In episode two of Sisters Without Shame, a friend in crisis in Johannesburg fears that she may be at the end of her emotional tether. Clinical psychologist Lumka Mabo suspects burnout.
Mabo runs her own private practice, Lumka Mabo Inc. in Centurion and primarily treats working professionals. She chats about weighty issues in Sisters Without Shame, presented by Noluthando Ngcakani and Sinesipho Tom and proudly brought to you by Health For Mzansi.
The lowdown on burnout
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to meet constant demands.
The global Covid-19 pandemic has uncovered an enduring silent mental health epidemic. It has heightened uncertainty over global economies, employment, relationships and physical health. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we take the time and take care of our mental health, Mabo believes. And we may finally be ready to have honest discussions about the issue.
“It is essential to recognise that we are psychosocial, spiritual and physiological beings. Our mistake is that we frequently try to compartmentalise ourselves.”
Be on the lookout
We all have those off days where we feel helpless, overwhelmed and unappreciated. On those days it takes the strength and determination of Hercules to even drag ourselves out of bed.
If you feel like this all the time, however, chances are you could be burned out, Mabo warns.
Developing burnout is a gradual process and does not happen with the snap of a finger. It subtly creeps up on you and gets worse if you do not attend to it.
“Prioritise your health because if you don’t, it grows into something else,” Mabo says.
‘Don’t wait for a diagnosis to attend to your mental health.’
“Diagnosis isn’t the only time you should take yourself seriously. It is at a time when you feel exhausted and you do not know why – that’s the time you seek intervention.”
She also adds that burnout feeds off dysfunction. Other symptoms include frequent headaches and muscle aches, a change of appetite and sleep patterns, a sense of failure and self-doubt, procrastination and isolation among others.
Mabo further explains that mood swings and changes are also a significant red flag for suffering burnout.
“Tolerance levels tend to diminish, and so does the threshold for patience. These are factors we see when someone is suffering from the early stages of burnout.”
No Wo-man is an island
It is not a good idea to isolate yourself from your loved ones once you are experiencing emotional distress, she adds.
‘Isolation only serves to reinforce the sadness.’
And even when there seems to be no room to crumble, crumble babes. “Take time off when you need it,” she advises.
“We do not have a ‘service place’ to replenish. We are so goal-driven that we forget to service ourselves in the process. Ultimately, we become burned out and neglect [to keep in mind] that we are holistic creatures who thrive in meaningful relations.”
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