#49: Burnout and Working in Aged Care

Season #4

Show notes:

Episode #3 – Special edition        

Burnout and Working in Aged Care

In the third episode of our 6-part special edition series of the Voice of Aged Care podcast, we will discuss the impact of burnout on you and the workplace, looking at the differences between stress and burnout, what happens to our brains when we are under stress, how to notice the common thinking traps, as well as some strategies for seeking support for burnout.

When it comes to our mental health, it can be tricky to know when we need support. When we look at stress, we can view it as a good thing, as it helps to propel us into action, keep us on track and motivate us. A little bit of stress is okay, but we don’t want it to get to high levels where it feels overwhelming, as this can lead to burnout.

Burnout is when we feel a lack of control, a lack of clarity, we might be experiencing conflict with others, and struggling with our work life balance.

Stress can feel like too much on our plate, while with burnout we can feel quit flat, have no energy, and can’t see light at end of tunnel.

Some of the common risk factors for burnout include a heavy workload, working long hours, a lack of work-life balance and feeling you have little or no control. Working in a helping profession, such as in aged care, can also increase your risk, as you must always be fully present and can never really switch off.

When we are feeling stress, there are changes that happen within our brains. When you are highly stressed your body send a message to your brain that something is going on, then your body reacts to what it perceives as a real threat. Your prefrontal cortex shuts down, and the limbic system is activated, and you experience the flight or fight response. This where the amygdala hijack can occur, as your body and brain have changed and you may not be able to develop a rational response. Understanding what is going on in your body and brain during step is essential in order to address it.

So, how do we know if we have stress or burnout? We might experience early warning signs that are either psychologically, physically, emotionally or behavioural:

  • Psychologically could be flashbacks, nightmares, confusion, distorted thinking or paranoia.
  • Physical could be shallow breathing, sweating, shakes, gastrointestinal, sleep disturbances or muscle soreness.
  • Emotionally we can feel irritation, anxiety, shock, sadness, numb or cry more easily.
  • Behaviourally we can withdraw, eat more or less, be triggered or increase our reliance on alcohol or drugs.

Some common thinking traps we can fall into include jumping to conclusions, negative self-talk and self-criticisms, painful emotions, shame, guilt, assume things will be bad, magnify situations and catastrophising. This not only affects us, it also affect those around us.

So what can we do? We want to be able to identify the warning signs, have self-reflection, and understand if we are okay. Do we need to turn somewhere for help?

To reduce burnout, we must understand, it is not a one person job, it is a whole team approach. If you notice signs of burnout in yourself or someone else, it is so important that action is taken. There’s nothing worse than feeling alone and that no-one cares or is there to support you.

Being mindful of how we are feeling will help to minimise the risk of burnout occurring. If you notice the warning signs, check in with yourself – do you need a day off? Or maybe start a new hobby? Or speak to your manager about your workload? Addressing it from multiple places can really help to build that resilience and help us improve our productivity, job satisfaction and ultimately improve our quality of life.


In this episode you will learn:

  • What is the impact of burnout on you and your workplace
  • How to identify what is stress and what is burnout
  • What happens to our brains when we are under a lot of stress
  • How to notice common thinking traps we can get stuck in
  • Strategies for seeking support when you need it.



I will be running a workshop on resilience specific to aged care workforce. To register your interest sign up below.