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 Tags: Mental Health


I'd like to start off by wishing you a very happy new year. Many of us are returning from holidays, hopefully, rested and recharged, and ready to get back into the grind of school or work. For some of us, the start of a new year is a time to set goals for self-improvement, often to do with health and wellness, or time management and productivity. 

One thing you might want to consider adding to your new year's resolutions is to take care of your mental health. According to the 2022-2023 Aflac Workforces report, more than half (59%) of Americans experienced at least a moderate level of burnout in 2022. 

So how do we find balance and ensure that we're managing our mental health as we return to the daily grind? We'll explore some high-level tips that may help you make the most of the year ahead.

Employee mental health 

Mental health in the workplace has gradually become a topic of interest and discussion, and rightfully so. It is estimated that approximately one in five working-age adults experience a mental health problem. 

According to this 2020 report by Emily London, 10-30% of workers suffer from clinical-level mental health conditions, 30% suffer from distress, and 40% report burnout. 

This ScienceDirect research by Bubonya et al. explores the relationship between mental health and productivity at work, with regard to absenteeism and presenteeism (lower productivity while attending work). They found that absence rates are approximately 5% higher for those workers with poor mental health. They also found that much of the economic cost of mental illness ties to productivity. Those with poor mental health are less likely to participate in the workforce and have lower productivity when they do participate.

The younger generation that is entering the workforce is among the biggest group impacted. Employers recognize that this pattern cannot continue and are becoming more invested in their employees’ mental health. Approximately 88% of employers say that mental health is a priority and 57-65% plan to place a greater emphasis on improving care. Burnout is one of the significant mental health concerns that employers are looking to address.

Burnout causes and symptoms

The first step to treating burnout is understanding the cause and recognizing the symptoms. The Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) defines burnout as a state of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive or prolonged stress. We know that chronic stress can have a significant impact on your body and brain. Let’s take a closer look at some of the specific causes and symptoms of burnout.


One of the primary causes of burnout is work-related stress. However, there can be other sources for that mounting stress including lifestyle and personality traits. Some of the specific work-related causes are:

  • Lack of recognition or feeling like you have little to no control over your work
  • Unclear communication and overly demanding expectations
  • High-pressure or chaotic work environments

Other personality or lifestyle causes include but are not limited to:

  • Perfectionistic tendencies, Type A personalities that are high achieving
  • Lack of balance, i.e. working too much and socializing or relaxing less
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Taking on too many responsibilities without establishing boundaries


Burnout can be seen in physical, emotional, or behavioral signs and symptoms.

Physical symptoms may include but are not limited to:

  • Frequent headaches
  • Feeling tired or drained most of the time
  • Changes to appetite or sleep patterns

Emotional and behavioral signs include but are not limited to:

  • Loss of motivation,
  • Procrastination and withdrawal
  • Increasingly cynical outlook
  • Feeling helpless, detached, and defeated
  • Taking frustration out on others

Understanding the potential causes and symptoms of burnout can help us find ways to reduce the risk and work through it.

Reducing the risk and dealing with burnout

There are many ways that you could potentially reduce the risk of burnout and work through it. A few high-level but key tips are listed below. 

  1. Reach out to others 

    Talking to a professional about what you are experiencing is a great way to start addressing the issue. Sometimes it can be hard for individuals to differentiate burnout from other mental health conditions, as many conditions share common symptoms. As our knowledge and awareness of burnout increase, more resources are at our disposal. Your clinician is always a great resource for health and wellness support. If you suspect you’re experiencing burnout, ask your clinician for some assessments and guidance. The Maslach Burnout Inventory is one of the leading assessment tools for burnout available.

    Additionally, one of the tendencies of someone experiencing burnout is to withdraw, but reaching out to others in your social circle can help mitigate feelings of helplessness and stress. Opening up to those closest to you can help ease some of the burdens you may be experiencing. According to HelpGuide, social support is one of the fastest ways to calm your nervous system and relieve stress. 

  2. Take a break  

    Taking a break can mean many different things. Unplugging and disconnecting from technology, giving time to a hobby that you value, or simply taking time off and stepping away from your specific causes of burnout. Cognitive Pacing is a great way to incorporate breaks into your lifestyle. It can help manage and mitigate stress and poses significant benefits for our overall brain health.

    Not only is taking breaks essential for your physical and mental health, but it can help boost productivity. Instinctually, we tend to avoid taking breaks when we’re caught up with work or cramming for an exam, usually because of time constraints or tunnel-vision focus. Taking short frequent breaks can help restore your cognitive resources so that you’re more productive when you return to work and less likely to burn out.

    One accessible method to ensure that you’re taking timely effective breaks is to use the technology available to you. You can set an alarm in your phone, use online timers, or my preferred method, take advantage of a wearable device, like a Galaxy watch or a Sensorband.

  3. Mindfulness and Meditation 

    Meditation is an effective way to ensure you’re making good use of your breaks. It helps to ease stress and anxiety, thereby tackling the root cause of burnout. This study from the Journal of Holistic Nursing found that mindfulness-based meditation effectively decreased burnout and stress in nurses.

  4. Improve Sleep Hygiene

    Ensuring that you’re getting enough quality sleep is key to both dealing with burnout and reducing the risk. Not getting enough sleep consistently can make it difficult to return to healthy sleep habits. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help ensure better quality and restful sleep for better brain health. These steps include but are not limited to, limiting blue light exposure before bed, and conditioning yourself to associate your bed with sleep alone.

  5. Eat well and Exercise 

    The age-old advice of taking care of your physical health to improve your mental health may sound redundant at this point but it stands true. Healthy diets can help regulate mood and energy levels which can combat some of the symptoms of burnout, and improve mental health. Exercise is an understated but powerful cure for stress. Additionally, the simple act of walking can help boost creativity, and can potentially address some work-related stressors, especially if you’re facing a creative block.

Dealing with burnout and returning to normal can be a lengthy process for many individuals.  Just remember, you’re not alone and it’s important to be patient with yourself and your progress. It's a marathon, not a sprint. 

There is a lot more that we can discuss when it comes to burnout specifically, so stay tuned for upcoming content. For now, we are sharing some high-level tips and some additional resources below, if you’re interested. Thanks for reading and we hope that this proves helpful for your upcoming year of work or school. 


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