But you can still stay connected by phone, email or video chat

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 employee benefits to access e-counselling and virtual care services. For example, your benefits may come with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that offers free e-therapy sessions for you and your family

Are you struggling with burnout?

Find a mental health professional for virtual and in-person appointments on Lumino Health

1Financial Planning Standards Council, “OMNI REPORT: Financial Stress,” 2018.

2Canadian Payroll Association, “CPA NPW 2018 Employee Research Survey, Profile,” prepared by Framework Partners Inc. (2018), p.6.

This article is meant to provide general information only. It’s not professional medical advice, or a substitute for that advice.  

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