If your partner has seemed increasingly stressed, tired, low, or irritable lately, they may be experiencing burnout. Burnout is a common but often misunderstood experience. The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines burnout as “physical, emotional or mental exhaustion, accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance and negative attitudes towards oneself and others.” It differs from medically diagnosed depression in that “burnout has been viewed as a syndrome developing in response to chronically adverse working conditions.”
Burnout is typically associated with individuals who work in chronically stressful, service-oriented positions, such as teachers, caregivers, nurses, or counselors. However, burnout from work can also occur in other non-helper roles or jobs where stress is present, such as tech jobs, corporate roles, or stay-at-home-parenting. We’ve pulled together insights and evidence-based ideas on how you can support your partner struggling with work burnout.
Burnout symptoms and signs
It’s essential first to understand the unique stressors your partner is experiencing in their work environment. Start by asking your partner to share more specifics about what triggers their stress, and what their worry is specifically about. It may also help you to gain understanding by reading online or speaking with other individuals in similar roles. In particular, high levels of chronic stress and a heavy workload are risk factors for burnout. These factors can lead to emotional exhaustion and depletion, especially if your partner is not recharging during out-of-work hours. Poor work-life balance may prevent your partner from resting adequately, both physically and mentally.
We all need a certain amount of distance from our work to differentiate ourselves from our working roles. Distance from work helps us maintain perspective and manage anxiety related to our performance. Even a lack of breaks from work can be enough to perpetuate high stress levels over time, leading to emotional depletion. If you see classic burnout signs of physical and emotional exhaustion, decreased motivation and engagement, irritability, and mood changes within your partner, consider the following suggestions on how to help.
How to help your partner experiencing burnout from work
There are many ways to support your partner who may need help with burnout.
- Encourage self-care – promote rest and relaxation outside of work hours. Encourage healthy coping mechanisms like exercise and non-work related hobbies and help your partner prioritize self-care activities.
- Provide practical support – assist your partner with household chores and responsibilities. Consider taking on some of your partner’s typical tasks to lighten their mental and physical load.
- Facilitate open communication – invite your partner to share their feelings and concerns with you. Actively listen without judgment and encourage your partner to express their needs and boundaries.
- Offer emotional support – provide reassurance and validation for your partner’s experience. Express encouragement and affirmation as your partner shares how they’re feeling. Normalize that your partner may feel vulnerable talking about their burnout; remind them they are not alone.
- Assist your partner in seeking professional help – speak with your partner about the potential benefits of counseling. If your partner is seeking therapy, offer to help them find a therapist. You can even accompany them to a counseling session.
How to take care of yourself as the supportive partner
Burnout recovery can take time. While it is normal to want to rescue someone you love when they are distressed, remember that you have limits and needs, too. Caring for yourself as you support your partner’s process is essential.
As you seek to promote and support your partner’s rest and self-care, be intentional about practicing your self-care and stress management techniques. This could include regular exercise, meaningful social engagement, or a Mindfulness practice. Take time to participate in your favorite activities, hobbies, or exercise. You may need to modify your self-care routines as you take tasks off your partner’s plate; just make sure not to neglect them altogether. Remember to seek emotional and practical support from friends, family, or a therapist.
Facing burnout together
Work burnout can feel overwhelming, especially if it has built up over time. Having strategies to support your partner helps. While you cannot ultimately solve burnout for your partner, you can create an emotionally supportive environment for them to take the necessary steps. Offer regular reassurance that you will keep walking beside them in the burnout recovery process.
Sometimes supporting a partner with burnout from work feels overwhelming without professional guidance. If you or your partner are ready to make an appointment with a compassionate therapist, we can help. We offer virtual and in-person sessions for those who live in Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. Contact us to get started.