Updated: Aug 23
In this day and age, outside stressors are becoming more and more prevalent. Beyond the toll of the last two years, we are constantly managing a barrage of external influences.
For many of us, these include an absence of work-life balance, unrealistic expectations fuelled by social media and an ever-increasing cost of living. In Calgary, where our therapy and specialized services such as forensic assessments are based, many people have been working under constantly changing circumstances that can be hard to navigate.
Considered an occupational phenomenon by the World Health Organization, burnout results from chronic workplace stress. While not considered an official medical diagnosis, it is a very real problem facing workers in Calgary, and around the world.
Statistics published by Globe and Mail in November 2021 indicate that an estimated 84% of Canadian workers experienced burnout during the pandemic. Prior to that in 2019, Canadian HR Reporter published the results of a survey stating that 46% of Canadians reportedly felt the effects of burnout, still a significant portion of the working population in Canada.
Distinguishing between stress and burnout
One glaring difference between stress and burnout is that people who feel stressed can often pinpoint the circumstance weighing on them. For example, a major project, looming deadline or negative interaction can cause stress.
When experiencing burnout, it’s very hard to detect due to its slow and creeping nature. It takes more than a few tough days or moments of pressure to reach burnout. It is characterised by a hopelessness with no easy fix.
So, what can be done about this mental health crisis? Calgary therapists believe it’s important to recognize the signs of burnout and to act quickly when faced with severe workplace stress. When preventive measures are no longer an option, knowing how to recover from burnout is vital.
Recognizing burnout: 5 signs it’s time to reevaluate your stress level
As a Calgary psychologist, I understand that when life and other stressors get the best of you, your risk of developing burnout increases. Here are five of the top signs to watch for:
Fatigue or exhaustion
Insomnia or other sleep issues
Cynicism or a negative attitude toward work or life in general
Additionally, you may find yourself struggling to manage your schedule, feeling irritable and losing interest in sex. Feelings of dread may overcome you as you think about work, even when you’re engaging in social outings with friends or relaxing during downtime. When burnout hits, you’ll likely feel as though everything, from work to at-home responsibilities, is piling up with no clear way out.
How to recover from burnout: 5 strategies for getting your mental health back on track
While burnout can be hard to overcome, it’s far from impossible. If you feel the effects of burnout taking hold, the coping strategies below can set you on the right path and help you feel in control of your life again.
1. Find support
Talking to a therapist is one of the best ways you can explore the causes of your burnout. A professional Calgary stress psychologist, such as myself, can help you co-create strategies for overcoming stress and preventing future burnout episodes that work with your unique lifestyle. If you’re not able to talk with a therapist, seeking support from friends, family, or coworkers can be helpful, too. In times of crisis, contact the Alberta crisis text line by texting CONNECT to 741741, or call 1-877-303-2642 for the Alberta Mental Health Helpline.
2. Consider other work options
If you’re facing burnout, speak to your employer about reducing your workload. An honest conversation about what you can reasonably handle and what your employer expects might help you come to a fair compromise that leads to a better situation for both sides.
Without the effects of burnout, you’ll be a more productive worker and have higher job satisfaction. If your employer isn’t able to make accommodations to preserve your mental health, it might be time to consider looking for work elsewhere.
3. Engage in physical activity
Exercise may be the furthest thing from your mind when you’re overwhelmed with stress, but regularly engaging in physical activity can help you reduce stress levels, take your mind off work and let out pent-up aggression. A walk through one of Calgary’s many parks could be just the thing to rest your weary mind.
4. Practice mindfulness
While challenging, mindfulness can be highly effective in battling burnout. It’s the practice of focusing on your thoughts and feelings in the moment they occur. By heightening your awareness of the things you’re feeling, you can better combat and cope with negative feelings- particularly those that impact your stress levels.
Cultivating awareness is something that becomes easier with regular practice. It incorporates focusing on your thoughts, your breath flow and other vital signs that change when you’re under stress. At work, you can achieve a higher level of mindfulness by approaching assignments and interactions with openness and patience, reserving judgement, and maintaining reasonable expectations of yourself and others.
It goes without saying: relaxation is the key to reducing stress. Unfortunately, if you’re like many other working Calgarians, finding time for relaxing activities can be a challenge. Many of us feel guilt when we schedule time for ourselves which is a damaging mindset. My advice is to actively focus on retraining your brain to put your mental health before the needs of others, and more importantly, before work.
Amid so many challenges, make your mental health a priority. If you’re experiencing the effects of burnout or severe stress, reach out for support. I, a Calgary counsellor that understands stress psychology and recovery from burnout, can help you find the techniques that will help you move forward. For more information on burnout recovery from a qualified therapist in Calgary, contact me at Renew Psychology.
Burn-out an "Occupational phenomenon": International Classification of Diseases. Retrieved February 1, 2022, from https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases
Deschamps, T. (2021, November 30). 84% of Canadian workers experienced burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic, survey finds. Retrieved February 1, 2022, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-84-of-canadian-workers-experienced-burnout-during-the-covid-19/
Wilson, J. (2019, December 12). 4 in 10 employees suffering from burnout: Report. Retrieved February 1, 2022, from https://www.hrreporter.com/focus-areas/culture-and-engagement/4-in-10-employees-suffering-from-burnout-report/324054