In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified occupational burnout as a very real issue for the modern workplace, going as far as including it in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).
In their report, the WHO defined the main symptoms of burnout as follows: the sustained experience of workplace stress that leaves a person feeling exhausted, negative about their job, and with reduced professional efficacy.
Burnout happens when workers are overworked to the point of being too tired to care anymore. While the WHO portrays burnout as an issue of the workplace, this phenomenon doesn’t just stem from work contexts and can be applied to other areas of our lives.
Erayna Sargent, the founder of burnout-focused consultancy Hooky Wellness, explains that it’s important for people to learn about forms of burnout that aren’t related to work. “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.
Here are three types of non-work-related burnout that you should be aware of, accompanied by strategies you can use to combat them.
Parenting through a global pandemic has certainly amplified the issue of parental burnout over the past couple of years. The American Psychological Association (APA) characterizes parental burnout 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.”
When parents are constantly stressed out and worried about how they could possibly get everything done, that stress bleeds out into other aspects of their lives, such as disrupting sleep and contributing to irritability.
To manage parental burnout, it’s important to acknowledge the stress rather than diminish it. Instead of minimizing hardship, accept that being a parent is tough, and is a role that uses up your stores of time and energy. “Recognizing that you no longer have the energy to do [all the things]” can help parents manage parental burnout.
If you are voluntarily giving up your free time to take care of an elderly parent or a loved one who has chronic health conditions or disability, then you’d be considered an informal caregiver and may be struggling with caregiver burnout. This is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that differs from parental burnout because it usually relates to the caring of non-school-aged individuals.
According to this 2019 study, being an informal caregiver can potentially put 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,” Sargent says. It is often hard for informal caregivers to take a break from their responsibilities because they feel as though someone else is depending on them. However, if your role as a caregiver is putting you at risk of experiencing burnout, then consider also making time to engage in an activity you enjoy. Research demonstrates that picking up a hobby will relieve stress and make it easier to handle your responsibilities.
This 2021 study investigating the relationships of heterosexual married couples discovered that marital burnout is caused by long-term conflicts within a marriage. These long-term conflicts compromise the quality of the relationship and may result in increased aggression and reduced feelings of love.
To combat marital burnout, try to intentionally set time aside to reconnect. This means looking at your calendar and blocking time off specifically for quality time with your partner. If the time you spend with your partner isn’t helping to relieve symptoms of marital burnout, then it may be time to consider couples therapy. If your partner becomes aggressive, no matter what the cause, remove yourself from the situation and seek help and safety.