Not getting adequate sleep is a reality for many people, but sleep deprivation and a lack of balance has become an issue in Canadian society and this has negative implications on one’s well-being and health. This article will discuss the importance of investing in rest and balance as well as offer some insight into taking a proactive approach to a more balanced life in order to prevent and help burnout.

Burnout is a REAL issue in contemporary society. 

What is Sleep?

Sleep has been a challenging aspect of human life to define, however, sleep scientists have confirmed that brain waves and their characteristic patterns as well as various physiological functions are a fundamental way to define sleep (Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School).

There are many elements to sleep:

  • Decrease in voluntary movement
  • A significant decrease in how one responds to external stimuli
  • Greater rate of synthesizing cell structures (aka anabolism)
  • Lower rate of breaking down cell structures (aka catabolism)
  • Stereotypic posture/lying down and waking up from sleep/reversibility (Mellors).

 

Sleep and Health

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Sleeping is vital for human health, for example: sleeping gives the body an opportunity to repair cells which become damaged from metabolic byproducts aka free radicals (Woo). There is also a significant connection between our mental health and sleep or lack thereof, and according to Harvard Medical School, neurochemistry studies as well as neuroimaging have demonstrated a strong link between adequate sleep and better mental and emotional resilience. On the opposite end, when someone experiences chronic sleep deprivation they will more likely experience “negative thinking and emotional vulnerability” (Harvard Medical School), which in turn, can have a negative impact on their mental health.

Benefits of Sleep

Columbia Health Administration affirms that sleep helps the body and mind in the following ways:

  • Body recuperates thereby enhancing energy levels
  • The brain can process information more effectively
  • Learning and retaining information becomes more efficient
  • Memory and concentration is heightened
  • Helps regulate hormones that control appetite and regulate energy expenditure aka leptin and ghrelin
  • Helps muscle recovery from physical activity

Sleep is highly beneficial for the mind & body.

 

BURNOUT CULTURE 

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Multitasking, pushing limits, wearing many hats, and overworked, over-hustled, over-tired people have all increased the need for Mental health awareness in Canada’s contemporary society.

This has caused a burnout culture — we have learned to expect it and accept it.

Workplace Stress 

For many, sleep challenges derive from workplace stress. The quality of sleep or lack of sleep can be influenced by the type or amount of stress from a workplace. Our mind can be impacted by stress similar to spraining our ankle:

OUR mental health is just as important as our physical well-being and they are both equally IMPORTANT TO PRIORITIZE.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, 1 in 5 employees experience mental health problems and workplace stress is the dominant reason for their anxiety and depression (MHCC). This means that 500,000 Canadians struggle with working due to workplace anxiety or workplace depression, however, it is important to note that mental health is contingent upon the specific challenges people face and thus it is diverse (MHCC). Nevertheless, approximately 78% of Canadians reported missing work in 2018 directly because of mental health challenges due to workplace stress.

Risk factors at Work 

The following are examples of risk factors for poor workplace psychological health directly from Employment and Social Development Canada:

  1. High effort and/or low reward
    • Employee goes above & beyond to provide excellent customer service, but has never been recognized by department for contributions/work ethic
  2. Excessive workload
    • Intern assigned many more projects than can be reasonably expected to complete during work term
  3. Unfulfilling work
    • Employee frequently assigned to photocopying duty by senior employees, thus rarely has opportunity to work on cases related to competencies
    • Employee requests to attend conference that would significantly help carry out work duties, but denied every year
  4. Poor physical work environment
    • A broken air conditioner that hasn’t been repaired in over a year, causing employees in the office to become overheated and irritated during summer months
  5. Discrimination
    • Recruiter deliberately excludes applicants based on status (visible minorities, race, gender, marital status, disability)

Find these examples & more at: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/health-safety/reports/psychological-health.html

If you or anyone you know is experiencing harassment at work: https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pubs/fs_wvh_atwork.php

 

Entrepreneurial Burnout

The courageous bunch who venture out on their own also experience substantial sleep deprivation. In a study called Entrepreneurial burnout: exploring antecedents, dimensions and outcomes, burnout was connected with entrepreneurs who were “extremely passionate about work and more socially isolated, have limited safety nets, and operate in high uncertainty” (Harvard Business Review). In another study, entrepreneurs with obsessive passion experienced significant burnout compared with entrepreneurs with harmonious passion (Harvard Business Review).

