Deep Bench: What to do when stress leads to burnout, while juggling everything in life at home

WAUSAU, Wis. (WZAW) -- Mental illness comes in many forms. Burnout is one of them. With more people multi-tasking their jobs, house work, families and more from home, burnout is becoming more commonplace.

Mental health expert panel weighs in on main concerns during Mental Health Awareness Month (WZAW photo)

A panel of mental health experts discussed burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic and how you can best relieve some of the underlying causes.

Judy Lemke, a counselor from Behavioral Health Clinic in Wausau described burnout as facing an elevated amount of stress over a prolonged period of time.

“Trying to juggle having that work-life balance that you might have had pretty much in place when you were able to drive to work, do your job and come home and then be a family person is now all kind of blended together,” Lemke explained.

She said some symptoms of burnout are over-working yourself, being apathetic with no energy and feeling isolated from little to no contact with co-workers.

“We see increases in irritability, withdrawal, anger outbursts, sadness and some physical symptoms too,” Lemke said. They include headaches and stomach issues from lack of sleep and a general sense of feeling ‘blah’.

She advised to make it a big part of your day to be in contact with your support system, get exercise and check in with your neighbors and family members. “Do whatever you need to do to keep those connections going,” she said.

Lee Shipway is a clinical social worker at Peaceful Solutions Counseling in Wausau. She said it’s important to remember that with all time sitting in front of the computer or TV screens while at home, to take regular breaks.

“One thing you can remember to do is get up and walk around your house every once in a while. Don’t be in front of that screen all the time. That can be really difficult on your eyes,” she said. Shipway added that the breaks can help mitigate headaches.

She also suggested deep breathing as a way to relax your body.

The other thing related to burnout is the expectations we can put on ourselves. Rick Jass, a counselor and president at Charis Counseling in Wausau said the gap between expectation and reality is where our frustration lies.

“Sometimes we can put a lot of pressure on ourselves, so realizing this is different and it does take a lot out of us and take a break and give yourself permission to do that,” Jass said.

Dr. Brian Weiland, a psychologist at Behavioral Health Clinic in Wausau stressed the importance of balance between the brain and the body.

“If we’re just going about our life and we start to notice we’re getting really tired quite frequently or irritable or things like that, sometimes I wonder if that’s sort of the brain’s signal that something is out of balance,” he said, adding that if we only work to correct the symptom of the problem, like taking sleeping pills if we’re having trouble sleeping, we avoid looking at another potential underlying cause.