Tiffany Casper, D.O.
Family Medicine, Prenatal Care
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The pace of life today is crazy. Many people juggle multiple responsibilities — work, home life, caregiving and relationships. How many times have you felt like the demands, expectations and time pressure are exhausting and relentless?
Humans aren't programmed to go through life without rest, solitude or downtime. The past 18 months have brought multiple changes or stress-inducing situations, including the COVID-19 pandemic; economic strain; racial unrest; political division; and environmental disasters, such as wildfires and hurricanes.
It's important to beware of symptoms and acknowledge when your responsibilities start to become too much to handle. "Burnout" isn't a medical diagnosis, but generally it is feelings of depleted energy or exhaustion because of continual stress.
The symptoms of stress can include headaches and muscle aches, upset stomach, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, lack of focus, overeating or undereating, angry outbursts, and social withdrawal. No one is superhuman. You need to recognize and respect your limits.
Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.
If you think you may be experiencing burnout, ask yourself these questions:
- Have you become cynical or critical?
- Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
- Have you become irritable or impatient with others?
- Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
- Do you find it hard to concentrate?
- Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
- Do you feel disillusioned about your job or place in life?
- Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
- Have your sleep habits changed?
- Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be experiencing burnout.
Here are five tips for keeping burnout at bay:
1. Ask yourself, "What's important now?"
Practice being present in the moment. If you're driving, pay attention to the road. If you're having dinner with a friend, be engaged and present. Don't play around with your phone. It's not only distracting, it's also disrespectful.
2. Quantify the commitment.
Before you agree to sit on a committee or host a dinner party, recognize that it means giving up time that can't be replaced. Anticipate that the time commitment probably will be longer than your initial estimate. Factor that into decisions about what's worth your time. Be willing to say no.
3. Make yourself unavailable.
It's OK and important to set aside time for yourself. Schedule it on your calendar, and don't let other responsibilities encroach on that time. This may mean saying no to some requests.
4. Seek support.
Whether you reach out to co-workers, friends or loved ones, support and collaboration can help.
5. Practice healthy habits.
Make sure you're getting enough sleep at night, eating healthy meals during the day and exercising regularly to help give you the energy to take on life's myriad of responsibilities.