Do you experience emotional burnout from work?

4 minute read – Personal Care Series – Managing emotional burnout

Emotional burnout. It’s a strong phrase.

In fact, it’s such a strong phrase, that many of us would never think to associate it with what we experience at work and the emotional response we have to those situations.

And yet, in our ongoing survey of disability and aged care workers, we see more and more people admitting they find it difficult to deal with situations they experience in their workplace.

The care sector is the home of unique working environments. While it is highly regulated and heavily scrutinised, like other healthcare sectors, it is also often a place of heightened emotions and sometimes, physical interactions.

It is these situations that can leave you feeling shocked, saddened, hopeless, under equipped, hurt and alone.

Over time, if you can’t shake those feeling, you might start to feel overwhelmed and experience a sense of emotional burnout.

And while many great workplaces provide mental health support for employees, there are others that are yet to catch up, meaning valuable workers are left to manage their own emotional burnout, while continuing to turn up to work each day.

So how can you manage your mental health, when you work in a challenging health or care-based setting? We drew on a mental health expert in the NDIS space to provide some simple tips.

Pay attention to yourself and others

Chances are, if you’ve had a tough time emotionally at work, others may be experiencing something similar. As humans, and as carers, it is our responsibility to look afters others as well as ourselves.

As your first priority, make sure you pay attention to ‘you’ and to what is going on inside you.

Sometimes we are so busy that feelings of sadness or stress can sneak up on us, so being mindful and present can help ensure you are more aware of yourself and your own mental health.

Likewise, being busy can mean we pay less attention to those around us. While your management team should keep an eye on all of you, often it is easier for you to notice changes in the people who you work more closely with every day.

By looking out for others, you can help to identify when someone may be experiencing emotional burnout and help them seek support.

Talk to someone internally

If you have experienced situations at work that leave you upset or concerned, or your day-to-day job is difficult to deal with emotionally, it is important you notify a manager or even a colleague so someone else is aware of your situation.

Workplaces do have a duty of care to their employees, but sometimes, without a heads up from those of us on the ground, issues or concerns can remain unknown.

Most organisations will have policies and processes in place that are designed to provide additional support to employees who are continuously in situations that could impact their mental health.

Ask your HR team if your organisation has access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if you don’t feel comfortable speaking with management.

Remove yourself from situations that cause emotional distress

Working in aged or disability care, you may be regularly in situations that leave you feeling sad or even helpless. While these situations, unfortunately, are all part of the job (just as the joy is!), it doesn’t mean they won’t have a profound impact on your mental health.

If work is getting you down, talk to a manager about removing yourself from the situation for a while – it may just be that you are experiencing some emotional burnout.

This doesn’t necessarily mean time off, but perhaps, rather than caring for clients or patients, you might do transport or work in the kitchen for a few weeks, so you can clear your head and get yourself ready to go back to your normal role.

Seek external support for emotional burnout

It can be easy to forget, when caring for others all day, that you also need some care and support. Perhaps you need some help from others, perhaps you just need to make some time to care for yourself and focus on you for a while.

If your organisation doesn’t provide EAP and you don’t feel you can talk to your manager, try making an appointment with your GP who can recommend a counsellor.

There are so many free counselling services available – both face-to-face and by phone for busy shift-workers, and you may also be eligible for free or low-cost sessions under Medicare.

For further resources:

  • BlackDog’s Workplace Kit is a great resource for Australian employees and managers
  • The Government’s Head to Health is a useful tool for those who work in health to find support for their own mental health
  • Hand-in-hand is a program that commenced during Covid-19 to provide peer support to Australian healthcare workers


VisiCase provides an NDIS-ready business automation platform, built on powerful workflows. It helps you manage, streamline and optimise every component of your business, and its modules empower a positive employee and client experience.

Photo by Arif Riyanto

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