Burnout seems to be a hot topic in recent years, but what really is it and how can we hopefully improve our individual experiences?
According to the ICD-11 burnout is defined as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” (World Health Organization, 2019). The ICD-11 also characterizes it with the following three dimensions:
Stress, sometimes confused with burnout, is also due to external factors in our lives. The biggest difference, though, is that normal day to day life stress generally has an ending point, whereas burnout is born out of chronic stress that does not cease. We all experience stress at some point and some stress can even be healthy in that it may motivate us. Burnout on the other hand is not something we all experience and it is often seen in helping professions (though not limited to this). The ICD-11, though, does specify that burnout only refers to “phenomena in the occupational context” and not any other context.
If this is resonating with you, it might be time to look at what might be helpful for you in regard to self-care. Some might argue that talking about self-care in regard to burnout places the blame on the individual experiencing burnout, rather than the larger systemic work-place, which I agree with in many ways, but I always come back to the question: What is in my control right now? This is not to say that the larger systemic issues do not matter, but, while we all hopefully advocate for systemic changes, how can you help yourself today? Personally (and though I know it is not a “fix”), self-care behaviors that help me the most are taking time off and reaching out for support from colleagues. It took me over two years of working at PCS to take one entire week off, which was likely a part of what led to the burnout I am experiencing now. Learning how to rest during my time off has been (and still is) a challenge for me as well. When I would take time off, I would fill all the time with activities, friends or family. As my burnout has increased over time, I am seeing now how valuable true rest is to my mental health and my work as a whole.
My biggest hope is that we can all come together to support each other when burnout begins. I know for me, before I started talking about it, I was feeling isolated and would beat myself up thinking that it was just me. I know now that it is not just me and reaching out continues helps immensely.
World Health Organization (2019). International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (11th ed.). https://icd.who.int/
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