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Burnout: How to Spot It and Take Action

Most of us know burnout is something to be avoided, but preventing it seems to be getting more of a challenge.

In fact, according to a recent survey, the percentage of respondents who rated their mental health as excellent or good has dropped 12 percentage points since 2019. The same survey reveals feelings of burnout were the main source of stress related to this drop.

Moreover, Canadians who said they had poor mental health were also more likely to take time off from work due to disability than those who reported good mental health.

“A third of our new disability claims from 18 to 39 years old were related to mental health last year – and this is trending upward since 2019,” says Maria Winslow, senior director of life and health at RBC Insurance. “It’s no doubt been a challenging and unpredictable time for many working Canadians and it’s had a major impact on mental health.”

The mental, physical and emotional exhaustion that are hallmarks of burnout can start to creep up on you. Left unchecked they can also lead to other serious health problems like heart problems, digestion and mood disorders. Though often associated with work, burnout can happen in other situations too – the common factor is ongoing severe stress.

Here are signs you need to watch out for:

  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Lack of motivation and feeling disengaged
  • Cognitive problems – difficulty focusing
  • Feeling isolated
  • Feeling numb or a sense of dread
  • Physical and/or mental exhaustion
  • Tension headaches, stomach issues
  • Cynicism, anger or irritability

What you can do:

  • Look for something big or small you enjoy
  • Reaffirm work-life boundaries
  • Practice self-care strategies
  • Get active and eat well
  • Take a vacation and really relax – even when it seems impossible
  • Develop a support network made of trusted family, friends or a therapist

Another important action that can help is to speak with an expert about disability insurance, which can replace your income if you can’t work due to mental health issues related to burnout.

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