Brain Snacks: Burnout

Brain Snacks: Burnout

Did you know that after four decades, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) has officially considered burnout a stress disorder?

First observed on first responders and health care workers, “burnout” is also known as compassion fatigue. Sometimes, these workers see too much of the unfortunate sides of life and, as a result, they “care too much” (Chambers and Kirsch, 2021). However, for workers not related to the medical field, burnout can be a result of various things, such as long and gruesome hours of work, work-life imbalance, insufficient pay, and lack of social support. (Chambers and Kirsch, 2021; Mayo Clinic, 2021). 

Do you ever have moments when you feel overwhelmed by the huge amount of tasks you have to do, and you find yourself avoiding your tasks at all costs? This may be a symptom of burnout! Burnout  is the term we use when we feel extraordinarily exhausted, demotivated, and unable to cope with the stressors that we are currently facing (Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, 2018). More often than not, we feel extremely pressured to do something, but we cannot find the energy to do or even start our tasks, no matter how small or big they are. These are some signs of adult burnout that you can check to see if you are experiencing burnout:

  • Exhaustion: You find yourself constantly feeling tired, whether physically (e.g. stomach pains, body aches) or emotionally (e.g. too tired to interact with others, feeling sad).
  • Detachment: You start to see your work as something that is continuously becoming stressful and unrewarding. This may also extend to our co-workers wherein we sometimes start to feel dejected and alienated from them. 
  • Poor Performance: You may experience difficulty in concentrating and starting to do your tasks. Sometimes, even our creativity and willingness to do tasks is affected.

Children are not exempt from burnout. In fact, many children who experience burnout, whether at home or at school, often go unnoticed, which is concerning because burnout can lead to depression and demotivation (Wright, 2019). It also goes without saying that burnout in children is more difficult to detect than in adults (Wright, 2019).

These are some signs of burnout that parents, educators and caregivers can lookout for:

  • Procrastination: Your child may complain and delay doing what you instructed them to do even after several reminders.
  • Apathy: Your child may suddenly become unenthusiastic about their activities. This change may be the most noticeable when your child suddenly seems unmotivated and uncaring.
  • Avoiding situations: This manifests when your child changes their behavior from being happy and excited about a certain activity or task to giving excuses for them not to do it. 
  • Anxiety or fear: This may be the hardest to see especially when our children want to hide it from us. Sometimes, they do not even understand that they are feeling afraid or anxious, this is why it is important to always make observations on our children. 
  • Trouble concentrating: Your child can only focus for about 10 minutes before becoming distracted. 
  • Irritability: Your child seems to be easily annoyed or upset by little things that weren’t a big deal in the past.

Burnout Prevention

How do we know when we are experiencing burnout? More often that not, we are already experiencing burnout even before we recognize it. Here is a list of things that we can do to lessen the effects of burnout (Smith et al., 2021; Mayo Clinic, 2020): 

  • Ask for help: We intentionally put this on the top of our list because, usually, we cannot deal with burnout alone. Seek for help from your friends or family members or whomever you are comfortable sharing your problems with.
  • Try recreational activities: Stress’s greatest enemy  is an enjoyable “me” time. Try doing things that you love to do such as your hobbies or spending time with your loved ones to ease the pressure and effects of stress.
  • Seek for options: Perhaps the reason why we are under so much stress and pressure is that we are only looking at one path. Sometimes, talking to your co-workers or even your team leader may help in giving you additional perspectives on dealing with your tasks.
  • Reevaluate your priorities: Sometimes, we just have a lot on our plate, and the only thing we can do is to “let it go” like Elsa would. Review your tasks and responsibilities and see which ones you are willing to let go.

To prevent burnout in children, here are some ways that we can do to bring our children’s spirits back up again (Wright, 2019):

  • Talk about work: Talking about each other’s tasks can be comforting to children, especially when you both are experiencing physical effects of burnout. For children, their work might be schoolwork, so talking it out gives both of you some perspective on your current experiences with work.
  • Daily routines: This works specially for younger children as routines are a child’s comfort zone. When they are doing things that they are familiar with, their mood and attitude towards the tasks can improve.
  • Encourage more breaks: If you can sense your child becoming restless and tired during their study or playing sessions, try to increase the amount of breaks that they have to take in between tasks. You can shorten the amount of time they work too, this way restlessness may be prevented. 
  • Lessen expectations: As parents, it might be a challenge to  
  • Recreation and Scheduling: Review your schedule and make sure that everything is not loaded with tasks. Make sure that you have enough time to bond and do activities together, even for just a short while. As we always say, quality is better than quantity.

References

Chambers, Emily, and Daniel L. Kirsch. “Burnout is Now an Official Medical Condition.” The American Institute of Stress, 7 May 2021, https://www.stress.org/burnout-is-now-an-official-medical-condition.

Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. Depression: What is burnout? 2018.

Mayo Clinic. “Job burnout: How to spot it and take action.” Mayo Clinic, 5 June 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/burnout/art-20046642.

Mayo Clinic. “Job burnout: How to spot it and take action.” Mayo Clinic, 2020, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/burnout/art-20046642.

Smith, Melinda, et al. “Burnout Prevention and Treatment.” HelpGuide.org, 2021, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm.

Wright, Lexi. “8 Tips to Keep Your Child From Burning Out.” Understood, 2019, https://www.understood.org/articles/en/8-tips-to-keep-your-child-from-burning-out?_sp=595636ea-d8d8-4b90-9586-9fecdc283590.1643746498005.

Wright, Lexi Walters. “Burnout in School.” Understood.org, https://www.understood.org/articles/en/burning-out-in-school-what-it-means-and-how-to-help.

Wright, Lexi Walters. “Signs of Burnout in Children.” Understood.org, 2019, https://www.understood.org/articles/en/7-signs-of-burnout-in-kids.