Recognizing burnout: moving from burnout to balance

Is every day overwhelming? Do you face a constant stream of things to get done and get through? Zoom meetings to attend, kids to get to soccer, household chores, work assignments, family responsibilities, and on and on. Do you feel like there is no space for you? You are not alone.

Does your life feel like the movie “Groundhog Day?”

prolonged stress can lead to burnoutNow, more than ever, increasing numbers of people just like you are feeling like they are at the end of their rope. The COVID-19 pandemic has left more and more of us with a feeling of constant stress leaving us with a sense of exhaustion, hopelessness, and anxiety. Prolonged stress, including intense demands at work and at home, can lead to burnout.

The bad news is that feeling like you are chronically exhausted is a serious situation that should be addressed right away. The good news is that burnout is reversible. You can restore balance to your life.

What is burnout?

According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. They suggest that “burnout” is not a medical diagnosis, but it can affect your physical and mental health, so it should be addressed right away.

Seven signs of burnout that you should watch out for

There are many signs of burnout. Warning indicators that  you should watch out for especially include:

  1. Get work-life balance and reduce the risk for burnout.

    Finding work-life balance can improve your relationships and reduce the risk for burnout.

    Feeling a sense of being overwhelmed.

  2. Thinking that every day is a bad day.
  3. Difficulty concentrating.
  4. Sensing that your life tasks are mind-numbing.
  5. Low mood
  6. Frequently feeling fatigued or chronic fatigue.
  7. Noticing that your response to events is disproportionate to the event (over or under-reaction).

The mind and stress: how does burnout happen?

Each year, the American Psychological Association (APA) surveys people across the United States about stress: its sources; its intensity; and how people are responding to stressors, both mentally and physically. Since 2007, when the Stress in AmericaTM survey was first conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of APA, we have seen various external factors impacting stress levels, from economic downturns to the impact of racism to political conflict.

Their 2020 survey was different. It revealed that we have been profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and that the external factors listed in previous years as significant sources of stress remain present and problematic. These compounding stressors are having real consequences on our minds and bodies.

Here’s what we know about stress/trauma and the mind. Catherine Briere and John Scott (2014), Peggy Pace (2003), Byron Katie (2021), Laura Williamson (2020), and John Bremner (2006), and many others write that:

  • People process information differently and that cognitive processing is affected by stress;
  • People seek to make sense of the world by building coherent mental representations, which is negatively impacted by stress
  • Stress creates a lack of connectivity between isolated neural networks, which affects cognitive processing, impacting individual thinking and behavior.

These issues have become increasingly important given the global COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on society as well as individuals. That’s you and me!

from burnout to work-life balanceMoving from burnout to balance

What do we do is the next question? Below are a few tried and true suggestions that include reducing your stress intake, connecting with a friend, and creating a daily self-care routine.

Reduce your stress intake

Start by noticing a few things that can add to your stress and try to reduce their quantity. Some people notice that they watch too much news, some are overly scheduled, and some do not set time aside to unwind. Just for today, notice how much time you are on your device watching or scrolling news, and cut back 30-minutes. Also, just for today, unplug and go outside. Have a social distance moment in the park and look up at the clouds. What shapes do you see? Turn on some music and dance!

Connect with a friend

Call a friend today. A genuine connection with another person is critical to overall wellbeing. Having a personal conversation about what is important to you with someone and feeling listened to and understood can aid your sense of mental health. It is also important to take the time to listen to someone else and make an effort to really understand them. That feeling of connectedness can alleviate stress and support you to feel at home, no matter where you are.

Create a daily self-care routine

Look at your current daily schedule. Create a block in the morning, afternoon, and evening just for you. Start small! For your morning routine, find a daily reader of inspirational poems, prayers, or topics of interest to you, and read one page every morning. Then meditate for 5-minutes and journal for 5-minutes. Start developing that self-care muscle. Write whatever comes to mind. There is no “wrong” way to start. For your afternoon, try a 10-minute stretch. Get up from your computer, if you are working, and put your arms in the air, twist your body, stretch your legs and breathe. For your evening self-care, take a walk. Look around, look up, and look for butterflies! They are everywhere!

For more suggestions or additional support, reach out anytime! We are here for you!

Dr. Laura Williamson
2025 112th Ave NE #201, Bellevue, WA 98004
Office:  425-462-8558, Fax:  425-462-8556, Cell: 360-592-3229
Wiliamson@eastsidetherapists.com
www.eastsidecenterforfamily.comwww.drlaurawilliamson.comwww.linkedin.com/in/drlaurawilliamson

References

Bremner, J. D. (2006). Traumatic stress: effects on the brain. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 8(4), 445–461.

Briere, J. N., & Scott, C. (2014). Principles of trauma therapy: A guide to symptoms, evaluation, and treatment (2nd ed.). SAGE Publications.

Pace, P. (2003). Lifespan Integration Connecting Ego States Through Time. US: Eirene Imprint.

Williamson, L. (2020). Self-help books don’t work: But this one will. Balboa Press (Division of Hay House): Bloomington, Indiana.

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