Are You Experiencing Burnout at Work?

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If you’ve been feeling mentally and emotionally drained whilst at work lately, you could be struggling with burnout – a medical condition now officially recognised by health professionals.

The condition, which the World Health Organisation describes as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”, has often been put purely down to heavy stress and fatigue.

However, as of last month, the WHO has classified burnout as being its own separate official medical ailment after carrying out a revision of the International Classification of Diseases – a handbook regularly used by doctors and health insurers.

Symptoms of Burnout

Whilst previously burnout has been synonymous as being a form of stress, the health guidelines which have been set out by WHO suggest that the main symptoms include:

Regular feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.

An increasing mental ‘disconnect’ from your job or growing feelings of cynicism or pessimism related to your company or job role.

Worsening professional conduct or standards of work.

Other physical signs of experiencing burnout could also include:

Frequently experiencing illnesses.

Regular headaches and muscle pain.

An unusual change in appetite or sleep habits.

Alongside these, health professionals indicate that there are other emotional and behavioral symptoms of burnout such as a feeling of ‘detachment’ from reality, a lack of motivation, decreased amounts of satisfaction or accomplishment, isolation from others, increasing amounts of time spent procrastinating and presenting a frustrated or aggressive attitude to others.

Causes of Burnout

Often, burnout has been thought to have been caused through regular overworking or when someone is unable to achieve a work/life balance.

However, as Alexandra Michel, a science writer at the Association for Psychological Science explains, burnout is best attributed down to a combination of factors.

“Ultimately, burnout results when the balance of deadlines, demands, working hours and other stressors outstrips rewards, recognition and relaxation.”

Burnout is not a rare condition either, as revealed by a research study which examined Human Resource Directors in the UK in 2013.

The results suggested that almost 30% of participants reported that burnout was widespread within their company or organization.

Perhaps more alarming, is the potential effects of prolonged burnout, with studies indicating that burnout has the ability to impair personal and social functioning, along with cognitive skills.

If not dealt with in the correct manner, experts suggest that it can even lead to problems relating to memory, focus and emotional reasoning.

Tips for Overcoming Burnout

Whilst it’s now regarded as a serious medical condition in offices and workplaces, there is advice out there on how to best deal with it and work towards overcoming burnout.

An article by Lifehacker narrows the path down to overcoming burnout’s effects into three separate disciplines as detailed below.

Maintain Your Personal Care

When feeling as though you are experiencing burnout from your job, it can sometimes be common for personal care standards to slip i.e. hygiene, exercise, sleep schedules.

Sherrie Bourg Carter, psychologist and author of High-Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout, suggests that the start of overcoming burnout comes from taking care of yourself and finding more time to relax where possible, adding:

“The important thing to keep in mind is that you are still the same person you were when you entered the race.

Your drive, your enthusiasm, your passion and your energy may have gotten buried under the weight of the stress you’ve been carrying around, but those qualities and all the good ones are still inside you.

You just need to find ways to reach inside and find the sparks that first ignited your engine so that you can climb back into the driver’s seat and re-enter the race.”

Do More of What Your Enjoy

Whilst it sounds a simple premise, we can all struggle to fit in the time for the activities we tend to enjoy the most outside of the workplace.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer believes an underlying cause of burnout could come down to a feeling of resentment towards the workplace or the job role you’re in, something which builds up over time when we don’t allow enough time for leisure activities, commenting:

“Avoiding burnout has nothing to do with making sure you eat three square meals a day or get eight hours of sleep a night.

Burnout is about resentment – it’s about knowing what matters to you so much that if you don’t get it that you’re resentful.”

Therefore, if you’re starting to sense resentment and negativity towards your place of work, ensure you allow yourself enough time to do the things you truly enjoy to rejuvenate your energy and enthusiasm.

Try Something New

It can be assumed that from the previous two points raised that burnout is a result of not having enough time to juggle work, personal care routines and allowing time to engage in activities outside of work.

James Sudakow, Author of Out of the Blur: A Delirious Dad’s Search for the Holy Grail of Work-Life Balance, tried a different approach when he was struggling to maintain a work life balance however.

Sudakow added another activity (for Sudakow, it was piano lessons) to his already packed schedule and found that as a result, he was able to stave off some of the ill effects of burnout and instead stayed rejuvenated and energized whether he was at home or at work.

He summarises:

“There is a lot of great advice out there on what you should do to create your own personal balance.

There is talk about meditation, yoga, exercise and of course, playing piano.

What I learned is that the really important thing isn’t to emulate what someone else does to create personal and emotional balance but to figure out what that one regenerative thing is for you.

Then simply start doing it even if it feels additive.

The effects might surprise you.”

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Sam Rose

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