Burnout: Maintaining a Healthy Work Life Amidst Pandemic-Level Stress

Written by: Bailey Little, M.Ed.
Burnout: Maintaining a Healthy Work Life Amidst Pandemic-Level Stress

One result of the ongoing pandemic is an increase in the number of workers reporting burnout. It’s not just the frontline doctors and nurses who are reporting increased levels of burnout at work; it’s teachers, school counselors, restaurant workers, businesspeople, parents, and most other workers who are feeling the rise in stress and exhaustion levels.

Research on burnout shows that it is made up of three components:

1. A combination of overwhelming mental, emotional, and/or physical exhaustion

2. Feelings of cynicism and detachment from your job

3. A sense of ineffectiveness or lack of accomplishment at work

Burnout affects workers physically, resulting in changes in eating and sleeping habits, headaches, muscle tension, and stomachaches. It also affects workers mentally and emotionally, resulting in difficulty concentrating, lower levels of motivation, reduced productivity, and increased feelings of sadness, anxiety, or frustration.

Here are a few quick questions to use to check-in with yourself about your level of burnout:

1. Do you find yourself feeling more cynical or critical at work?

2. Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?

3. Have you noticed unexplained physical complaints like headaches and nausea?

4. Do you struggle to find satisfaction in your achievements at work?

Oftentimes when we notice burnout in ourselves, we feel the need to take drastic action. We decide to take a month off work. We decide to leave our jobs entirely and find a new one. While these things may sometimes be necessary and beneficial, most of the time we jump straight to the big changes and neglect trying any small ones first. Consider taking some of these steps when you first notice burnout in yourself:

  • Reinforce work-life boundaries. This may mean taking your work email off your personal phone or moving your work-at-home desk out of your bedroom.
  • Use your lunchtime for self-care. Eat a healthy meal away from your desk, join a coworker for lunch, or go outside for a walk during lunchtime.
  • Invest in relationships. Give and receive support from coworkers, turn on your camera during Zoom meetings to increase interaction, know who to ask for help when needed.

Consistent small changes throughout the workday can have a significant impact on reducing burnout. If you find these things aren’t quite enough, or if you recognize your level of burnout is being exacerbated by mental health issues, seek out the help of a therapist. Being a healthy worker is an essential part of living a healthy, fulfilling life.