Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion resulting from long-term stress. The condition leaves you feeling overwhelmed, emotionally flat and no longer able to cope with the demands of your life. It prevents you from being productive by sapping your energy levels, leaving you feeling hopeless, pessimistic and resentful. In 2019, WHO classified it as an ‘occupational phenomenon’, defining it as ‘a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic stress that has not been successfully managed.’
Burnout stems from an unhealthy work-life balance, being unable to disconnect during leisure time and a lack of boundaries. Not having boundaries gives us leeway to take on workloads and problems that are not ours to deal with. Add in financial worries, long hours without breaks and feeling pressurised by management, and you have the perfect recipe for overload and stress – the key drivers of burnout.
Today’s workforce is shouldering unprecedented demands as employees are expected to do more than ever with fewer resources. In these circumstances, burnout is prevalent, and, unfortunately, it does not resolve itself if ignored. Indeed, doing nothing is likely to cause further damage by causing serious physical and psychological disorders such as depression, heart disease and diabetes. Therefore, it’s vital that you act as soon as you recognise these signs of burnout:
Feeling drained or tired most of the time
Feeling overwhelmed by your work
Self-isolation and withdrawal
Having a constantly negative outlook
Impostor Syndrome or self-doubt
Frequent minor illnesses
Changes in sleeping habits and appetite
Using alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism
There are many things you can do, including:
This improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression and a negative mood while improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Try building a short walk into your daily routine to reap the benefits of exercise without spending hours at the gym.
Eating a balanced diet
Eating well can help prevent burnout by supporting your immune system and boosting your mood. A balanced diet consists of lean protein, dairy, fruit and vegetables and whole grains. Avoid eating too much sugary or processed food; sugar is known to lessen the body’s ability to cope with stress, and multiple studies have linked it to depression.
Develop good sleep habits
Sufficient good quality sleep is essential to our overall wellbeing. Avoid caffeinated drinks too close to bedtime and banish screens from the bedroom. The blue light they emit blocks melatonin, which is needed to make you feel sleepy.
Take up, or resume, a hobby, practise mindfulness, go for a walk or do anything that isn’t work-related.
If you are feeling stressed, make time to talk about your feelings with family and friends and approach your manager to discuss a more manageable workload. Seek advice if things don’t improve. See below for a list of places that may provide help.
H2H is a website that aims to help people find good mental health
and wellbeing information, resources, and links to online
and phone mental health services all in one place. It
supports people seeking help, either for themselves or
someone they care about.
Headspace is the national youth mental health foundation dedicated to
improving the wellbeing of young Australians. Their website
provides information and resources on mental health,
physical health, work, support, study support, and alcohol
and drug services. Support for young people, their family
and friends can be accessed through this website
including finding a local headspace centre, online/phone
counselling service headspace, and the digital work and study service.
This website has up to date information and resources on mental illness,
online self-testing, current treatments and wellbeing. The
institute aims to reduce the incidence of mental illness and
the stigma around it, actively reduce suicide rates, and
empower everyone to live the most mentally healthy lives possible.
If you or someone you know is in distress or immediate danger, call emergency services on 000.
If you feel you cannot use any of these resources you can also:
• Talk to your Centre Manager or someone you trust
• Talk to your university counselling services
• Contact your doctor, counsellor, psychologist, or psychiatrist
• Visit a hospital emergency department