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Starting Conversations About Burnout

It can be hard to talk about burnout. If you’re struggling, you may worry you’ll come off as a complainer. If you notice the signs of burnout in a coworker or loved one, you may worry they’ll think you’re criticizing their ability to juggle life’s challenges and demands.

But isn’t your mental health and the health of the people you care about more important than a misunderstanding or misperception? Conversations about burnout won’t always be easy, but the positive change that can come from them is worth it.

If you feel burnt out

When you notice the signs of burnout in yourself, it’s time to start thinking about what changes may solve the problem. 

Start with your own habits. Do you regularly sleep, eat, hydrate, exercise, and relax? If not, build a routine that balances your needs with your responsibilities.

If you feel like you’re doing your part but are impeded by the demands of your boss, partner, or coworkers, it may be time to sit down and have an honest conversation about expectations and boundaries.

Let your boss know you can’t answer emails on the weekend. Let your partner know you need a break from caretaking responsibilities. Let coworkers know you’re happy to be a resource but can’t take on their workloads. 

Be honest, be open, and be kind. Focus on “I” statements like: “I feel stressed when I can’t take a break because…” Don’t point the finger, but do invite them to problem solve with you.

If you notice burnout in others

Even more difficult than trying to solve burnout in your own life is trying to help someone experiencing burnout. 

Start the conversation by simply asking how they’re feeling. Maybe it’s a one-time situation that is making focusing at work difficult this week. Or it may be a long-term problem that will only lead to further decrease in their performance or happiness in their role. 

Your primary job is to listen—not problem solve—and be there as they process their emotions and concerns. If they do ask for your advice or perspective, be honest about your concern for them, and share resources and knowledge you have for solving burnout issues.

If you or someone you know needs more resources, Valley Oaks Health is here to help. All month long, we’ll be shining a light on the daily toll of burnout and ways to build better mental health through small changes. Follow us on Facebook or reach out to a trained clinician to learn more.

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