As healthcare professionals, you’ve probably had days that seem never-ending and emotionally draining. You’ve felt exhausted, both physically and mentally. You may notice that even completing the simplest of tasks feels overwhelming. And because your profession is extremely rewarding yet challenging, you’ve likely chalked it all up to being a “normal” part of working as a behavioral health professional.

However, you may be experiencing burnout. And the truth is, you’re not alone. Behavioral health workers are particularly susceptible to burnout, with recent estimates finding that 50 percent of behavioral health providers report feeling burnt out. People facing burnout due to chronic workplace stress often deal with depersonalization, exhaustion and energy depletion, a reduced sense of personal achievement and more. The first part of addressing burnout is recognizing the signs of burnout among behavioral health workers:

  1. Burnout can feel similar to stress, but where stress is temporary or situational, burnout typically won’t ease up until action is taken to resolve it. Burnout often feels overwhelming and long-term, while stress feels less permanent.
  2. Fatigue is a major symptom of burnout, and this can affect all areas of your life. That bone-tired feeling when you just feel like staying in bed, day after day, is not normal and could be a sign that you’re getting burnt out.
  3. There are multiple parts of burnout. As defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout has three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.
  4. You may confuse a high level of mental exhaustion for being “normal” in your profession. It can be difficult for healthcare workers to distinguish between “normal” feelings of mental exhaustion and detachment and actual burnout, due to the complexities of dealing with human suffering, struggles and pain.
  5. Tension headaches and changes in sleep patterns could signal that something is amiss.
  6. Burnout is not the same as depression, as it is typically tied to specific environments or situations, such as working more hours than usual or handling a larger than usual caseload.
While you may not recognize burnout immediately, understanding the signs can help you stay alert and take a step back, before it’s too late. Admitting that you’re feeling burnt out may feel like it’s at odds with your dedication to helping others, but you’re not alone. Your peers understand the nuances of working in the field, and can help you take the necessary steps to avoid burnout.

Caring for your mental health, taking scheduled breaks, finding time to exercise and practicing mindfulness can all help bust the burnout before it really takes hold. And when you can do this, you can be your best self, and in turn, you can successfully help support others on their journeys.

Understanding the Signs of Burnout in Healthcare Workers