Ask the doctor: How can I tell I have burnout?



Saada Hassan

When burnt out your productivity might be lower despite putting in the same hours (Photo: Shutterstock)

For a while now, I have been feeling fatigued for no explicable reason. I don’t exert myself much and I do not even commute to work anymore. I work from home.

You might have reached burnout which is common, whether you are going physically to work from the office or not. Right now, it is worse because you’re in a confined environment. People’s personalities also dictate a lot. Introverts may be okay but extroverts will have a big problem because they like socialisation.

What you can do for burnout is to take time out and involve your mind in another activity that’s not really work related. It could be a day for you to learn a new recipe, watch TV, read a book or find a way of socialising. Exercises help out with burnout because you release some hormones that then activate and stimulate your brain to now have increased blood circulation, and your muscles don’t get too tired. You can also change your timings to work when you feel fully energised then compensate for lost time.

Since everyone is at home, some of my family members seem to have taken to watching a lot of TV and speaking less to people. Should I be worried?

You don’t need to be worried because probably that is what makes them feel settled. Some people get stimulated by watching TV and they feel as if time is moving which likely prevents them from feeling bored or depressed.

You can get worried when people are not talking much simply because you don’t know what is going on in their mind while others could be going into a depression mode. It is good to enquire what is going on and most importantly get a common activity that all of you can do together like board games and certain exercises like Zumba.

How do I tell that I am suffering a work burnout?

You might experience fatigue, where you are more tired than usual or you do a very small activity and it weighs you down. Your productivity might be lower despite putting in the same hours.

It could also be that you no-longer find pleasure in things that you used to enjoy, or that you are more disorganised than before.

To manage burnout involve your mind in another activity that’s not really work related (Photo: Shutterstock)

What makes for a good work area for me at home?

Your chair should be able to accommodate you in a way that your legs reach the floor or your knees should be at 90 degrees from the chair to the floor.

You can elevate your feet by using a footrest which could be a pillow, a bench or even a basin.

The chair should help you achieve an upright posture and maintain the natural angle of your backbone. If not possible, put a pillow, roll a sheet and put it in the small part of your back to avoid crouching.

Your arms and elbows should be able to rest easy on your table too. If you find that your shoulders are going down then the surface is low and you need to lift it up. If you are lifting your shoulder up to type on the computer it means you will give a lot of pressure on your shoulder and your upper back will ache. The solution is to lower it.

I struggled with mental health issues growing up. How do I ensure my 11-year-old daughter has an easier time? How do I address complex issues with her?

Children learn from actions and experiences. In order to break down anything that looks very complex to a child, you need to do it yourself and tell them what to do. Share with her a similar experience from your own life. Tell her how you felt then about the issue and how it has affected your life. Then let her explain in her own words how she feels about the said situation. Then offer her a solution to the problem at hand.

For mental health there needs to be a solution or an action to the challenges she presents to you. Be an active listener to your child. Also, get a community around her hobbies.

Say if one is sporty, find a sports community, or if into cooking, find a group that does that. A sense of community does support mental health.

Cleaning your house can count as exercise (Photo: Shutterstock)

Why is it that women seem to cope better with upheavals than men? Like my wife seems to thrive at working remotely better than I do.

Thing is, women are likely to cope better because they have a wider social network to talk to. They are also engaged in a lot of activities compared to men, meaning that they will have less time to think about other issues. They may be cooking, thinking about decorating their house or they are thinking about the next dress. But this isn’t the rule. Sometimes women don’t do better, and may not cope well with upheavals.

I have developed a real fear for hospitals especially now during the pandemic. How do I face it yet I have been sick for a while?

Face your fear. There is nothing more important than your health especially at this time. What you have may not even be Covid-19, and even then you need treatment. Most centres can now do online consultations. If it is something that will require you to do a physical consultation they will advise you. If not, you will get a prescription and drugs will be delivered to your doorstep.

I am not a fitness fanatic but I am spending more time indoors and I am aware that being inactive is bad for me. What would you advise?

There are many things you can do in the house like cleaning your house or even washing clothes that could count as exercise. You can also do some yoga, which is good for your mind and body. What I find most helpful though is actually having the desire to get fit and do the exercises. The biggest motivator for any person is having a support system of like-minded people that keep you accountable and encourage you. Find your tribe, even one person will do.

By Dr Edna Ngare as told to Saada Hassan. Dr Ngare is the head of wellness at Jubilee Health Insurance



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