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Employee Health and Burnout

During this employee health and fitness month, let’s talk about burnout at work. Work can be a source of pride, a social network, offer mental challenges, and so much more. It can also take a lot of time and energy causing people to sometimes experience what’s known as burnout – especially after the year we have all been through.

During a normal year, people can go through times of burnout from work. During 2020 (and into 2021), though, the additional stresses happening all around us likely worsened those feelings. We’ve all been through a lot and feeling overwhelmed or burned out is normal. But being normal doesn’t mean you should ignore it.

What is Burnout?

Job burnout is a type of work-related stress causing physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and a loss of personal identity.

Throughout the pandemic, many people showed up (virtually or in person) every day, even when it was difficult. Beyond the virus itself, this past year has asked a lot of each of us, with virtual school, cancelled plans and holiday celebrations, career set-backs or job losses, illness, and sometimes even loss.

Expecting to power through like nothing else is going on isn’t realistic; of course it has been hard, and that is on top of nearly half of working adults who were feeling burned out before the pandemic began. According to an Indeed.com study, 52% of people report feelings of burnout from work which is up from 42% before the pandemic began.

Symptoms

“Burnout” isn’t a medical diagnosis, but it has distinct symptoms. Burnout can affect your physical and mental health. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Finding it difficult to concentrate
  • Lack of energy and productivity
  • Being critical or cynical at work
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Loss of satisfaction from work accomplishments
  • Being impatient with coworkers, customers, or patients
  • Using drugs or alcohol to feel better
  • Unexplained headaches
  • Stomach or bowel problems

Causes

Employee burnout is always around. It can come and go. But what everyone experienced during 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic shifted employee stress and burnout. When the pandemic first began, the initial stress of the virus, possibility of a job loss, and shift to virtual working environments actually accelerated some people’s productivity. After months, though, the stress began to wear on people and the unknow factors of how long things would last, made it harder to manage.

With the causes of burnout listed below, it is easy to see how the COVID-19 pandemic enhanced these issues.

  • Lack of control. Unable to influence decisions that affect your job (schedule, assignments, or workload), and lack of resources to do your work.
  • Unclear job expectations. Being unsure about the authority you have or what others expect from you.
  • Extremes of activity. A job extremely monotonous or chaotic, or swings between the two, requires constant energy to remain focused and causes fatigue.
  • Work-life imbalance. When work takes up so much of your time and effort that you don’t have the energy for family and friends.
  • The imbalance was stretched even more because much of what people balance work with: seeing friends, traveling, visiting families, etc. were cancelled for almost a year. In addition, working from home also blurred the lines between work and home, and meant people needed to find ways to separate the two often with children learning from home as well.

If you are currently struggling, talk to a doctor or a mental health provider because these symptoms can be related to other health conditions. Contact NOAH to request an appointment today.

Bouncing Back to a Better You by Dr. Alethea Turner, Associate Director – HonorHealth Family Medicine Residency Program

Many of us deal with stress on a daily basis. Some causes may include pressures at work, unhealthy relationships, medical issues, financial problems and even past traumas. All of it can lead to bad habits, poor health and a general sense of unhappiness.

Resilience is our ability to bounce back and regain control. We might not always be able to change our circumstances, but we can change how we handle stress.

6 Tips for Coping with Stress

  • Relationships – Think about the relationships in your life. Which ones bring you joy? Take time to connect with those who add positivity to your life. Schedule a weekly date night, monthly dinner with your friends, or even call a relative you love.
  • Nutrition – Emotional eating is real! We often use food to celebrate our wins and to drown our sorrows. Yet, unhealthy eating can make us feel tired and bad about ourselves. Try to cut out sugary drinks, pack only healthy snacks, or cut down on portion sizes. If you are eating out choose items that are healthiest on the menu rather than those packed with calories.
  • Mental Health – Stress can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, like worrying all of the time or feeling hopeless. Talk to your doctor and consider meeting with a counselor. It might change your life.
  • Exercise – We all know that exercise is good for our health, but did you know that it is also a powerful tool for managing anxiety and depression? Turn on some music and dance in your room, or go for a walk over your lunch break. Getting your body moving can help you in more ways than one.
  • Sleep – Good sleep habits are essential for recovering from a stressful day and for keeping your mind and body healthy. Create a bedtime routine that includes sleeping in a cool, dark and quite room. Try to sleep around the same time every night and avoid looking at a screens (TV, cell phone, tablets…) at least 30-60 min before bed. Aim for at least 7 hours of quality sleep each night.
  • Mindfulness – Mindfulness is another way you can achieve calmness and control over your feelings. It is about being completely aware of your thoughts and emotions, being focused on a single moment or action, and accepting yourself. You can practice mindfulness in many ways including writing in a journal, taking a minute to focus on deep breathing, meditating (there are apps for that), or even listening carefully to someone you are talking to.

Tip the scales in your favor! Introducing even ONE of these practices into your daily life will help balance out stress and negativity, and can help you build resilience and a greater sense of well-being.

Adverse Childhood Experiences and Child’s Brain Development by Dr. Patricia Avila, Pediatrician

Did you know that suffering a potentially traumatic event during childhood also known as ACE or Adverse Childhood Experience can have long lasting negative effects on a child’s health, brain development, and life potential? 

