Increased workloads and understaffing brought about by the pandemic continue to impact essential workers today. Essential workers – which includes everyone from food service employees and grocery store cashiers to healthcare employees and first responders – have dealt with a unique set of stressors, such as working extra shifts due to staff shortages and witnessing the effects of the pandemic first-hand. Coping with these stressors for nearly two years is taking a serious toll.
Essential workers have toiled endlessly to keep America on its feet since the beginning of the pandemic. And while the pandemic has exacerbated mental health problems for nearly everyone, essential workers have been hit especially hard with anxiety, depression, and burnout.
Burnout can cause people’s mental health to plummet, but therapy can help.
Help America heal with Ravel Mental Health.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion brought on by chronic stress. When clients are stressed, they still feel a level of control and ability to get things done. When clients are burned out, they feel depleted and have nothing left to give. Burnout isn’t considered a mental illness on its own, but it is often a symptom of deeper issues such as depression or anxiety.
Causes of Burnout
Even before the pandemic, there was a burnout crisis. In 2018, studies showed that about two-thirds of full-time workers were experiencing burnout. But in 2020, burnout became more rampant than ever before. Here are the six main causes of burnout.
- Unsustainable Workloads
When a job demands more of an employee than they can do physically or mentally, it is both unrealistic and sustainable. During the pandemic, essential workers have contended with increased health risks, challenging in-person work environments, and longer or extra shifts.
- Lack of Control
Essential workers didn’t have the option of working from home. This lack of control over their paid working conditions, personal safety, and schedules intensified their feelings of stress and anxiety while on the job.
- Insufficient Pay
Essential workers are consistently underpaid and overworked. Unhappiness over low wages at high-pressure jobs has been building up for some time, but the pandemic amplified these stressors.
- Lack of Supportive Community
People need support in their careers, both at work and from loved ones. But during the pandemic, essential workers often had to practice social distancing or even isolation due to exposure to COVID-19, removing a crucial pillar to happiness at work. In addition, dealing with angry customers and being harassed over things like mask policies or longer wait times have made things even harder for employees.
- Lack of Fairness
It’s no secret that the pandemic has affected essential workers more than office workers. In addition, some communities were hit harder than others, making it difficult for essential workers to understand “Why me?”
- Mismatched Values
Values are at the heart of employees’ relationships with their work. Discontent over mask policies and vaccination requirements – and disagreeing with employer or co-worker views on these issues – can lead to dissatisfaction and increase stress.
While these six drivers are complex, they give therapists insight into what clients who are essential workers may be experiencing when they are suffering from burnout.
How Mental Healthcare Can Help
While therapists are not able to make changes to a client’s organization, they can provide tools to minimize client stress and help them get back to enjoying their professional lives. Therapy helps clients consider how they’ve been responding to the added stress, understand how to recognize and manage overwhelming emotions, and develop the necessary skills to tackle current and future challenges.
Therapy Helps Prevent More Serious Problems that Result from Burnout
Prolonged burnout can lead to more serious health conditions, like insomnia, high blood pressure, and heart disease, as well as mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. It can also create problems at home, work, or school for clients. Therapy can help clients change negative behaviors that develop due to burnout or prevent harmful side effects from occurring altogether.
Therapy Helps Clients Handle Difficult Thoughts and Feelings
Therapists can equip patients with tools or recommend certain stress reduction techniques such as meditation to help them effectively manage difficult thoughts, emotions, and situations.
Therapy Helps Client Overcome Self-Destructive Habits
Many individuals cope with stress and burnout through alcohol, junk food, or other self-destructive habits. Therapy’s primary purpose is to help clients overcome and change these self-destructive habits. If a client has turned to vices due to burnout, therapy is an effective way to address these habits and make changes for the better.
Therapy Helps Clients Build Confidence
Burnout and lack of confidence are often closely connected. Individuals, even those who want to beat burnout, often fear that they will end up back in the same place no matter what they do. Lack of confidence causes more stress, and prolonged stress leads to burnout. And often, clients struggling with this lack the confidence they need to deal with burnout on their own. There are various therapy techniques that can help clients build the confidence they need to identify and overcome their triggers for burnout.
Therapy Helps Clients Focus on What Matters Most
When clients’ days are filled with frustrations or tasks that have no meaning, they are likely to suffer from burnout. Whether it’s spending more time with family or switching careers, therapists can help clients identify what matters the most to them and develop a plan to achieve great balance and happiness in their lives.
Therapy Helps Clients Learn to Say ‘No’
There can be dire consequences when clients can’t say no. Sometimes clients struggle to say no in their personal lives, their professional lives, or both. This means clients are taking on more than they can really handle, agreeing to things they don’t really want to do, and pushing their own needs to the side. This is the perfect recipe for burnout. The ability to say no is critical to clients living a healthy life. Therapy helps clients learn to say no by teaching assertive strategies to help them manage interpersonal situations more effectively.
There are various techniques that therapists can use to treat burnout, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Complementary treatments such as music therapy or body-mind therapies can also be beneficial to clients.
The pandemic has changed so much, but therapists have the opportunity to help clients develop resilience and learn new skills that will help them navigate whatever challenge awaits. During these difficult times, mental health professionals can help essential workers overcome burnout by offering a listening ear, assuring them that burnout is a common issue, and helping them identify steps to manage it.
How Ravel Mental Health Can Help
Essential workers are tired, and the decision to see a therapist – especially if it’s for the first time – can be daunting on top of their hectic schedules and emotionally-draining workloads. But Ravel Mental Health’s online booking platform makes it easier for essential workers to search for a therapist specializing in their area of need and schedule an appointment directly from the application.