But what makes it different from depression? Or anxiety?
Depression, anxiety and burnout can manifest similarly and even be interconnected. If you are suffering and want to figure out what you are feeling, our most helpful piece of advice is to meet with a professional. You can use this article as an essential guide, but only a therapist or psychologist can tell you what’s right for you.
You’re unique, and so are your feelings. They are completely valid and real, and with some help, you can learn to control the negative emotions better and mold your life to better support your mental health.
Depression vs. burnout: What’s the difference?
If you’re feeling low but not sure if you have burnout or depression, that’s completely normal. Some of the burnout symptoms are very similar to (if not the same as) those of depression. Here are some tips on distinguishing the two:
- Burnout is a result of work: The World Health Organization defines burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” that “result(s) from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” While you can’t rule out work contributing to depression, the opposite is likely true: According to WHO, too much work can cause burnout. Thankfully, you can tackle symptoms of burnout at the source.
- Burnout has a limited set of symptoms: According to the WHO definition, burnout has three specific symptoms. So if yours go beyond these (and we’ll delve into them more specifically below), you may have depression. Burnout manifests as apathy and depersonalization at work, a lack of efficiency in tasks and exhaustion.
- Depression manifests in different ways: Remember, while tiredness and apathy can be symptoms of depression, others can accompany this mental health condition, including low self-esteem, loss of hope and suicidal thoughts. If you think you may be experiencing depression, please seek help as soon as possible; if you have suicidal ideations, do so immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is only a click away.)
What are the most common reasons for burnout?
Remember, burnout happens for a reason: Work. And too much of it. Here are some key factors that can lead to feeling burnout:
- Financial stressors (like student debt)
- Lack of sleep and long hours (not to mention emotional exhaustion)
- An overload of administrative tasks
- Feeling a loss of control over outcomes at work
- A bad philosophical fit with your work environment
- A lack of community at your job
- Feeling like others treat you unfairly
- Not being appropriately compensated for your work
How can I avoid burnout at work?
- Take control of the situation: If you have too much to do, the most helpful step you can take is to admit it and try to see if you can take anything off your plate. Regain some control by delegating, making a list or asking for help fulfilling your needs.
- Set firm boundaries: If you feel burnt out, you’re probably doing too much. We know you want to do all you can, but it’s best to draw the line when these activities infringe on your well-being. Know that it’s okay to say “no.”
If I suffer from burnout, how can I manage it?
- Get out of your head: Try finding an activity that places you in your body, like yoga, meditation or hiking. Keep away the negative thoughts, and while you’re not at work, make it a point not to think about it.
- Get support: Try joining a group of people—perhaps even your co-workers—who share your profession (burnout is more common among healthcare workers than you might imagine). Talk it out as a group. You can also lean on your loved ones to the extent that feels comfortable for you.
- Get sleep: Sleep affects how we think and feel in a big way. So, even if you don’t have regular working hours, prioritize sleep as an important part of your mental health and self-care routines.
- Get right with yourself: If you feel burned out,or suffer from other mental health conditions, you deserve empathy and care. Many of us will experience mental health conditions at some point in our lives, which is normal and natural. You’re not failing; you’re doing your best. Allow yourself to thrive by taking care of yourself and seeking the professional help you need.
- Get professional help: Never shy away from the possibility of seeking professional care. Even if you simply aren’t sure whether you have burnout or a mental health condition, it’s the perfect time to seek support. Then, you can work forward from there.
If I suffer from depression, how can I get help?
Whether you believe you are suffering from a mental health condition, grieving or experiencing chronic stress, you deserve help. If you have symptoms of depression and anxiety, we recommend getting help as soon as possible. Even if you’re pretty sure you’re just feeling the signs of burnout, it always helps to rule out mental illness. A diagnosis is the first step to working toward getting better. Here are some ways a professional may treat depression:
- Therapy: Several therapies work to help individuals living with depression. These include talk therapy, cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. When you meet with a professional, they will help guide you toward the right option for you.
- Medication: Depression can be chemical, and part of your treatment plan may include medication prescribed by a psychiatrist or your primary care provider. Some common medications used to treat depression are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants.
You have a stressful career. We know you know it, and we want you to know we know it, too. On top of that, yours is a calling where you constantly give to others, and that’s why it’s all the more important for you to give back to yourself and take charge of your mental health. We’re here to support you every step of the way.