Suffering from mid-year burnout? Strategies for a balanced lifestyle and enhanced well-being

Published Jul 4, 2024


We’ve just passed the middle of the year but the most common reminder of edging closer towards the year end is the arrival of the mid-year burnout.

It’s the constant fatigue you think might improve once you’ve tackled that to-do list so you can finally catch your breath and rest.

And whil that to-do list and calendar continues to fill up, we may find ourselves adding that extra shot of coffee in the morning and pouring ourselves an extra glass of wine at night to unwind and find a reprieve from it all.

Mid-year burnout is simply that feeling of being wired and tired … at the same time.

In a 2023 survey conducted by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) on the impact of loadshedding, findings revealed significant mental health challenges among respondents.

Out of 1,836 participants, 42% reported feelings of depression, 60% experienced panic or anxiety, and 10% had thoughts of suicide, alongside other stress-related conditions.

Burnout manifests differently for everyone. Some may experience persistent headaches, restlessness, frequent illness, digestive problems, or changes in weight.

Others might show emotional signs like anger outbursts, impatience, social withdrawal, or a general loss of interest. In essence, it boils down to feeling exhausted.

The effects of burnout are profound. It not only affects our mental health and well-being but also takes a toll on businesses and the economy. Annually, burnout costs South Africa an estimated R235 billion, equivalent to 4.2% of GDP.

In South Africa, one out of every three employees is grappling with burnout, a condition often marked by “presenteeism”: being physically present at work but mentally absent and ineffective.

The economic impact of mental health-related presenteeism is significant, costing approximately R96,500 per employee annually. Surprisingly, this is more costly than absenteeism and leads to nearly seven times less productivity compared to absence due to depression.

Burnout is characterized by chronic physical and emotional exhaustion, typically stemming from prolonged stress, particularly from overwhelming work demands.

Symptoms include fatigue, decreased productivity, emotional detachment, and negative feelings. Watch for signs like mood swings, feeling overwhelmed, headaches, muscle soreness and frequent illnesses.

In the workplace, burnout translates into reduced productivity, declining performance, lack of focus, and procrastination.

Gary Feldman, the Head of Healthcare Consulting at NMG Benefits, emphasises the crucial role that South African employers play in safeguarding the well-being of their workforce.

Gary Feldman, Head of Healthcare Consulting at NMG Benefits. Picture: Supplied

What can you do if you suspect that you are burning out?

Feldman has the following tips:

Talk about it

When we are taking strain or feeling overwhelmed, we tend to be embarrassed about not being able to function at our peak, but this only makes things worse. Talk openly about what you are going through.

Get in touch with your company’s employee assistance program (EAP) for counselling that can help you manage, and overcome your burnout.

Prioritise your tasks

Take deliberate steps to keep track of your work. Use a spreadsheet, to-do list or calendar to structure your days around achieving outcomes. This will help you to feel more in control, and less anxious.

Break your day up

Step away from your computer from time to time. Getting a glass of water, or taking a walk outside will help to re-set your stress. Our bodies were designed to be active, and sitting at a desk all day is not good for your mood, energy, or overall health.

Change your lifestyle

Apart from burnout, stress can also trigger depression and anxiety, which often leads to self-destructive behaviour. Making changes to your lifestyle, like getting enough sleep, improving nutrition, exercising regularly, connecting with others, and laughing more, can help to counter the effects of stress.

Switch off

Feldman stresses the importance of employers leading the way in promoting mental health at work.

"Setting an example means not responding to emails or taking work calls after hours.

“This is especially important for remote workers, who should be encouraged to shut down their laptops at the end of each workday. Managers need to dispel the notion that employees must always be available and should ensure that everyone takes their annual leave."

Understanding employee wellness is crucial, considering that on average, we spend one-third of our lives at work.

"Happy and healthy employees are more resilient and better prepared to adapt to change. If there's one strategy your company should focus on, it's tackling employee burnout, because it's not just a financial drain—it affects overall business performance.“