Are you waking up before going to work with a nauseous feeling in the pit of your stomach, or perhaps you have noticed erratic fluctuations in your mood?
You may be suffering from prolonged workplace stress, which is called burnout. It affects both the body and mind, and crucial to put an end to once you’re aware you have become struck down by this extremely common occurrence. But recognising it is the first step and the most important on the way to recovery.
Symptoms to look out for
According to the mental health and wellness platform Verywell Mind, the most common signs of burnout are: gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure, reduced immune function, headaches, sleep and concentration issues, depressed mood, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, and suicide ideation.
The symptoms are increasingly being recognised as burnout affects more people, and pops up a lot more often in day-to-day conversation.
Just four years ago the World Health Organisation recognised how frequent it was becoming among employees around the globe and declared burnout to be an occupational phenomenon that undermines how well people perform at work.
The United Nations agency listed burnout in its 2019 International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), defining it as a “syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. It stopped short of classifying burnout as a medical condition.
Some workers are at an increased risk of suffering from burnout. In the same year, the World Health Organisation declared it an occupational phenomenon, a National Physician Burnout, Depression, and Suicide Report revealed that 44% of physicians experience burnout. It’s just one sector, but shows just how much of a workforce can be struck down by burnout if not managed, or its causes not understood.
What leads to burnout?
American workplace consulting and global research organisation, Gallup, conducted a study on what are the top factors that can contribute to employee burnout.
Its 2018 report revealed the five most common causes: unreasonable time pressures or deadlines, lack of communication and support from management, lack of clarity about what your role entails, unmanageable workload, and unfair treatment.
How can I treat burnout?
So once the causes and subsequent symptoms of burnout have been recognised, how do you nip it in the bud and ensure it doesn’t continue breaking you down physically and mentally?
I wish we could say to just quit the job and eliminate the source of stress from your life that way, but that’s a lot easier said than done, and completely not realistic for some people.
Eindhoven University of Technology researcher Evangelia Demerouti wrote a groundbreaking paper about how to manage burnout which revealed some key coping strategies.
If you can’t completely change your job then you may consider switching tasks. She also recommended self-care strategies such as eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise, and maintaining healthy sleep habits.
A vacation may offer you some temporary relief, but probably won’t be enough to help you overcome burnout. Demerouti’s research also recommended regularly scheduled breaks from work, along with daily renewal exercises, which can be key to helping you combat burnout.
The line between depression and burnout can also often be blurred as some symptoms are similar, so it might be beneficial to find a health professional who will be able to distinguish between the two and help you discover the strategies you need in order to perform at your best at work and in every other facet of your life.