How burnout led this Canadian to a holistic health transformation
Eighty-four percent of Canadian workers have experienced burnout, with 34% of those Canadians reported experiencing high or extreme levels, during 2021. It’s a high number but one that might not shock you. With the uncertainty of the pandemic, talks of a global recession, and the general state of the world, it’s no surprise that people are feeling anxious and exhausted.
Add to that longer working hours and subpar mental health resources, it starts to make sense why almost two-thirds of Canadians are struggling with burnout.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a psychological condition that occurs when a person is exposed to prolonged stress in their daily lives—most often burnout is associated with workplace stressors but has evolved to encompass the stressors people experience from all avenues of life.
In 2019, the World Health Organization listed burnout as an official medical diagnosis, classifying it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.
According to WHO, burnout is characterized by “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and 3) a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment”.
Symptoms of burnout
Those experiencing burnout can feel drained—many describe it as exhaustion and energy depletion. Often burnout is accompanied by physical symptoms like backaches, headaches or migraines, and issues with over and under-eating. Sleep may become an issue for those experiencing burnout.
Individuals may start to become withdrawn from their support systems as they spiral deeper into burnout. They begin having a difficult time completing tasks at work and in their personal lives and start to feel like they are failing.
This leads to a drop in self-confidence which can cause people to feel helpless in their situation.
“I didn’t want the next 20 years of my life to look like the last 20 years of my life.”
Manulife Vitality member Mike was living a corporate lifestyle as a vice president of sales. He was 20 years into his career when he started experiencing the negative impacts of burnout.
“[My job] didn’t leave me a lot of time for my family—my wife and my daughter. Mentally it was very draining and exhausting.”
Mike continued to push forward with his career until he was no longer physically able to. “The biggest form of burnout for me was I actually ended up hospitalized because of it,” Mike explains. “I was in the hospital for almost a week. I had a lot of physical and also mental symptoms.”
Mike was left wondering what he needed to do to live a long, healthy life. What it all came down to was limited stress in his life.
“I remember talking to a nurse and she said there are a lot of patients that she’s had with a very similar story to mine. She said that stress is the big factor and she—along with my doctor—advised me on how you can alleviate stress.”
For Mike, the biggest source of stress in his life was his career—working long hours in a demanding position for 20 years had taken a toll on his mental and physical well-being. “I didn’t want the next 20 years of my life to look like the last 20 years of my life,” Mike shares. “I didn’t want to look back when I was 60 or 70 to say that I didn’t try to make a change, I didn’t try to do something different, to do something I’m more passionate about.”
And so that is exactly what Mike did… he made a drastic change.
Making positive changes to combat burnout
Mike knew that making changes to his working environment as well as other areas of his life was the most important and effective way to leave burnout in the past.
“I’m happy to say that I’ve now taken control of my life—I’ve taken control of my health. I’m in a much healthier place holistically. Mentally, physically, spiritually, I am in a much better place.”
Mike is still working but he’s left the fast-paced, over-scheduled work week behind. Instead, he works at a more relaxed, comfortable pace that is a better fit for his lifestyle. This has given him more time to be with his family and pursue other interests that he is passionate about.
“I’ve got to say that I am absolutely loving what I am doing now. Part of my story is that I have written these children’s books,” Mike says. “It’s a lesson more for myself because the underlying tone in one of the books is how to relieve anger and fear, and worry.”
But it is not just his mental health that Mike has prioritized. “I go to the gym 5 days a week now, I’m playing basketball again,” he shares. His new approach to a work-life balance has given him room to take better care of both his physical and mental health.
“Now that I’m on this path, I know that I have done the right thing and I’m actually very grateful to take that leap forward.”
Practical tips to combat burnout
As an individual, there are a variety of ways that you can make changes in your life to help you combat burnout. While not all of these changes will be possible for every person, by incorporating a few into your life you will start to see a difference.
- Strengthen your interpersonal relationships—from coworkers to family members, spend more time with the people in your life.
- Alter your work patterns—while not everyone has the flexibility to do so, try to work fewer hours, take more breaks, and cut back on overtime.
- Make self-care a part of your every day—from exercise and healthy eating to a great night's sleep, self-care should be an important part of your day.
- Get mindful—whether you take up mediation, relaxation, or other mindfulness strategies, finding a way to disconnect from work and reconnect with yourself can be beneficial.
- Shift your thinking about work—this may be easier said than done but try to mentally disconnect from work when you leave the office at the end of each day.
- Seek professional help—speaking to a therapist, counsellor, psychotherapist, or other mental health professionals can help you establish the skills you need to work through your burnout.
What’s next for Mike’s health journey?
When asked about what Mike plans to do in the future, he plans to keep on maintaining the positive changes that have worked so well for him thus far.
“My long-term health goals are to continue on the trajectory that I am on. Taking care of my physical and mental health and most importantly being there for my daughter as she grows up. I want to be there for her every step of the way.”
Watch below to hear more of Mike’s story.
Want to hear more stories from Canadians taking their health into their own hands? Watch all four episodes from our “Vitality AgeTM Reveal” series.
Please always check with a medical professional to ensure these strategies are right for you.
The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company (Manulife). The testimonial provided by Mike is true. Mike was provided compensation to participate in this campaign. The Vitality Group Inc., in association with the Manufacturers Life Insurance Company, provides the Manulife Vitality program. Vitality and Vitality age™ are trademarks of Vitality Group International, Inc., and are used by the Manufacturers Life Insurance Company and its affiliates under license. Eligibility and availability of rewards are not guaranteed and may change over time. Insurance provided by the Manufacturers Life Insurance Company. The Vitality Group Inc., in association with The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company, provides the Manulife Vitality program. Manulife, Manulife & Stylized M Design, and Stylized M Design are trademarks of the Manufacturers Life Insurance Company, and are used by it, The Vitality Group and its affiliates under license. PO Box 2580, STN B Montreal QC H3B 5C6. Accessible formats and communication supports are available upon request. Visit Manulife.ca/ accessibility for more information. Website: www.manulife.ca | Telephone: 1-888-220-5212
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