Adverse Childhood Experiences can include experiencing violence, abuse, neglect, witnessing violence in the home, loosing a family member, mental health issues in a parent, substance/alcohol abuse by a parent, or instability from divorce or having a parent become incarcerated. 

These events lead to what is called toxic stress. Research shows that this toxic stress negatively changes a child’s brain and body by affecting the child’s brain development, hormonal system and immune system. These changes can persist for years and can lead to long term behavioral, mental, physical health problems.

The toxic stress from ACEs on brain development can impact a child’s potential to: 

  • Develop normally – leading to delays in development.
  • Focus and learn – leading to learning disabilities, dropping out of school, lack of future job opportunities.
  • Make decisions – leading to increase risk taking behaviors such as involvement in drugs and unprotected sex, unwanted or teen pregnancy.
  • Develop mental illness – leading to increase depression, anxiety, and rates of suicide.
  • Form healthy, stable relationships – leading to continuing this cycle of toxic stress in their children and families.

Research also shows that toxic stress from Adverse Childhood Experiences negatively affects a child’s body and can lead to chronic health problems like: 

  1. Obesity.
  2. Cancer.
  3. Heart disease.
  4. Autoimmune problems.
  5. Asthma and chronic lung disease.
  6. Headaches.
  7. Early death from general poor health.

The more of these events a child has suffered, the higher the risk of developing these long-term problems.

The GOOD NEWS is that we can do something about this! Research also shows that we can PREVENT and UNDO the harm done and the future harm on a child’s brain and body. There are some simple things that parents/caregivers can do at home to help regulate a child’s stress response and change the negative impacts of the stress hormones to keep them healthy and on track with brain development.

These include providing our children with: 

1. Supportive and nurturing relationships.
a. Tell them and show them how loved, special, and important they are.
b. Spend quality time doing activities that they enjoy. Simple activities like making art, dancing, cooking, playing games, reading, and singing together are excellent choices.
c. Keep connections outside the home with friends and family members.
2. Regular physical activity. Recommendation for 1 hour of physical activity which does not have to be all at the same time. These can include sports, dance parties, hula hooping contests, hiking, playing tag, chasing the family dog, or anything you can think of to get your child physically active.
3. Healthy meals.
a. Avoid high sugar foods/drinks. Avoid high fat foods or foods/snacks high in carbohydrates.
b. Include fruits and vegetables with every meal. 5-9 servings of fruits/veggies per day are recommended. Fruits and veggies provide nutrients that no other foods can provide.
c. Include foods rich in healthy Omega 3 fatty acids such as fish, nuts, avocados, flax seeds.
4. Restful sleep.
a. Keep a routine with a regular bedtime.
b. Make sure the bedroom is quiet, calm and free of distractions.
c. Avoid all electronics including cell phone, tablet, computer, and TV 1-2 hours prior to bedtime.
5. Getting mental health care for yourself as parent/caregiver and for your child.
6. Practicing mindfulness.
a. This can include meditation, breathing exercises, and prayer.
b. Talk with your child about how they are feeling physically and emotionally.
c. Practice talking about, writing down, or drawing what you are grateful for each day with your child.

All of these will build connections in their brains to help them succeed in school, behave in ways you would expect and become happier, healthier, and more successful.
When parents and caregivers manage stress in positive ways as well, your brain also changes in ways to make you happier and healthier.

Learn ways to manage your stress as a parent/caregiver:

  1. Know what is stressing you out. When you know what exactly it is, you can better deal with it.
  2. Ask yourself “can I do something about this?” If the answer is no, then let it go and focus on something else. If the answer is yes, break it down to small steps so that it is not overwhelming.
  3. Have faith. Think of other times you have overcome challenges. It has been proven that people who attend church, pray or practice other forms of spirituality have less stress.
  4. Relax. Use breathing exercises, meditation, listen to music, or take a nap.
  5. Form healthy habits for yourself by getting good sleep, exercising, and eating well.
  6. Take time for yourself like reading a book, picking up a hobby, or spending time with friends.
  7. Make connections with others. Have a support network that includes friends and family. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  8. You are never alone. Your child’s Pediatrician or Family Doctor can also be a great resource and support person for you. They can help give you ideas, resources, and help connect you with others who can help.

Additional resources:
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741-741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor. It is Free and is available 24/7.
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text LOVEIS to 22522. Available 24/7.
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD, 1-800-422-4453 or chat/text at www.childhelphotline.org. Available 24/7.

Amazing Brain Series of booklets to help parents/caregivers:
http://preventchildabuse.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/ABSapps.pdf
preventchildabuse.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/ABSwhateveryparent.pdfpreventchildabuse.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/ABStrauma.pdfpreventchildabuse.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/ABSteen.pdf

Other websites with great ideas for parents/caregivers:
https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/family-building/everyday-practices-to-make-your-child-feel-loved/#gs.4csgtk
https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/family-building/family-life-is-important-for-kids-mental-health-and-adjustment-to-life/#gs.4csmks

PTSD – Symptoms and Resources.

By: Nancy Dye, MSN, PMHNP-BC | NOAH Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like:
• Combat.
• Natural disaster.
• Car accident.
• Sexual assault. Read more