Healthy Mind

3 Non-Work-Related Causes of Burnout To Keep In Check

Natalie Arroyo Camacho

Photo by Getty Images/Tommaso79
For the past few years, the concept of burnout has been buzzy. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) named occupational burnout a workplace phenomenon. And according to the WHO's report, burnout is characterized by three main symptoms: the sustained experience of workplace stress that leaves a person feeling exhausted, negative about their job, and with a reduced professional efficacy. Basically, it's being worked to the point of being too tired to care. And while the WHO's definition does specify that burnout applies only to work contexts and not other areas of life, those parameters are perhaps too limited. While workplace burnout is certainly rampant, there are forms of non-work-related burnout that need attention, too.

Erayna Sargent, founder of burnout-focused consultancy Hooky Wellness, says that while the growing knowledge about workplace burnout is important, it's also crucial for folks to learn about forms of non-work-related burnout, because those have the potential to compromise our livelihood, too. “Burnout can happen in different facets of your life where you're giving a lot of yourself or committing a lot of different energy,” she says.

“Burnout can happen in different facets of your life where you're giving a lot of yourself or committing a lot of different energy.” —Erayna Sargent, burnout expert

The signs of non-work-related burnout are largely similar to those of burnout that is work-related, adds Sargent (which may make identifying a case of burnout easier). The key indicators? “Chronic exhaustion, withdrawal, and detachment are the three big warning flags [of burnout],” she says. If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, though, not to worry: It's possible to work through overcoming it.

But first, it's important to ensure you can even identify burnout is happening in the first place. So ahead, find three non-work-related causes of burnout to keep in check.

3 types of non-work-related burnout to know about (and fight)

1. Parental burnout

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), parental burnout is on the rise, following effects of living amid pandemic conditions and is characterized by four main symptoms: "exhaustion in one’s parental role, contrast with previous parental self, feelings of being fed up with one’s parental role, and emotional distancing from one’s children." In the current landscape of the pandemic, the APA notes, parents are prone to experience chronic stress when they worry about how they’ll get everything done. That stress, in turn, too often disrupts their sleep, which can then lead to a decreased mood and irritability.

One key for managing the inherent stress associated with parental burnout in this landscape is to acknowledge, not diminish, stress. Accept that parenting is a tough job, one that inherently affects how much time and energy you have to do other things because of the care, time, and energy you're giving to your child. "Recognizing that you no longer have the energy to do [all the things]" can be helpful in managing parental burnout, Sargent says.

2. Caregiver burnout

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that stems from voluntarily caring for someone facing illness, disability, or any condition that requires particular attention. If you're using your free time to take care of an elderly parent or to interact with patients at a hospital, you'd be considered an informal caregiver. (It's also notably different from parental burnout; caregiver burnout usually relates to caring for non-school-aged individuals whom we don’t parent.) A Frontiers in Psychology study also found that being an informal caregiver puts a person at risk of poorer mental and physical health.

“There's a rise in [informal] caregiving, so it's good to give [this type of burnout] some attention, because people often discount how much of their energy...and bandwidth that takes," says Sargent. It can be difficult for informal caregivers to step back from the responsibilities, since someone else is depending on them, but if you are a caregiver experiencing or at risk of experiencing burnout, it can help to commit to doing something you enjoy, Sargent says, like picking up a hobby. If you're thinking I don't have time, well, do what you can to make time. Research shows that doing something you enjoy relieves stress and makes it easier to stick to. Relieving stress, in turn, is helpful for reducing symptoms of burnout.

3. Marital burnout

A 2021 study on heterosexual married couples from BioMed Central Women’s Health found that this form of non-work-related burnout is exhaustion caused by long-term conflicts within married couples that compromises the quality of the marital relationship. According to the findings, marital burnout may also increase aggressive behavior and may reduce the love between romantic partners.

Sargent says that to mitigate marital burnout, you can try reconnecting with your partner by scheduling time together. This might seem all too practical or transactional, but it makes sense when you think about it: Our calendars are meant to keep us on track, to ensure that all the important things get done. However, if this quality time is not leading to relived symptoms of marital burnout, and other options like couples therapy isn't helping either, it might be time consider whether the marriage is able to be saved. Furthermore, if your partner gets aggressive, whether related to marital burnout or not, remove yourself from the situation immediately and seek safety.

If you are experiencing or have experienced domestic violence and are in need of support, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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