The difference between obsessive passionate entrepreneurs and harmoniously passionate entrepreneurs was balance: the harmoniously passionate entrepreneurs experienced greater concentration, focus, and involvement, and they took breaks and experienced higher levels of flexibility, and by creating balance the harmoniously passionate entrepreneurs were able to experience both their business and life outside of their business without conflict, guilt, or negative emotions when not working, and therefore, they had substantially less levels of burnout (Harvard Business Review).

It is not just workers and entrepreneurs who experience burnout –it is students of all levels, new or seasoned mothers, single parents, people battling mental health issues who must work and have very little help financially, the marginalized, Veterans, people with PTSD (such as first responders), Indigenous peoples, immigrants, and anyone who is pushing hard in life or dealing with a challenging life. Human beings of all backgrounds. 

How can we have more Balance?

 

LEARN TO SAY NO

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We all need to learn to say NO.

We are human beings, we are not machines.

Saying no can be a powerful way to advocate for your health and well-being.

Saying no can bring greater balance to your day, which in turn, will make you more efficient.

Saying no is saying yes to your well-being and ensure healthy boundaries are created. Saying no can bring balance and harmony to your life. Try it…. SAY NO to a request, a task, an invite when you know you need to invest in your rest –say NO to someone or something in order to say YES to balance.

Saying no does not mean being rude– it means creating healthy boundaries for your health by respectfully declining certain requests. This won’t always be realistic or easy depending on the task/event, but it is possible to start creating healthy boundaries by the word “no”. 

Three steps to say no: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/three_steps_to_say_no_gracefully

Ways to say No: https://psychcentral.com/lib/learning-to-say-no/

TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS

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Taking frequent breaks may not be realistic to do every single day, but there can be moments where you can invest 5-10 min to breathe, get mindful and grounded, and take your eyes off of a computer screen or situation – you can especially take breaks from social media by not using spare time at work or any spare time to scroll on social media. Instead, invest your typical “scroll” time into focusing on nature or something that will bring peace to your mind and body or even a creative outlet. Work-stress recovery is real, and taking frequent breaks, perhaps even 1-2 breaks a day for a minimum of 5 minutes will help. People who are able to invest in a weekend getaway will for sure benefit from the great release of that break – a weekend away can enhance resiliency, productivity, and creativity.

Bottom line: it doesn’t matter if it’s a 3 second break, a 5 minute break, or a weekend break, but try your best to take a break!

 

END PERFECTIONISM

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Give your best and be done with it. Perfection is a misguided illusion and we must find comfort and peace in simply “trying our best”.  Perfectionism has been defined as a “combination of excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations” as defined in a study called “Perfectionism is increasing over time: A meta-analysis of birth cohort differences from 1989 to 2016“. 

Another study found that individuals with higher perfectionistic concerns experienced relationship challenges when it comes to support, greater isolation due to believing they are not good enough, doubting themselves, and greater isolation which all increased their level of depression.

Challenge your inner critic and debate your negative thoughts. Take a proactive approach in changing the way you view yourself and the world you live in –remember that perfection is a lie. Having high standards is one thing, expecting everyone and everything to be perfect in the way you believe they/it should be will only induce more negativity in your mind, body, and your life.

 

Meditation

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Even 1-5 minutes a day of mindful meditation will help the brain and body with the relaxation response. Being mindful is beneficial for the mind much like the body benefits from physical exercise. A study by Harvard researchers demonstrated structural changes in the human brain, lower levels of stress hormones (cortisol), and an overall stress reduction from practicing mindful meditation.

Moreover, another study about mindfulness conducted by neuroscienctists at Harvard Medical School has demonstrated that mindful meditation positively impacts the brain’s gray matter as well as the regions connected to memory, sense of self, and emotional control.

