Are You in Danger of ‘Burn Out’?

‘Burn Out’ affects approximately 1.8% of the population of the UK (Labour Force Survey, 2018/19) and it is estimated that 15.4 million working days are lost every year due to ‘burn out’ (2017/18 figures). In this age of 24/7 communications, heightened competition, the perceived need to achieve and perform, and downtime becoming more and more of a luxury for some, it’s no wonder that burn out is rapidly becoming the illness of the modern age. With another lockdown in England and many of us working from home, the feeling of the need to always be on call, to not leave the computer screen just in case the boss or your colleagues check that you are in fact working may be adding to this. Many of us may in fact be working harder than ever before, and even though we may be in our own environment at home, we still need to be mindful of the need to have a break from work and to maintain a good work life balance.

Trouble sleeping, seemingly no time to do anything, constantly chasing your tail, forgetting things, eating all the wrong things and at the wrong times, neglecting family and friends, never switching off, always at work or at least ‘on call’, being unusually bad tempered, making mistakes, waking up early and staying up late, feeling ill – headaches, stomach pains. These are all signs that you might be at risk of burning out – a state when at its most severe, you can become so stressed and anxious that you can become incapable of doing anything.

Burn out isn’t just bad for your mental and physical health, it can have all sorts of negative knock-on effects, such as causing relationships to sour, bad performance at work, isolation and depression due to stress. In extreme cases, it can result in the loss of a job, friends and of self-confidence.

It’s important to nip it in the bud.

  • Start by adopting a healthy routine and structure to your day by going to bed at a sensible time;
  • Switch off your phone and logout of your email after a set time each evening;
  • Eat proper meals at the times they are meant to be eaten;
  • Stay clear of alcohol during the week;
  • Take breaks from work – a 5-minute screen break can be all it takes;
  • Take a proper lunch break – even if it is only 20 minutes – and do not eat at your desk;
  • Get some exercise (preferably in the fresh air);
  • On weekday evenings keep at least one hour free as ‘me time’ to read, watch a favourite telly programme, wash your hair, take the dog for a walk, read to your children, eat dinner with your family, chat with a friend – whatever it might be;
  • Have a proper weekend spent doing anything but work – and always include one thing that you really enjoy and not necessarily a weekend full of housework or DIY;
  • Always take your holiday allowance and use it to have a proper break (again phone and email accounts switched off). Whether it’s sitting on a beach or pottering at home, it’s important downtime.

By allowing the brain and the body time to recover and re-charge, you will find that you are more alert, can think more clearly and are able to function more efficiently and effectively both at work and outside of work and that you will be far more use to everyone. Your boss, your work colleagues, your family and friends, your body – and most of all, your mind – will all thank you.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Adrian Winbow explains some of the symptoms of stress and how it can be treated in our series of videos.

We use cookies, just to track visits to our website, we store no personal details. ACCEPT COOKIES What are cookies?