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Burnout: a men’s health crisis

Maya Griffiths

Maya Griffiths

The conversation around men’s health is an evolving subject: until recent years men were expected to keep a stiff upper lip and carry on. However, with a growing awareness of men’s mental health problems there is a new widespread acceptance that men can be open about their health. Burnout is a major issue- it is thought that around 2/3 of UK workers have experienced it.

With our lives becoming ever busier, we can find the demands of work, family life, relationships, finances and everything in between a lot to cope with.

Burnout is more than feeling that everything has got too much, and it’s more than being overwhelmed with work. Recognising when you’re experiencing burnout is important, as is knowing what to do when struggling with it.

What is burnout?

Burnout happens when you’re at your limit of stress. Burnout is multi-faceted with a number of symptoms such as:

  • feeling exhausted
  • lack of enthusiasm
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • being more emotional than usual
  • disassociation: a feeling of being detached from reality and in a surreal state
  • insomnia
  • sadness/ depression
  • high blood pressure
  • inability to concentrate
  • reliance on substances such as alcohol

What causes burnout?

Any number of factors can cause burnout, including:

  • too much work stress
  • family or relationship problems
  • being a dad
  • financial issues
  • a feeling of life being out of control
  • other problems in life causing stress and anxiety

The key factor in burn out is that life has become too much and too difficult at that point for the sufferer. It may only be a single life situation- such as a difficult divorce- that can cause it.

What should I do if I think I may be suffering from burnout?

There is no catch-all remedy for burnout. However, there is always a solution. For example, if your work seems to be causing the problem then you can explore different ways of managing the issues causing you stress, such as talking to your boss about your workload, or taking regular breaks.

Stress management techniques can go a long way to helping you feel better. These can include:

  • regular exercise- something you enjoy
  • spending time on hobbies and interests
  • meditation- using an app is a good way to start
  • getting outdoors into nature
  • keeping a stress diary- getting it all out and down on paper can help
  • seeing a counsellor

If you feel depressed or anxious, or like you are struggling, you can consult your GP who can help. Also talk to people in your life about how you feel- a significant other or a friend. Sharing with someone else can help relieve the burden.

If it seems that your job is causing the burnout then it might be time to take stock and review your options regarding moving on. It can also help to write down and figure out what about the job is causing you so much stress, in a bid to relieve the pressure and find a solution.

If you hate your job then it may help to find purpose elsewhere in your life- perhaps by occasional volunteering or spending more time on your interests, in a bid to create balance with work.

Learning to say no

Over-extending yourself or giving too much of yourself to work or people in your life can be a major contributing factor to burn out. It’s important to prioritise yourself by saying no sometimes. While it can feel awkward, here are some tips to help you put yourself first:

  • set boundaries. You have a right to set boundaries with commitments and relationships that are overwhelming you.Your mental health is the priority.
  • unplug from social media and email for the evening.
  • focus on building space and time for quiet in your life, or time spent on your hobbies- even if it’s only spending an hour at the weekend tinkering in the garage. A little time to yourself can help you hit the reset button on your stress levels.

Get enough rest

Try going to bed earlier in order to help your body and brain recharge for the day ahead. Unplugging from your phone a few hours before sleep can help your mind relax.

Focus on diet

While it can be tempting to load up on comfort food and alcohol while experiencing burnout, swapping out some unhealthy choices can make a big difference.

  • Watch your sugar intake. Sugar creates a temporary high leading to a crash in energy. Aim to avoid the highs and lows by choosing a nut bar or fruit instead.
  • Drink more water. Your body needs 2 litres a day for optimum function.
  • Load up on fruit and veg. The more the merrier! More fruit and veg means more vitamins and a healthier mind and body.
  • Choose healthier carbs. Instead of a pile of mashed potato with butter, a different option like a baked sweet potato will provide more nutrition.
  • Aim to eat less red meat and instead base more meals around fish. Fish is a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids and minerals.

The bottom line

Feeling burnt out should not be ignored- it’s a sign that you need to take action. If you’re feeling stressed, depressed, anxious or overwhelmed, speaking to your GP is a good place to start.

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