Burnout refers to a state of long-term stress and exhaustion, caused by intense workloads and inadequate self-care.
Certain professions tend to experience a higher level of burnout. Social workers frequently experience burnout due to the nature and demands of the job. A study found that 75% of social workers experience burnout at least once in their careers . This may be because social workers are required to handle many cases and they are constantly exposed to the effects of poverty, trauma and inequality . As a result, work may get emotionally and physically demanding to the point that taking care of themselves no longer becomes a priority.
As we celebrate Social Workers Day this month, we wanted to give a shout out to all social workers reading this. We appreciate the hard work you put in despite the challenges and difficulties of your job. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of those you serve.
Beyond social workers, any one of us might experience burnout at different points in our life. Here are some tell-tale signs of burnout:
• Trouble sleeping
• Loss of enthusiasm for work
• Difficulty concentrating at work
• Increased irritability or impatience
• Unexplained headaches, stomach, or bowel problems
If you find yourself experiencing any of the symptoms above, here are some ways you can overcome burnout:
Physical activity causes your brain to release chemicals called endorphins which make you feel happy. You can significantly improve your mental health by engaging in 30 to 60 minutes of exercise, three to five times a week .
Eat a healthy diet:
Eat nutritious meals so that you have the energy to perform well at work. Additionally, pack healthy snacks such as nuts or fruits in your bag to make sure that you won’t go hungry even when you are busy.
Take your mind off work and recharge yourself once in a while. Taking purposeful breaks in between work such as stretching, cleaning, listening to music or doing deep breathing exercises help to refresh your mind and body . You could even consider taking a longer break by going on a staycation or overseas vacation to relax and unwind for a few days.
Cultivate healthy sleeping habits:
Ensure that you get at least seven hours of sleep at night so that you are well-rested for another day of work. Getting enough sleep also helps to regulate emotions and reduces feelings of stress and anxiety.
Ask for help:
Communicate your stressors to your bosses so that they can know how to help you. Talk to your colleagues and you might find some of them who have experienced, or are going through burnout too. You can form a support group with them to help one another.
Feeling overwhelmed and need to speak with a professional? Call the TOUCHline at 1800 377 2252 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)!
TOUCH Mental Wellness (TMW) runs personalised therapy and counselling programmes to empower individuals to rise above their circumstances. An advocate of mental wellness, TMW has been organising mental wellness awareness mass runs, talks and workshops since 2015. It works closely with corporations to conduct mental wellness talks with an aim of equipping employees with handles to cope with stress and help them build resilience. It also specialises in mental wellness awareness and educational programmes for schools.
1. Siebert, Darcy Clay. “Personal and Occupational Factors in Burnout among Practicing Social Workers.” Journal of Social Service Research, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 25–44., 1 Apr. 2005, https://doi.org/10.1300/j079v32n02_02.
2. Risser, Michelle. “Social Worker Burnout: Signs, Causes & 15 Tips to Manage Self-care", Choosing Therapy, Choosing Therapy, 15 Mar. 2022, https://www.choosingtherapy.com/social-worker-burnout/.
3. “How exercise makes you happy”. Australian Fitness Academy, Australian Fitness Academy, 7 Mar. 2018, https://www.fitnesseducation.edu.au/blog/health/how-exercise-makes-you-happy/#:~:text=How%20much%20exercise%20do%20you,you%20significant%20mental%20health%20benefits.
4. “Study Breaks & Stress-Busters". Cornell Health, Cornell University, https://health.cornell.edu/about/news/study-breaks-stress-busters#:~:text=Research%20shows%20that%20taking%20purposeful,%E2%80%9D%20(see%20the%20research.