Are you at risk for burnout?

Rhonda Rabow

According to Stats Canada in 1998 a survey showed time stress levels have been rising dramatically beginning in the 1990s. 38% of working mothers are now classified as “severely time stressed”. Working mothers now put in 74 hours a week of paid and unpaid work.

A separate Stats Canada survey (1999) showed adverse health effects from long work hours, including markedly increased rates of depression, smoking, weight gain, and alcohol consumption and decreased levels of physical activity. Long work hours have been shown to carry increased risks of cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and other serious illnesses.

With unemployment rising, and the unstable employment market, few of us have the freedom to say “no” to longer hours and increased work duties. However, we also need to consider the cost or consequences of accepting more and more demands made on us. What is the tipping point that will send us into burnout?

The average working mother is stressed and overwhelmed at work, and then feels guilty that she isn’t doing enough for her family, leaving her feeling discouraged and sometimes depressed. One of the most frequent problems I encounter in my practice, after couple issues; is burnout and depression. It is most often the hardworking women who pride themselves on doing a good job, who have difficulty delegating and saying no, who want to please and do everything perfectly, who end up on this list.

Burnout occurs when a person feels overwhelmed by work and/or social circumstances and is unable to cope due to high levels of stress and emotional and physical exhaustion.

Who is at risk of burnout?

People who are dealing with a stressful environment on a daily basis, which must fulfill certain objectives and are under pressure due to time, financial or employer constraints. Also people whose job has become too demanding and not feeling that they are being recognized and appreciated for their efforts. Other risk factors are those workers
who have very high standards, and even possibly perfectionistic traits. Their belief system states that anything less than perfection is not acceptable, so you can imagine the pressure and stress it puts upon them to manage life and its challenges. Know anyone like this?

What are the symptoms of burnout?
Lack of concentration
Feeling sad
Poor short-term memory
Feeling rushed
Physical symptoms such as headaches, pains in back and shoulders,
Unable to sleep
Easily frustrated
Becoming more aggressive
Isolating yourself
Negative outlook on life
Feeling empty
Lack of energy
Making more mistakes at work
Difficulty getting to work on time
Lowered immunity to colds
Difficulty concentrating and focusing

Stats Canada also reports that 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress. 75%-95% of all doctor visits are for stress related ailments and complaints
The lifetime prevalence of emotional disease is more than 50% often due to chronic untreated stress reaction.

What are effective ways of dealing with stress?

Stress management

-Know your stress triggers – keep a feeling and behaviour diary where you can jot down the times you are feeling exhausted, powerless or “out of control”. This can help you pinpoint your own patterns of feelings and then you can find tools to help deal with them before they overwhelm you.
-Monitor your self-talk. The average person thinks 60-80,000 thoughts per day. How often do you have negative self-talk? Catch yourself and then find outlets and tools to distract yourself from these thoughts, focus on your present and write a list of the things you appreciate in your life today.
-Have a buddy system. Agree to call each other whenever stress rears its ugly head. You will feel less alone, more accepted and it will help you to relax to know you are being supported.
-Work on changing your expectations. Move from perfectionism to, “It’s good enough”.
-Learn to delegate. Ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of good
time management strategies. There are people able and willing to help, but sometimes you have to just ask.
-Break the list of things to do, into small steps
-Take a deep breath, count to 10 s l o w l y
-Focus on the solutions, not the problems. We all have stuff to do and there will always be more, and that’s ok. Put your energy into finding the solutions rather than spending your energy by focusing on the lack.
-Ask yourself , “How important will this be in 5 years?”
-Take regular breaks
-Get counselling. Speak to a solution-focused professional who can teach you the tools you need to manage your specific stress effectively.
-Meditate or listen to guided visualizations
-Speak to your boss and ask for a clear understanding of your work duties and
task priorities.
-Other stress management techniques include exercise, deep breathing, good diet, sleeping well and social interaction with positive-minded friends.

Does it take time and effort to follow-through on these stress management strategies?
Absolutely! You have to see it as an investment in yourself and in your future. You see the dentist and the doctor for prevention, don’t you? Surely your teeth and body are not more valuable than you mental state of health? It’s a small cost to pay to avoid burnout, but the choice is always yours.

Rhonda Rabow is a psychotherapist in Montreal. Her website is To receive her free monthly newsletter, go to, or email her at or call 514-626-4609.

Author's Bio: 

Rhonda Rabow is an author and a psychotherapist living in Montreal, Quebec Canada. She has over 25 years experience counseling individuals, couples and families facing a variety of life challenges; from parenting, grief, depression, and self-esteem issues, to conflict resolution and marriage counseling. Her approach is empowerment and she accomplishes this by helping her clients find solutions to their problems and teaching them the skills and tools they need to feel back in control of their lives. She has also recently published an e-book called, "Discover the 3 secrets to living happily ever after".