Did you know that the concept of “burnout” was created specifically for caregivers? Today it’s used in all industries and in work and personal life, but the origin of the word was designated to nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers in the 1970’s. Burnout occurs when one experiences consistently high levels of stress or emotional exhaustion for a prolonged period of time. And while caregiver burnout is not a new concept, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and impacted how it has affected caregivers on a new level. With Mental Health Month in mind, we thought it would be timely to address caregiver burnout to keep an eye on ourselves and those around us.

So what’s the first step of responding to burnout? Recognizing the signs and symptoms, FIVE of which we’ve listed below!

Signs and Symptoms of Burnout:

1. Exhaustion 

Perhaps the most overt symptom of burnout is the exhaustion associated with it. But what’s the difference between being tired and being burned-out tired? While we all experience exhaustion after a long day’s work, burnout fatigue leads to a consistent inability to perform everyday tasks—either during or after work. If things that once felt seamless in your routine are feeling like obstacles, you might be experiencing some degree of burnout.

2. It’s Hard to Relax

Relaxation seems like an obvious response to exhaustion, right? Well, sometimes it’s not that simple. When we’re truly burned-out, it can take longer to attain a state of relaxation, which in turn discounts the benefits of chill-time. Think of it as putting a band-aid on a cut without cleaning and tending to it first. It might give some temporary relief, but it doesn’t take care of the source. Finding the cause of burnout will make unwinding ultimately more rewarding.

3. Irritability 

Have impatience and irritation become the new norm for you? While it’s completely natural not to feel happy-go-lucky all the time, it’s important to notice if there’s a significant and prolonged change in your mood. When our energy levels are depleted, it can be harder to see the good in situations. Try paying attention if the glass routinely feels half-empty rather than half-full.

4. Forgetfulness 

When we’re burned out our brains experience high Cortisol levels that renders it in a state of overload. If this state becomes the norm, it limits our ability to process and internalize new information. In other words, your short-term memory can take a hit!

5. Hygiene 

Occasionally, neglecting a shower or brush is completely normal! But like the other signs of burnout, finding it consistently difficult to take care of yourself may represent a more visible sign of burnout. If you’re feeling like you’re neglecting your hygienic needs lately, pay attention to when that shows up for you, the thoughts and feelings associated with it, and if burnout could be the culprit!

It can be hard to notice when you’re amid burnout, especially when you have the daily task of caring for others. So, if you are a leader or manager in your workplace, you might be uniquely positioned to spot these symptoms from the onset! There are small ways to support employees who might exhibit these signs such as regular check-ins, giving extra breaks, modifying work schedules, tokens of gratitude, or simply recognizing them for their work (here at Ceca Foundation, we know a thing or two about that 😊)