What is it and how do you treat it? We asked Registered Psychologist Janine Groeneveld
By Katrina Turchin | May 6, 2022
Have you ever felt so run-down you could barely work, cook or enjoy time with family and friends? You might be suffering from burnout. Don’t worry, most of us have been there. Eighty four per cent of surveyed Canadian workers experienced burnout during the pandemic, according to a study by Hanover Research for Ceridian’s 2022 Pulse of Talent Report. The top three catalysts for burnout were increased workloads, insufficient compensation and mental health challenges.
But, what is burnout and how does it affect us? We asked Janine Groeneveld, registered psychologist from Canniff and Associates to give us the rundown.
Edited for length and clarity.
Q: Let’s start with the basics. What is burnout?
JG: Burnout is not technically a diagnosis, but what it is, is it’s a state of exhaustion due to prolonged exposure to stress. So it could be mental, physical, emotional stress or exhaustion. If you’re exposed to enough stress, especially the same stress more than once, it can lead to a state where there’s nothing left in the tank. In psychological terms, I would call that lack of resourcing. There’s no internal resourcing left to face other stressors that you might be facing in your day.
Q: So, we know what causes burnout, but are there different types of burnout?
JG: Technically, there could be, but I think they all kind of roll into one category. When we’re looking for types, we try to piecemeal out people into areas. But at the end of the day, we are a holistic person. So I personally don’t believe in piecemealing it out. I think that stress and burnout just exist as one. Our physical health affects our emotional health, our emotional health affects our mental health. We only get to be one person at the end of the day.
Q: We’re two years into the pandemic, which has caused a lot of different types of stress for everybody. In what ways has the pandemic increased burnout in people?
JG: As a psychologist, I don’t think I’ve ever been this busy. It’s important to remember that the pandemic is a collective trauma. As a society, we are going through a traumatic event right now, no matter what your beliefs are about the pandemic. When we’re experiencing trauma, we’re experiencing stress. If you’ve ever talked to a psychologist, we harp on self care all the time, and it feels really tried to do so, but it actually is what bolsters that stress and trauma.
The problem with the pandemic is that most manners of self care were removed. You couldn’t go to the gym anymore, you couldn’t get together with your friends and let off steam. All manners of taking care of oneself were removed. When it first started off, I thought it would be a month, and I thought, “It’s ok, I can learn how to bake bread, no big deal.” But two years later, some of us are still not doing those novel things anymore. We’re sitting in our house depressed, lonely and missing our loved ones.
Q: Many people have been working remotely since the start of the pandemic, which comes with its benefits and disadvantages. How does working remotely play into burnout?
JG: I don’t like giving absolutes, but I would say for the majority of people, working remotely has been really detrimental. The first thing is that it completely removed boundaries between work and home. If you’re working at your house, it’s easy to be like, “Oh, it’s nine o’clock at night, but I’m just going to check that one email.” Removing those boundaries removes the ability to have work-life balance, which plays into self care. The other part of that that has really impacted burnout is the loss of camaraderie. When you’re working from home, you’re just stuck in the hard parts of work without the good support that exists within the workplace.
Q: What should people do if they suspect they’re suffering from burnout?
JG: Engage in a lot of self care, whatever that looks like to you. The second thing that I often recommend to my clients is having a really clear boundary between work and life, especially if they’re working remotely. I recommend even getting in your car and going for a 10 minute drive at the end of the day because, often when we’re driving home from work, that’s our time to decompress. And, lastly, find support, whether that’s friends, family or professional support. Having somewhere to vent really helps to buffer against the effects of stress because, again, we’re relating burnout to the stress that we’re experiencing. We can’t always change the stress, but we can always find different ways to cope with it.