TALES FROM HUMBER: School isn’t the only cause of my burnout

Mar 25, 2024 | OP-ED, Tales From Humber

Less than a month left until the end of this semester, and I’m still constantly trying to balance my school, work and personal life to avoid burnout.

Being a daughter, sister, full-time student, and part-time receptionist are all the causes of my burnout. In addition to these factors of who I am, I’ve always been self-reliant growing up. I rarely asked for help from anyone and learned through watching and listening.

However, I never anticipated being independent would cause me to feel so mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted.

The World Health Organization (WHO) characterizes burnout as an occupational phenomenon and not classified as a medical condition. When a workplace doesn’t successfully manage or help an individual balance their stress, the person can experience feeling worn out.

WHO describes burnout as feelings of energy shortage or exhaustion, a mental distance or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job and low professional efficacy.

The organization focuses on burnout within the workplace. But working within an automotive business doesn’t overburden me with stress. It is more so having to work to keep up with my finances. The stress comes from working long hours to pay my bills.

Then, at home, I am the only daughter and middle child. With my mother being the only other female in the house, more than 85 per cent of the chores are assigned to me.

While my brothers are relaxing at the end of the day, I am stuck staying up late in the kitchen washing dishes, making lunches and figuring out the next best day to do laundry, clean the house or bathe the dogs.

According to a national survey from BioMed Central Public Health, 95 per cent of Canadian post-secondary students using campus mental health services reported being overwhelmed and exhausted, and 84 per cent reported anxiety.

My school environment is different compared to my home and workplace. Some professors and peers create a relaxed atmosphere. But that does not mean the workload gets any easier.

Sometimes, there aren’t enough hours within a day to complete the assignments I want to finish.

I’ve learned that many stressors contribute to my burnout, and I am still learning how to cope with it.

Dr. Gillian Strudwick, a mental health nurse and chief clinical informatics officer at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said recognizing what one can and can’t control can help manage burnout.

She said some factors from school, work and organizations contribute heavily to an individual’s burnout and are things people can not control.

“The part that you can are things to an extent that you have the knowledge and ability and finances and all that,” Strudwick said. “For example, self-care, awareness of burnout and self-assessment.”

Once someone realizes they are burned out, the next step is to figure out the stressors and then set realistic goals, she said.

Strudwick taught me that burnout is something I can manage by myself by understanding how I feel and figuring out how to and if I can address my stressors.

I hope to cope with burnout by creating healthy habits like planning my tasks ahead of time and spending time alone to reflect on myself.