Burnout is defined as prolonged job-related stress that impacts your mental and physical health. There has been an increase in workplace burnout in the last year or so, with an uptick of 24% reported in 2020 and these percentages continue to rise, according to research.
In a Pew Research Center survey, a third of Americans reported experiencing high levels of psychological distress and occupational burnout. The World Health Organization has even included work burnout in its International Classification of Diseases.
Burnout is unresolved long-term stress that is characterized by a variety of mental and physical symptoms, which might include anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues, poor immune function, fatigue and an overall lowered quality and outlook on life.
Unclear job expectations, a feeling of not having control or autonomy at work, employment bullying or harassment, dysfunctional workplace dynamics, poor work/life balance, monotony and lack of support are some of the contributors to occupational burnout.
Interestingly, physicians and teachers lead the list as having the highest percentages of occupational burnout. A correlation exists between positions that require caring for others, such as nursing, social work, caretaking and high burnout levels, although the phenomenon can occur with any job, any employee and at any stage in one’s professional career and is based on personal circumstances.
Work-related burnout doesn’t just affect a person, it impacts a business. When employees are “burned out,” they can’t carry the torch as well as those who are well-rested, inspired, motivated and physically able to give their all to their role. This is why it is so important for both the person experiencing occupational burnout and an employer to recognize the signs of burnout and address them immediately.
Initially, burnout may cause minor symptoms that can easily be dismissed-- fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders, aches and pains, hypertension, nervousness and susceptibility to colds and flu are some of the early physical manifestations. If ignored, however, work-related burnout may lead to more serious health issues, such as heart disease, addiction, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, autoimmune disease, metabolic syndrome and further vulnerability to chronic and serious illnesses.
Elevated stress levels increase stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. This can have detrimental consequences on someone’s health and quality of life, affecting more than work performance.
If you have been experiencing months of chronic work burnout and its accompanying physical ramifications, it’s a good idea to take necessary actions to reduce stress before your health tanks any further.
Reaching out and spending quality time with friends and loved ones is one way to help you feel less alone and provide you with some coping skills as well as balance away from your workplace life. Those closest to us can be the most wonderful escapes from the monotony of day to day tasks by lending an ear, sharing advice and of course instilling more laughter and love in your life.
Exploring activities outside of work can also help with managing occupational burnout. Physical activity can help balance hormones, relieve stress and increase endorphins, boost energy levels and even support the immune system.
Go hiking, join a fitness class, take frequent walks, discover a new hobby--all of these can spark newfound passion as well as relaxation, which may also create more balance in your life.
Take advantage of personal days, mental health days and vacation days. We aren’t meant to work seven days a week, 365 days a year. We aren’t meant to work without lunch breaks, so take the time to walk away and recharge, as needed. The benefits of a break are two-sided, for you as well as your employer, as they impact not only your health but overall job performance, according to research.
People are more productive when rested, and studies back this, demonstrating that employee vacation time can increase job performance by as much as 80%! So, don’t feel bad about taking that time off! It’s doing a world of good for you and your employer.
Although it’s easier said than done, try taking your mind off work when you’re not on company time. Unplug from electronic devices and unwind with deep breathing. Read a book while swinging in a hammock. Take an Epsom salt bath. Tune inward to what your body needs. Stay in the present moment. When we savor the smallest of moments with gratitude, we are more able to shape our reality, see the positive and be able to count our blessings.
Quality sleep is vital to coping! Aim for 8 solid hours of sleep. Our bodies recharge and renew the most between the hours of 10 PM and 2 AM, so be sure you are getting the regenerative sleep you need to be at your best to tackle daily obstacles.
When your brain is stressed, it’s more difficult to focus. It’s hard to solve complicated issues, stay on task, resolve conflict and hit those deadlines. Get out of the rat race by recharging.
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