Harvard University: Mindfulness & Depression benefits: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwZwVIMP8Fs

 

We all need to take a proactive approach towards rest, sleep, and relaxation in order to prevent or treat burnout. We need to stand up for ourselves and for our life in order to help our own well-being and health – this may take some work such as lifestyle changes and certain choices on a daily or weekly basis, and some choices may not be easy, but it can be done. Putting your well-being as a priority and making a decision to invest in rest will ensure that you are more productive and efficient in your life as a mother, father, person, employee, entrepreneur, friend, human, or all of the above.

These ideas and solutions may not be realistic for everyone as there are people who are dealing with substantial challenges as well as those who may be dealing with emotional and psychological challenges/illness which inhibit sleep or the ability to rest. However, there are solutions for most, if not all, who are in need of a proactive program to ensure that the basic needs of health are being met in Canada.

to put it briefly: invest time and effort into your well being as much as you can with the resources you have available, and reach out if you need to gain more resources, fight for your health!

Resources:

Work-life balance Strategies: https://www.cornerstone.edu/blogs/lifelong-learning-matters/post/must-know-strategies-for-achieving-work-life-balance

Metal Health 101: https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-health-101

Preventing Burnout: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/pressure-proof/201306/7-strategies-prevent-burnout

Physician Burnout Resource: http://www.oags.org/health-burnout.html

Crisis lines and Help: https://www.ementalhealth.ca/Ontario/Crisis-Lines-including-Telephone-Online-and-Chat/index.php?m=heading&ID=21

Athletes and Burnout Resource:  https://healthydebate.ca/2018/09/topic/burnout-in-health-care

Sources
Columbia Health Administration. “Sleep.” Columbia Health, Columbia University, 2019, health.columbia.edu/content/sleep.
Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “The Characteristics of Sleep.” Healthy Sleep, Harvard Medical School, 18 Dec. 2007, healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/what/characteristics.
Employment and Social Development Canada. “Psychological Health in the Workplace.” Canada, 16 Feb. 2017, www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/health-safety/reports/psychological-health.html.
Flett, Gordon L., et al. “Perfectionism, Components of Stress Reactivity, and Depressive Symptoms.” Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, vol. 38, no. 4, 2016, pp. 645-654.
Gnilka, Philip B., et al. “Multidimensional Perfectionism and Anxiety: Differences Among Individuals With Perfectionism and Tests of a Coping-Mediation Model.” Journal of Counseling & Development, vol. 90, no. 4, 2012, pp. 427-436.
Harvard Business Review. “What Makes Entrepreneurs Burn Out.” Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business Publishing, 4 Apr. 2018, hbr.org/2018/04/what-makes-entrepreneurs-burn-out.
Harvard Medical School. “Sleep and Mental Health.” Harvard Health, Harvard Health Publishing, 20 Mar. 2019, www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health.
Huskey, B. “Mindfulness Meditation Fights Burnout, New Study of Teachers Suggests – Defining Wisdom.” Center for Practical Wisdom, The University of Chicago, 5 Sept. 2013, wisdomcenter.uchicago.edu/blogs/news/archive/2013/09/05/mindfulness-meditation-fights-burnout-new-study-of-teachers-suggests-video.aspx.
Hölzel, Britta K., et al. “Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density.” Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, vol. 191, no. 1, 2011, pp. 36-43.
Mellors, Sarah. “Sleep: What Is It? Why Do We Need It? and How Much Is Enough?” Serendip Studio’s One World, Bryn Mawr College, 24 Nov. 2006, serendipstudio.org/exchange/sarah-mellors/sleep-what-it-why-do-we-need-it-and-how-much-enough.
MHCC. “Canadian Employees Report Workplace Stress As Primary Cause of Mental Health Concerns.” Mental Health Commission of Canada, Health Canada, 5 June 2018, www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/news-article/13522/canadian-employees-report-workplace-stress-primary-cause-mental-health-concerns.
Woo, Marcus. “Why Do We Sleep?” Caltech, California Institute of Technology, 2011, www.caltech.edu/about/news/why-do-we-sleep-1863.

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