How to Help Recognize and Neutralize Burnout
Jan 28, 2022
Sutter Health
Asian businesswoman experiencing stress at work

By Nicole Townsend and Liz Madison, Vitals contributors

The relentless COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on mental health. Long-term stress is turning into burnout. This phenomenon is rapidly surfacing across industries and it’s considered a key driver to the “Great Resignation,” the recent and widespread trend of workers looking to leave their jobs during COVID-19.

A McKinsey & Co. study from fall 2021 found that 40% of employees said they will leave their current job in the next three to six months. And, of all groups, McKinsey & Co. reported that “women are increasingly feeling a higher level of burnout.”

Employers are responding by placing greater emphasis on and access to more mental health support. Meanwhile, clinical experts recommend that those in the workforce do a self-check on their well-being and consider how they are managing through these unprecedented times.

Tam Nguyen, Ph.D., director of ambulatory care for the Mental Health and Addiction Care team at Sutter Health, shares her top three considerations when addressing potential burnout.

  • Understand the Difference of Stress vs. Burnout. While some may see stress and burnout as interchangeable, Dr. Nguyen explains there are distinct differences. Stress is something everyone feels at times and can actually serve as a motivator for everyday activities. But when stress turns to hopelessness, that is a sign it could be something more. The World Health Organization characterizes burnout as feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, an increased mental distance from one’s job or negative feelings that result in reduced effectiveness at work.
  • Recognize the Signs. Early identification and prevention are key to addressing and effectively managing burnout. Pay attention and look for early warning signs, which can include mood changes, according to Dr. Nguyen.
  • Reach out for Help and Use Available Resources. If you or someone you know are suffering from burnout, consider reaching out to family and friends for support. “Track and monitor how you are feeling and elicit feedback from others you trust to assess if they have also noticed changes in how you participate and engage at work,” Dr. Nguyen said. “Whether you reach out to co-workers, friends or loved ones, support and collaboration might help you cope.” A medical provider can also provide an initial evaluation, consultation and treatment recommendations.


Note: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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