Five signs of burnout — how to address your stress

May 18, 2020

Not all stress is bad, but severe or chronic stress can be overwhelming and may affect your health. Here are five signs it’s time to address your stress.

When many people think of burnout, they think of 12-hour workdays and overscheduled lives as they rush from one activity to the next. But in times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, burnout can come from what experts call decision fatigue.

We’re now faced with a barrage of dilemmas we’ve never had to think about before — from every day questions, such as how will I stay in shape if I can’t go to the gym and how will I get groceries, to bigger concerns, such as who will watch my child now that day care is closed and will I lose my job.

The causes may be different, but the result is the same — burnout. Before you reach that point, here are five signs that it’s time to address your stress.

  1. You have trouble focusing. When your mind is on overload, you can’t give your full attention to any one topic or task. Try to set goals for what must get done and what can wait. And, learn to set boundaries. This can include limiting work hours or making sure you take time to eat lunch.
  2. You feel disillusioned or hopeless. While you can’t control much of what’s happening in the world, determine what you can control. The best place to start is with yourself. Exercise, eat healthy foods, avoid self-medicating, and get plenty of sleep.
  3. You’re irritable. If you’re lashing out at those around you, it could be a sign you’re on overload. If you feel you’re about to lose your temper, pause and take a deep breath before you react. To improve your mood, make it a point to take a break during the day and go for a walk, work in the garden, or meditate.
  4. Your health is suffering. Stress and overwork can take a toll on your body, leading to problems such as headaches, digestive issues, chronic pain, insomnia, and high blood pressure. To help alleviate stress, start by identifying what’s causing it; then create an action plan to address the problem, and contact your doctor about any health concerns.
  5. Your sleep habits have changed. Sleep restores well-being and helps protect your health so it’s important to establish a bedtime routine and stick with it. When you take time to rest, you’ll be more likely to feel more energized and focused.

If you need to talk to someone

If you recognize the signs of burnout in yourself, it may be time to talk to someone about what you’re feeling. The Employee Assistance Program* (EAP), administered by Cigna, gives you access to licensed clinicians 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Just call the EAP at 866-640-2772 and ask to speak with a clinician. Or, log on to Cigna’s website to schedule a call (one-time registration is required; use pcusa for Employee’s Employer ID).

The EAP also provides face-to-face counseling sessions with a dedicated counselor, online resources, and referrals. Counseling sessions can be in-person or virtual on your computer, phone, or tablet. And, through September 30, 2020, you can take advantage of four additional sessions for a total of 10 sessions per issue. There’s no cost to you, and all services are completely confidential. Your family members and anyone who lives with you can use the EAP, too.

During this time of high stress and anxiety, employees who are not eligible for the EAP and retired members can call Cigna’s Behavioral Resource Line at 866-912-1687 to connect with qualified clinicians who can provide support and guidance.

*The EAP is not available to members enrolled in Triple-S, GeoBlue, or the Medicare Supplement Plan.