Before the French Open earlier this year, Japanese tennis phenom Naomi Osaka announced that she would not be conducting her mandatory media assignments. Citing mental health issues, Osaka did not participate in press conferences and other interactions with the media. She was fined and threatened with expulsion from the tournament. Shortly after, she announced that she would be withdrawing from the competition, again citing mental health issues. In mid-June, she announced (via her agent) that she would not be participating in the upcoming Wimbledon Championships. Naomi was experiencing burnout.
In the last week of June, celebrated gymnast Simone Biles stepped down at the Tokyo Olympic Games due to physical and mental health concerns and a need to protect her wellbeing. Biles was quoted as saying “People have to realize that we’re humans, we’re not just entertainment.”
Announcements like these were previously unheard of in the world of professional sports. While it’s the norm for athletes to take time off for physical injuries or to have a baby, there has been very little conversation around how mental health challenges can affect athletes and the need to take a break to preserve mental and emotional wellbeing. The back-to-back announcements from both athletes has sparked a much-needed conversation about mental health in the world of athletics and in the lives of everyday people.
The Negative Impact of Stigma
Mental health stigma has been around for about as long as human beings have existed. For centuries of human history, people with mental illnesses have been misunderstood, discriminated against and stigmatized. Stigma is one of the reasons that it’s so hard to seek help for mental health issues. Though both athletes received an outpouring of support, they also received quite a bit of scrutiny. There is an expectation placed on athletes to be strong and to push through difficulties no matter what.
In the same way that Osaka and Biles have faced scrutiny, you may have faced similar responses from colleagues, friends or family members when you’ve opened up about mental health issues. Maybe you’re afraid to open up because of the reaction you’re expecting. By speaking up and seeking help when you need it, you’re showing incredible bravery.
Ease Burnout By Taking a Break
You don’t have to be an Olympian to have experienced significant stress or pressure. The demands of work, school, family, finances and other obligations can take a serious toll on your mental health. By pushing yourself too far, you risk becoming burned out, which can leave you feeling exhausted, empty and distant.
Burnout is a normal reaction to prolonged stress and in a workplace context, it’s often accompanied by feelings of exhaustion, cynicism and reduced job performance. When experiencing burnout, you can start feeling alienated or removed from workplace activities and everything can start to feel pretty pointless. You may feel physically tired or may experience other physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches or digestive issues.
Taking regular breaks is one of the best ways to prevent burnout and to care for your mental health. Use this time to relax, reflect, pause and return to work with increased energy and a more positive perspective. Breaks also help to improve our performance on the job, since working with a balanced and clear mind will lead to better results.
Easy Ways to Incorporate Rest
A break doesn’t have to come in the form of a weeklong vacation. Mini-breaks are very effective at helping you to manage your stress levels. Try taking breaks throughout your workday. After every hour of work, take a ten-minute break to stretch your legs, drink some water or go to the bathroom. When it’s your lunch hour, try to put your work away so you can truly enjoy your lunch and maybe take some time to chat with coworkers or read a chapter of a book. These short breaks are surprisingly impactful when it comes to reducing your day-to-day stress.
Are you able to use your weekends more effectively to get in more rest? For many of us, weekends are a time to get things done that we weren’t able to do during the week. By shifting some of these tasks to weekdays, you can free up valuable time on Saturdays and Sundays that can be used for rest or leisure. Maybe you usually do grocery shopping on Saturday mornings. Is it possible to go one day after work so you can free up two hours on Saturdays? How about shifting tasks like laundry or vacuuming to weekdays?
Seeking Help for Workplace Burnout
Work is a significant aspect of our lives. We spend a lot of our time at work and for many of us, our career forms a large part of our identity and contributes to an overall feeling of satisfaction with life. If you’ve been feeling stressed or burnt out at work and think you may be reaching a breaking point, it’s time to reach out for help.
Firstly, what kind of help can you get from friends and loved ones in terms of emotional and moral support. Having a community is vital when going through stressful times. It may be tempting to isolate yourself, but try to reach out or to be responsive when others reach out.
Next, consider how viable it is to speak to HR about your work situation. Could it be possible to shift some responsibilities to a coworker who may have less on their plate? Is your manager or supervisor aware of your stress? If you’re constantly working overtime on a particular project, could it be that enough resources haven’t been allocated to the project? Have a conversation about your concerns to determine if any changes can be made.
Working with a therapist is one of the most effective ways to manage workplace stress and burnout. The clinicians at Flourish Psychology understand the impact of a fulfilling career on your overall wellbeing. We want to help you to do your best work so you can live your best life. Whether you’re handling workplace anxiety, considering transitioning into a new career or struggling to find work-life balance, we can provide expert guidance and support to lead you towards a career that brings more joy.
By working with a therapist, you’re better able to ensure that you’re happy and fulfilled at work and in the other areas of your life. Contact us today to get started.