In 2019 'burnout' was recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an 'occupational phenomenon'. And the world has changed a lot in the few years that have passed since then.
Lockdowns and an increase in working from home, or hybrid working, have led to the lines between work and home life becoming ever more blurred and the social interaction that comes with working with colleagues in person has decreased. And, with strikes, long waiting lists and a record number of vacancies in healthcare, it's a difficult time for employees in the industry.
So what are the symptoms of burnout and what can be done about it?
According to Mental Health UK, which has done a lot of research into the issue, common signs of burnout include:
- Feeling tired or drained most of the time
- Feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated
- Feeling detached/alone in the world
- Having a cynical/negative outlook
- Self doubt
- Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done
- Feeling overwhelmed
Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion which can occur when you experience long-term stress in your job, or you have worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time.
Why does burnout matter?
Burnout doesn't go away on its own and in fact it can get worse if the issues that have caused it aren't addressed and harm your physical and mental health.
What causes burnout and what can we do about it?
Mental Health UK suggests nine factors which can significantly contribute towards burnout.
- Money worries. 81% of people said money was a contributing factor. If it's affecting you, suggestions include planning your budget, getting debt advice (for example from the National Debt Line) and looking into welfare benefits that you might be entitled to. Your local Citizen's Advice can be a good place to start.
- Working from home. Nearly half of the people surveyed thought working from home could contribute to burnout. If you're finding it a challenge, try structuring your day and setting up a dedicated workstation. Make sure you plan in start and end times, and times for lunch and a break.
- Job security. With 2023 looking set to be another challenging year, if you're worried about job security then talk to your employer for reassurance if you have one or search for a new job using resources including the UKHealth.Jobs app and speaking to the National Careers Service.
- Isolation. 77% agreed that feeling isolated could contribute to burnout. If you feel isolated, try and speak to friends and family about how you'e feeling or you could reach out to a support line such as the Samaritans or an online forum such as Clic.
- Physical health. 79% felt that poor physical health could contribute to burnout. You could improve your physical health by eating healthy foods and a balanced diet, the NHS website can give you more advice on this. Keep physically active, drink more water and avoid or cut down on alcohol and smoking.
- Sleep. Poor sleep can contribute to burnout. You can try to improve sleep by having a set routine and finding activities that can help you relax such as yoga and medication. If you are having problems sleeping, speak to your GP.
- Relationships. 74% felt that problems with relationships could contribute to burnout. Your relationship with yourself is as important as your relationship with others so spend time on self care which could include resting, exercising or speaking to others. To maintain a healthy relationship with your partner, give them time, be present for each other, listen to each other and share thoughts and feelings.
- Children. During the pandemic, homeschooling children was an added pressure for families. In this kind of situation it's important to take each day at a time and set a routine.
- Caring for others. Caring responsibilities, such as looking after elderly parents, can contribute to burn out. Make sure you have time to yourself and you have a support network for difficult days.
If you feel like you need mental health support, you can call Rethink Mental Illness in England on 0121 522 7007, Adferiad Recovery in Wales on 01792 816600, Support in Mind Scotland on 0131 662 4359 or Mind Wise in Northern Ireland on 028 9040 2323.