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Monday, September 16, 2019
Burned matches in a row on a blue background.
Burned matches in a row on a blue background. The concept of depression, extinction, illness, burnout, aging. View from above, flat
Workplace

Burnout: What is the cost to helping professionals?

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Burnout is one of the biggest health risks helping professionals face due to their work environment – in fact, burnout is now recognized by the World Health Organization as being an “occupational phenomenon.”

The International Classification for Diseases 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 negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.”

Burnout and compassion fatigue are common in helping professions, and more and more people are recognizing the importance of working toward the recognition and prevention of burnout, as well as enhancing our self- and community-care methods to improve our overall wellness. These skills have been recognized as a necessity for individuals to develop and maintain their helping skills.

Identifying burnout

Symptoms of burnout vary between individuals, but generally some combination of the following physical, mental and behavioural symptoms will develop.

Physical symptoms:

  • chronic low energy or exhaustion
  • aches and pains
  • increased colds, flus and infections
  • sleep problems

Mental symptoms:

  • boredom
  • forgetfulness
  • poor concentration
  • fault finding
  • irritability

Behavioural symptoms:

  • withdrawing from responsibilities
  • isolating from others
  • using food, drugs or alcohol to cope
  • taking frustrations out on other
  • skipping work or coming in late and leaving early
  • procrastinating
The cost of burnout
Want to learn more about preventing burnout and compassion fatigue and how to improve self-care? Sign up for Dr Joti’s webinar “Enhancing Psychological Health, Wellness & Resiliency: The Critical Importance of Self-Care & Burnout Prevention for Helping Professionals,” starting Sept. 25 in partnership with CERIC and the BC Career Development Association.

As symptoms of burnout increase in intensity, we begin to lose interest and motivation that led us to take on the helping role in the first place. Burnout reduces productivity and saps energy, leaving us feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical and resentful. Eventually, we may even feel like we have nothing more to give.

The negative effects of burnout can spill over into every area of life. Burnout can also cause long-term changes to our body that makes us vulnerable to illnesses and can cause long term damage. Because of its many consequences, it’s important to learn about burnout early so we can build the skills necessary to prevent burnout as well as recognize the symptoms so we can deal with burnout as soon as it begins to happen.

Preventing and dealing with burnout

The science tells us that there are effective ways to prevent and mitigate the symptoms of burnout:

  1. Understand what burnout is, and become adept at recognizing symptoms in yourself (as well as colleagues/others).
  2. Don’t dismiss the symptoms of burnout as trivial or irrelevant.
  3. Increase your focus on self-care behaviors, with a particular focus on taking steps to enhance and improve sleep, diet and alcohol consumption behaviours.
  4. Identify what things on your to-do list can be removed or deferred; reducing immediate demands and enhancing of rest and rejuvenation are critical.

To learn more techniques for preventing and managing burnout, sign up for my webinar, “Enhancing Psychological Health, Wellness & Resiliency: The Critical Importance of Self-Care & Burnout Prevention for Helping Professionals.


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Joti Samra Author
Dr Joti Samra, R.Psych is a national leader on issues relating to psychological health, wellness & resiliency. She is CEO & Founder of MyWorkplaceHealth.com, a full-suite national workplace consulting firm and DrJotiSamra.com, an expanding clinical & counselling practice in BC. Dr Samra is a highly regarded expert in psychological health and safety. She has been involved in a number of national projects that have contributed to policy change in Canada, and is a Founding & Ongoing Member of the CSA Technical Committee that developed the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health & Safety in the Workplace. This Standard is the first of its kind in the world and is shaping policy development for workplace psychological health & safety (PH&S) at the international level.
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Joti Samra Author
Dr Joti Samra, R.Psych is a national leader on issues relating to psychological health, wellness & resiliency. She is CEO & Founder of MyWorkplaceHealth.com, a full-suite national workplace consulting firm and DrJotiSamra.com, an expanding clinical & counselling practice in BC. Dr Samra is a highly regarded expert in psychological health and safety. She has been involved in a number of national projects that have contributed to policy change in Canada, and is a Founding & Ongoing Member of the CSA Technical Committee that developed the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health & Safety in the Workplace. This Standard is the first of its kind in the world and is shaping policy development for workplace psychological health & safety (PH&S) at the international level.