This is one for the people in the helping professions. Burnout is a term you’ve probably heard frequently, but for those who don’t know: burnout is essentially a point in your career where you end up in a physical and emotional puddle. Sure, not the most clinical definition, but take it from someone who’s been there- that’s exactly what it feels like!
So how does it occur? Many factors can contribute: excessive caseload, lack of support from management, poor work/leisure balance, and many more. Burnout doesn’t suddenly happen, rather it’s more of a downward decline that affects a person physically and emotionally.
So, what are the signs?
Your health is impacted
You seem to catch every single bug that you come into contact with. And they can be harder to shake off than usual. Stress can have a huge impact on our immune system, and it’s often the first indicator that something is a little ‘off’. Of course, it’s worth noting that a visit to your GP should be your first step, and keep them in the loop about your stress levels.
You’re distracted most of the time.
Your partner might be telling you about their day, but you don’t take anything in. You forget to pay for your child’s school camp on time. In social situations, you feel on the periphery: you’re ‘there’ but you’re not really there. Stress impacts our ability to be fully present. You might be thinking constantly about that difficult client, or you might just be mentally ‘checking out’. When we’re not fully present, we miss so many important moments, and are left feeling unfulfilled.
You’re caring less about your clients.
You got into your work because you want to make a difference. You want to help people. But now things are different. People are becoming just numbers in a caseload to you. You feel numb when faced with complex trauma, as opposed to the empathy you once would have felt. As professionals in the helping fields, we do need to tread a very fine line- maintaining empathy whist maintaining a professional distance. When you feel that sense of empathy slipping away over time, it might be burnout creeping up on you.
You’re taking a lot of sick days.
Those bugs that you’re always catching are contributing to this. But you also (often) feel the need for a mental health day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the mental health day, but what I’m referring to here is a lot of time taken off from work.
You’re tired ALL. THE. TIME. You feel like you are just dragging yourself through each day, and you have very little energy. Except at night of course, because that’s when your brain and body just don’t seem to want to rest after all. And repeat. And repeat again.
So now what? If you’re feeling like these things apply to you, it’s time to up the self-care routine, and speak to your supervisor.