MIND MATTERS: How burnout affects employees, and how to combat it

The mental and physical work we do on the job each day requires recovery time.
Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 6:40 PM CDT
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The mental and physical work we do on the job each day requires recovery time. If we don’t create that recovery time, we can easily start a snowball effect and reach that burnout stage much faster. However, detaching from work can be difficult for some.

According to a study done by Northwestern National Life, one-fourth of employees view their job as the number on stressor in their lives. In a day and age where multitasking has become the norm, boundaries are being tested, and individuals who work in demanding professions can find it difficult to detach from work and prioritize their own wellbeing.

Dr. Antwan Butler, LCSW, BACS says owning your boundaries is important.

“Sometimes, I think that is why we can get burnt out, because those boundaries are so loose. So for one, I think understanding your boundaries is important and prioritizing your boundaries, and verbalizing your boundaries to people who may violate those boundaries, right? And maybe that is an employer or maybe that is someone in a relationship who may not prioritize your time, or your need for your own self care,” said Dr. Butler.

According to the CDC, burnout can be experienced mentally, emotionally, behaviorally, and physically; it develops over prolonged periods of time of high levels of work demands. It can be long-lasting and can seriously disrupt a worker’s ability to respond to normal life in and outside of work. Symptoms include irritability with yourself and others, frustration, as well as physical symptoms.

“People can even become ill. We call that psychosomatic symptoms, where your body is starting to respond to emotional stress and pressure. You start getting kind of short with friends and family, anger, all those types of things. There are a bunch of symptoms that we see with people who may be experiencing burnout: just overall dissatisfaction with life, not really wanting to get up and go to work in the morning, insomnia, all those types of things,” Dr. Butler said.

Dr. Butler also says ensuring boundaries are in place at work and voicing those to your place of employment is key to maintaining a healthy balance between work and life.

“Everybody has the right to have their own morals, values, and ethics, and to be able to draw a line around those things, and so I think when people violate those boundaries, then we have a responsibility to negotiate those relationships that then signifies to me, what type of relationship that I probably should have with you,” Dr. Butler said.

Learning to say no, eating a healthy diet, seeking support, and practicing self care are all ways to try to combat workplace burnout. An acronym to help you remember to be mindful of your plan is SEEDS.

“The S is for spirituality. We are all spiritual. It simply means that there is something outside of myself that is greater than me that I depend on. Right? So that may mean getting involved with yoga or meditation, the different types of things like that. The second is E, is like my effort, like having a daily schedule and routine. Our minds are geared to be more effective when we have things in order, so planning my care on a daily basis is important. The second E is exercise, not just for losing weight, that’s great, but when we exercise, we release all types of healthy chemicals that are healthy for our care, like dopamine and those types of things, so the more we exercise, the better we feel. The D is for diet. Of course, when we eat better, we feel better. The S is sleep,” Dr. Butler explained.

Dr. Butler says it’s easy to become addicted to your work, which can easily lead to burnout, so watch out for signs of self doubt, feelings of being trapped, loss of motivation, and decreased satisfaction at and outside of work.