Learn to spot signs of burnout and take care of yourself for better health
Dr. Hossam Mahmoud, behavioral health medical director at Regence, shares expertise
Feeling worn down by the demands of work and life from time to time is natural. When we can’t seem to recover from chronic exhaustion, however, it could be a sign of a more serious health condition called burnout.
Understanding and diagnosing burnout has evolved. In 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) even included burnout in its revised International Classification of Diseases. Dr. Hossam Mahmoud, behavioral health medical director at Regence, describes burnout as a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion caused by prolonged periods of stress. “People feel burnout when they’re overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to meet constant demands—most often at work,” says Mahmoud. “It’s also a more serious condition than many people realize.”
Left untreated, people experiencing burnout can develop more serious mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and panic attacks, as well as physical changes like gaining or losing weight. “Burnout is chronic condition in the fact it doesn’t spring up overnight,” Mahmoud says. “It simmers over a period of time and recovery can take weeks, months or even years.”
Signs of burnout
It’s not always easy to spot burnout because it varies from person to person and can take time to develop symptoms. This is especially true as we continue to safely work through COVID-19 and the added stress of the pandemic, including physical distancing from others as more people are vaccinated.
Physical symptoms of burnout can include anxiety, headache, trouble sleeping or poor sleep quality, and fatigue – common symptoms that are often associated with other health conditions, too, making it difficult to spot. “Many doctors and even mental health professionals can potentially miss burnout warning signs because they tend to look like symptoms of other illnesses,” Mahmoud says. “Checking in with ourselves, as well as listening to friends, family and coworkers, can help us know when to take action.”
Preventing and managing burnout
Stress is at an all-time high or has been the past year for many of us as we juggle multiple commitments with competing work and personal needs. This is true whether you’re caring for a family or living alone.
Make it a priority to create balance in your life. If you’re still working from home, create guardrails for your workday—and stick to them. Consider creating a routine that helps you disconnect from work, such as going for a walk. Take some time off, if you can, to relax and recharge. It’s also important to regularly practice self-care, which can include regular exercise, prioritizing sleep and socializing with friends and family.
If you feel like burnout has set in and you need help, remember that many health plans offer tools and resources. Consider seeking out help and support. Regence offers a number of behavioral health options, from self-guided resources to virtual therapy. Visit regence.com/member/behavioral-health to learn more. Regence members can also sign in to their regence.com account or call the number on the back of their member ID card for more information.