The Other Pandemic We’re Dealing With
COVID-19 is still at the center of our lives. Does there ever go a day when you don’t think about or are at least made aware of the ongoing pandemic? It’s interesting however, that there is a less high-profile, more subtle, pandemic that is just as common plaguing not only our country, but the entire world. What is it? Chances are you’ve heard it before; we’re talking about burnout.
Burnout is a word that is commonly thrown around in our media, pop culture, and day to day conversation. However, it’s become so serious that it does actually have an official definition. The World Health Organization (see, told you it was global) defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativity or cynicism related to one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.
Does this sound familiar? Does this sound like you? Or maybe a loved one? Whoever it is, they’re likely experiencing a multitude of unpleasant symptoms. It’s not just in their head, it’s not just laziness or a lack of discipline, it’s a real problem.
So, since October is geared towards shedding light on all things mental health-after all, it is the National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month-(and more importantly, the awareness and action required to deal with it), I want to talk about burnout.
A topic that is common knowledge, but is still not getting the attention it deserves.
The Most...Depressing Time of Year?
I know what people say about the Holidays. The most wonderful time of the year. A time meant to celebrate blessings, family, friends, new beginnings, and all the good things life has to offer. However, I think it’s only fair to address the darker side of our Holiday cheer.
Here’s the ugly truth (according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness); “64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse.”
I don’t know about you, but that scares me. Isn’t this supposed to be the season of cheer? Loneliness, excessive pressure, financial strain, nostalgia, and an array of other factors can make existing mental illness worse. This means that people that are already struggling (whether they know it or not) could very well face an even tougher time now.
The Good News
Okay, it’s not all doom and gloom. I just needed to be really clear on the fact that IT’S A PROBLEM. But burnout is not a terminal diagnosis. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. it is preventable, and it is fixable. In fact, I stumbled on a great TedTalk the other day titled The Cure For Burnout (Hint: It Isn’t Self Care) that offers a lot of wonderful insights – seriously, I highly recommend you watch it-not the least of which is this; “The cure for burnout is not self-care. It is all of us caring for each other. We can’t do it alone. We need each other.” Do you know what that implicates?
It’s not just up to you to cure your burnout.
Playing Our Part
You know I always preach whole-person health. The body doesn’t compartmentalize, so why should you?
While many -if not most- signs of burnout are primarily mental, there are some physical signs. Everyone is different, and some may experience more mental signs than physical ones, while others will experience the opposite. The point is, pay attention to your body and mind. There are some physical signs of burnout such as;
- Muscle aches
- Change in appetite
- Change in sleep habits
- Getting sick often
This is by no means an exclusive list. The body talks to you, but not everyone’s speaks the same language. The moral of the story is that if there are any big changes in your usual habits, you might want to pay attention.
Either way, this is what we do. Day in and day out our work requires you to follow your homework and requires us to pay attention to what you do outside of our four walls. With this has come a lot of talk about burnout. Many of our patients come to us and describe their crazy, hectic, incredibly stressful lifestyles, and then present with signs of chronic stress.
This article describes the various stages of burnout. You can see stage 5 is quite a dire place to be, and a hard place to turn back from. Our mission is to keep you from getting to stage 5.
This is why we investigate every back pain complaint, every comment about neck stiffness, and every passing joke about being tired all of the time. We are healthcare professionals who believe in whole-person wellness, and the fact is that burnout is intricately tied to both your physical and mental wellness. Our job is catching it early. The earlier we catch it, the faster you can feel better, and the easier it will be.
We conduct comprehensive wellness examinations and questionnaires on our patients in order to make sure we get an accurate picture of their needs, strengths, and problem areas. In other words, do yourself a favor; don’t wait until you officially meet the criteria for being burned out.
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