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Mullen-Johnson: Overworked and exhausted? Here’s how to prevent burnout

By Crystal Mullen-Johnson

Somewhere there is a person who is overworked, exhausted, unmotivated, pessimistic, feeling helpless, and struggling to get out of the bed each day. Their coworkers are preparing for a presentation, and they do not have the energy or motivation to contribute task assigned by their boss. 

Does this person sound familiar? 

This individual has classic signs and symptoms of burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

Are you guilty of overworking, meeting the needs of others and neglecting self-care needs? Am I preaching to the choir?  

In a 1974 article, Psychologist Herbert Freudenberger described burnout as the state of becoming exhausted by making excessive demands on energy, strength, or resources in the workplace. However, burnout can apply to anyone experiencing chronic workplace stress. It’s important to recognize if you are experiencing chronic stress, in the workplace or at home, to avoid burnout and its symptoms. 

Chronic stress causes mental and physical health problems. You may feel tired, experience headaches, and find it difficult to cope.  It is essential to recognize factors in your life that are causing stress, to effectively manage it. Some companies support their employees’ efforts to manage stress by offering Employee Assistant Programs (EAPs).  EAPs assist employees with mental health challenges address their mental well-being. Check with your company to determine if you have EAP benefits.   

How To Avoid Burnout 

In order to avoid burnout, examine your work commitments. Maintain a realistic schedule to complete tasks and manage personal responsibilities. Seek support from your co-workers/boss if you have work assignments you need help completing.  Have a conversation with your boss about your schedule and request deadline extensions. Allow yourself time to decompress at the end of your workday. Establish healthy eating habits and eat balanced meals daily.  Get adequate sleep each night. Set healthy boundaries with family, co-workers, and friends. Don’t overextend yourself to seek approval from others. 

Remote workers are guilty of working longer hours, especially if they do not have good time management skills or a healthy work life balance. If you work remotely, allow yourself time to do work related task as if you were working in the office. Make sure you take a lunch break each day. Save the laundry for when you are off work. Consider getting dressed for work in comfortable clothing. Do not juggle too many tasks. Be patient and realistic with the things you want to accomplish on a daily basis. 

Mentally Healthy Parents 

It is important for parents to take care of themselves so they can attend to the mental health needs of their kid(s). As kids transition to school it is imperative parents are emotionally and physically present in their kids’ lives. Remember, an empty cup cannot pour out anything. 

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a national mental health crisis was declared in 2021 by pediatricians, children’s hospitals and child psychiatrists. 

Create realistic schedules for your kids. If your child experienced a trauma or mental health crisis, see a clinical therapist, communicate what happened, and ask the therapist for additional support to help the child thrive mentally and academically. It truly takes a village for a child to succeed.  

To prevent burnout “allow” yourself to practice these easy self-care skills to manage stress. 

 A – Allow time to pause activities during and at the end of your day to prioritize self-care. Taking short breaks is a simple task that does not require a lot of time. If you have time, further engage in relaxation activities to decompress. 

L – Learn to let go of negative thoughts. Ruminating about thoughts can impact your sleep, health, and relationships. 

L – Learn to embrace silence. Detach from electronic devices, rest, relax, and spend quality time with family. 

O – Only make realistic commitments. Avoid the “I will be there” trap. Maintain a calendar, use reminder cards, and maintain a realistic schedule.

W – Write down positive statements that encourage positive thinking.  You deserve the right to be happy and create happy moments.

The stress brought on by burnout will dominate your life if you do not control it.   Simplify your life by utilizing your support system or make connections with people who are willing to provide the support you need. Be present and maintain healthy boundaries. Schedule a day to plan a schedule.  Communicate your needs if you are overwhelmed.  Be aware of your kids’ mental health status.

Remember, you have a supportive community that includes your kids’ school, your relatives, your friends, and your therapist.  If you need help, it is there. All you have to do is reach out.  You are never alone.  

Crystal Mullen-Johnson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Registered Play Therapist in Birmingham, AL with more than 16 years of experience in providing counseling. She is the owner and founder of Strive Counseling Services a private practice located in downtown Birmingham that offers therapeutic mental health services to children (play therapy), adolescents, and adults. Strive offers evidence-based therapeutic modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Contact us at (205) 721-9893 to inquire about Telehealth Services or visit www.strivebhm.com

She is a published author of the, “21 Day Journey to Strive for a Healthier You” which can be purchased here  .

She is also the Founder/President of Nurture, LLC, a non-profit organization in Birmingham, AL. Learn more about nurture by visiting www.nurturebham.com.