St. Louis employees and employers work to combat burnout

Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 9:57 PM CST
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( - Feeling stressed? Overworked? Exhausted? They’re all signs of burnout and experts say they shouldn’t be ignored.

“Burnout out is a high-risk factor for depression, and suicidal thoughts and substance use,” explained Dr. Jessi Gold, a psychiatrist at Washington University Medical School.

It’s a feeling so many of us can identify with and it’s gotten worse since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

“It’s so easy to work, work, work until the days over,” explained Liz Creamer, a business consultant who’s been working from home. She says it’s tough to find moments to clock out.

For Candace Johnson, an attorney in Clayton, it often feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day.

“You’re working all day and then clock into the second job of mom,” said Johnson.

A survey by Indeed found 67 percent of US employees believe the pandemic has made burnout worse. No industry is left behind but in healthcare, it’s become a major problem and is contributing to what’s known as the Great Resignation.

“Staff feel like they’re unable to do a good job because we don’t have what we need and we don’t have enough staff and that can be very morally distressing,” explained Angie Filipiake, who runs the Care for Caregiver program at Cardinal Glennon Hospital.

The program focuses on helping staff cope with tough situations. From providing emotional support to more lighthearted things like a massage chair and meditation and yoga sessions.

“We try to bring joy back to work,” said Filipiake.

By definition, burnout is work-related stress. The pandemic has blurred the lines of work and home for so many and complicated all facets of life.

“Being a working mom pre-pandemic was crazy, the juggle of everything is already a lot and then you add quarantine and COVID to the mix, it’s crazy,” said Candace Johnson.

Experts like Dr. Gold warn burnout is more than just stress and there are signs to watch out for. Exhaustion, reduced efficiency, insomnia and changes in eating habits are all signs of burnout.

“One of the ways to prevent burnout is social support,” said Dr. Gold.

Liz Creamer said her company assigned “no meeting days” and gave employees access to the CALM app.

“I meditate now every day if not more than once a day,” said Creamer.

Johnson says she turns to working out as a way to focus on her mental health and get some important “me” time. But Gold warns hobbies alone can’t combat burnout. It’s often a conversation that needs to happen at work with employers. She believes celebrities like Olympic gymnast Simone Biles speaking out about mental health is helping change the culture.

“People saw you can actually vocalize what you need and take a step back, even if you are the best person in the world, and so having the realization that we can prioritize ourselves,” she explained.

Whether it’s in healthcare or another industry, the first step is identifying something is wrong and speaking up.

“It’s really important, we all need help sometimes,” said Filipiake. “The stigma is we don’t ask for help. We just go go go and we think grin and bear it and that catches up with us.”