We’ve all been there; That moment of waking up on Monday morning feeling like the weekend wasn’t long enough to recover from the exhaustion of the workweek that just ended.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic saw reports of anxiety and depression jump by a whopping 25 percent worldwide. However, one of the biggest mental health challenges that reared its head during lockdown is burnout and remains a huge problem.
Burnout is a form of burnout caused by a constant feeling of being overwhelmed or drained. It is caused by prolonged emotional, physical, and mental stress that can take a real toll on your mind and body.
One of the first signs of burnout can be feeling disconnected from your work or job, combined with irritability and behaving in out-of-character ways. You may also experience difficulties making decisions or setting priorities.
Then there is the physical exhaustion, which cannot be resolved by any amount of sleep or rest. In fact, fatigue can be a double-edged sword because another common symptom includes sleep problems, which naturally exacerbates any feelings of mental and physical fatigue.
During the lockdown, working from home has accelerated an “always on” work culture, with online attendance and managers’ expectations for teams to do more work. In countries like the UK, Canada and the US, employees have reported an increase in the time they spend logging in to their computers by more than two hours per day since the pandemic, according to data from NordVPN teams.
Unfortunately, the end of the lockdown did not solve these problems. Workloads remain unreasonable, and the added pressure of the global economic crisis and looming recession mean people feel unable to get away from gas, even when they’re running empty.
Who feels the burn?
Like all mental health issues, burnout does not discriminate, although research suggests that some groups may be more at risk than others. For example, a report by the Future Forum covering more than 10,700 workers in six countries showed that women are one-third (32 percent) more likely than men to experience burnout.
On the contrary, the younger segment of the labor force is also more likely to suffer from burnout. Those younger than 30 are 29 percent more likely to develop symptoms than their older counterparts. In terms of workplace seniority, middle managers bear the brunt and are more likely to burn out (43 percent) than any other job level.
Although burnout is undoubtedly a widespread and important problem, oftentimes, it can be difficult for those who suffer from it to find the help and support they need. Treating mental health issues such as depression and anxiety – which can be a byproduct of overwork – is often down the line of treatment as a first resort.
Understanding stress and how to manage it is essential to recovering from burnout. Medication can be helpful when used alone, but it does not treat the root cause of your fatigue. Flexibility varies from person to person, so understanding your bottom line can help. Emerging test methods can give insight into our individual stress thresholds.
There must also be a greater recognition that the stress that contributes to fatigue can be as much a physical burden as a mental one, so effective treatment approaches must address both.
The ever-growing evidence base, from anecdotal accounts to independent peer-reviewed studies, shows the efficacy of placing mindful practices such as meditation and yoga at the center of treatment pathways to address the underlying causes of mental health problems and burnout. Not only has this approach been proven effective, but it also provides people with technologies they can use on their own, wherever they are and at any time.
If burnout is left untreated, it can become a major problem affecting all aspects of a person’s life. It can affect performance and productivity, and work and personal relationships. There is also a strong relationship between stress and drug and alcohol use. Without appropriate treatment, individuals are left more vulnerable to resorting to drugs or heavy drinking as a coping mechanism.
In a time of economic instability, there is a clear collective benefit to addressing burnout. Aside from the personal effects on the individual who suffers from it, burnout has an even greater cost. According to a report by the Mental Health Foundation and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), mental health problems cost the British economy at least £117.9 billion annually.
Of course, prevention is always better than cure, and a major shift is needed in global work cultures and unfair expectations placed on employees. However, revolutions do not happen overnight.
We are moving towards a better work-life culture that reduces the risk of burnout at the source, but it will take time. What we can do now is change the way we support those who suffer from it to give them the best chance for recovery and provide them with the understanding and tools to manage stress as they move through their lives.
Robert Common is Group CEO of The Beekeeper House