We’ve all been through a lot as the world has been rocked by COVID, and we all heard about the importance of “frontline workers.” Of course, everyone understands that frontline workers are the nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers who put their bodies and their mental health on the line to care for others.
Frontline workers are also all those other unsung heroes who didn’t have the option to work from home or take time off to socially distance themselves, and they suffered from burnout too.
Caring for yourself as well as others is important. If you don’t care for yourself, you won’t be any good to anyone else. Preventing burnout can be done in a variety of ways, from little things like a cuticle treatment to bigger things like reaching out for mental health assistance. Let’s look at who frontline workers are and some ways to avoid burnout in the new year.
Who Are the Frontline Workers?
According to government statistics, 50 million Americans are designated as frontline workers. These people work in the essential industries that keep the economy going and provide essential products and services. These workers are also critical to safety, public health, infrastructure and national security.
Essential frontline workers have been identified as working in any of these industries:
- Law Enforcement
- Public Works
- Water and Wastewater
- And more …
Obviously, the risk of infection varies in each setting, but the simple fact that all of these Americans had to show up to work and put themselves and their loved ones at risk creates a mental and emotional burden that many others did not have to contend with.
What Is Burnout?
According to the World Health Organization, burnout is not a medical condition. Instead, they consider it to be a syndrome that is the result of poorly managed chronic workplace stress. In this context, the term burnout is used to refer to work-related stress and not to other stressors such as personal relationships.
They also identified three factors that make up burnout as it relates to someone’s job:
- A sense of feeling depleted or exhausted
- An increase in negative feelings and cynical thoughts about the job, which can result in the creation of mental distance from the job
- Reduction in effectively carrying out the job
Burnout is obviously a threat to the health and well-being of the person suffering from it, but it also creates the potential for poor outcomes in the workplace, which can affect others.
Signs of burnout can sometimes be hard to recognize. Keep a lookout for symptoms like:
- Feeling emotionally or physically depleted
- Isolating as a result of feeling overwhelmed
- Fantasies of escape like running away alone
- Relying on alcohol or drugs for relief
- Feeling chronically irritable
- Frequent or recurring physical illness or pain
Ways to Prevent Burnout Going into the New Year
The arrival of a new year is a great time to take a personal inventory and see how you are feeling and how you can improve your mental health to prevent burnout and improve your experience at work.
If you are in a management or administrative position, there are things you can do to help reduce or prevent burnout in your workplace:
- Make regular check-ins with your workers part of the workplace culture.
- Follow up on concerns expressed by your workers.
- Create pleasant places for workers to relax on their downtime.
- Provide and encourage mental health support like EAP (employee assistance programs).
- Acknowledge your employees’ hard work in meaningful ways.
If you are not in a position to actively create a better workplace environment, there are still things you can do to take care of yourself, such as:
- Eat a healthy diet. Include vegetables and healthy fats and reduce processed and fast foods.
- Get plenty of exercise. Take a walk on your break or get to the gym regularly.
- Take time for self care. Give yourself a skin care set, get a massage or meditate regularly.
- Practice good sleep habits. Set a bedtime and include some calming wind-down time before bed.
- Reach out for help. Contact a mental health professional or access one through EAP at work if it’s available. Find close friends with whom to “check in” regularly to create a community of support.
Burnout does not have to be an inevitable part of your work experience. Knowing the signs of burnout and making changes can create a better life for you and the people who count on you. Going into this new year is a good time to make changes and make your self-care a priority.