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Over the last 18 months our lives have been disrupted by multiple lockdowns, restrictions on travel, the imposition of working and schooling from home, in addition to the inability to see loved ones. For many of us, work has flowed beyond its previous boundaries. Ironically this has meant less time in the office, but more time working. It’s no wonder that many of us feel burnt out.

The situation has been compounded by the lack of dedicated holidays. Having a vacation allows us to recharge and reflect. Without designated time out in our diary, it has become common to simply keep on working. As a GP I’m starting to see distinct ‘Covid fatigue’. Patients are suffering from stress, tiredness and overwork. 

What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of physical and mental exhaustion. You may lose your ability to cope with normal daily activities, become disinterested or negative about work, suffer from poor performance, or lack your usual drive and creativity. Some personality traits, like being a perfectionist or a high achiever, and thought patterns like pessimism and high self-criticism, can also contribute to burnout.  

What can be done?

  • Identify the causes that lead to being burnt out
    These can be related to work or at home, workload, long working hours, the work itself not being compatible to your skills, your relationships and conflicts, unrealistic expectations, your home and work environment, the degree of support available, and your health (such as general illness or anemia). All of these can make coping with everyday life more challenging. 
  •  Schedule self-nurturing time regularly
    With working and home schooling pressures, ensure that you’re scheduling some ‘me-time’ daily. It’s vital to make space that allows for healthy relaxation. This may include mindfulness, listening to music, running, yoga, dancing to your favourite music or just laughing with friends.
  •  Reach out
    Know that it is okay to reach out and seek help. Find support in a trusted empathetic loved one. It takes courage to admit that we can no longer cope and recognise that you may need to get some professional assistance. 

Visiting a doctor can help treat and differentiate between stress, burnout, or an underlying deeper mental health condition like depression, anxiety or substance abuse. As a doctor I can offer a treatment plan. It may be seeking specialist support – for example, psychologists can help with improving coping skills, stress management and relaxation strategies that are lifelong essential survival skills. 

How do I spot the signs of burnout?
You may be burnt out if you find yourself:

  • Agitated and unable to relax or wind down
  • Easily irritable
  • Very reactive to trivial triggers
  • Having severe difficulties concentrating and focusing
  • Adopting unhealthy coping skills and stress reliever habits like alcohol, smoking, not exercising, more screen time, and a poor choice of foods (high in sugars and fats)
  • Experiencing poor to no motivation or energy to initiate healthy activities
  • Mentally and physically fatigued and unable to make any decisions
  • Sleep, appetite, and basic bodily functions are disrupted
  • Prone to panic attacks, a constant state of anxiety and even depression

Dr Valerie Druon

Dr Valerie Druon is a French speaking Australian family physician who has been caring for the international population of Singapore for over nine years. She is based at Osler Health International Star Vista clinic.

How can a GP help?
Make an appointment on +65 6339 2727 or by visiting osler-health.com