The past two years have been extremely stressful, and anything but normal. The constant back and forth of lockdowns to restrictions being lifted, sense of optimism to new variants being discovered, and downward spiral of the economy has shown us that life nowadays is anything but predictable. For a lot of us, it may seem like the only thread of consistency we have, and can safely identify with, is our jobs.

But this proposes a whole new pitfall, one that we may not even see ourselves barrelling down until it’s too late: overexertion and burnout. According to the American Psychological Association, “burnout is at an all-time high across professions.” Seventy nine percent of employees experienced work-related stress in the month prior to their conducted survey, sixty percent reported lack of interest, motivation or energy at work, thirty two percent reported emotional exhaustion, and forty four percent reported physical fatigue. 

A statistic that has risen thirty eight percent since 2019. 

But what exactly is “burnout” and how can one identify it? The World Health Organization defines burnout as “a condition that is the result of chronic stress in the workplace that hasn’t been successfully managed.” And though burnout can be categorized as a form of stress, it's important to recognize the difference between the two. Bryan Robinson, a psychotherapist, professor and author, states that “You can recover from stress with certain management techniques, but burnout is a totally different animal resulting from cumulative stress that hasn’t been managed. Once burnout gets its hooks into you, you can’t cure it by taking a long vacation, slowing down, or working fewer hours.” Burnout is recognizable by a permanent state of exhaustion, a negative assessment of one’s accomplishments, skills and efficacies, as well as feelings of resentment for others we work closely with or for. One may also notice symptoms of brain fog, inability to concentrate, and procrastination. 

So what’s the solution for burnout, and how can we avoid it altogether?

  1. 1. If WFH, create boundaries that keep your work life from spilling into your personal life

Working from home can definitely allow space for your work life and personal life to intermix. Try being adamant with creating structure and boundaries, such as not checking emails or taking work calls on your hours or days off. Allowing yourself that time to separate from work, will give your mind space to recharge and prove to yourself that you can separate the two despite your home also doubling as your work environment. 

  1. 2. Make time for self-care

Our busy work schedules may not always allow us the time to indulge in self-care as we would like, but try to commit yourself to designating days or specific times throughout the day when you can. Whether that’s committing every Saturday to going out for drinks, getting your nails and hair done, or committing every Tuesday at 6pm to going out to eat; designating a specific time for those self care activities will make it a consistent, recurring part of your week which gives you something to look forward to and can let off a lot of steam. 

  1. 3. Create balance

Zoom calls, to work emails, to constantly staring at a screen can leave us wanting to retreat into a cocoon. Our means of constant communications are definitely helpful, but can also leave you just wanting some silence and alone time. If you notice that your mornings are filled with conferences and taking in other people’s energies, make some space in the afternoon or evening for quiet time. You can do this by cozying up on the couch and reading a book, or making a warm bath with a glass of wine. 

  1. 4. Take "micro-breaks"

Working straight throughout the day can definitely represent your dedication but can also be a bit unhealthy. Try scheduling ten minute breaks throughout the day to keep yourself calm and grounded. Getting up from your desk, looking out the window, getting a snack, or taking a short walk can be a great way to break up the monotony of your work day, and allow yourself a quick rest.

  1. 5. Try a small change of perspective

Sometimes a small change of outlook can make all the difference. It’s important to remember that although the world may be looking a little different right now, things will not always be the same. Take this time to ask yourself how you can capitalize on the opportunities in front of you, identify the negatives that you can turn into positives, and remember to be grateful for the little things.

  1. 6. Seek professional help if needed

When dealing with any issue, one of the best things that can help is not feeling like we’re in it alone. Seek professional help if you feel like you need an extra hand, or point of guidance to further provide you with the right tools for addressing or alleviating burnout.