Burnout in America
We all know that work can be stressful and many of us suffer from burnout. Now it is official. The World Health Organization (WHO) says work burnout is a “syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Moreover, based on WHO’s definition, managing burnout is key to our mental health and wellbeing. Learn why burnout is on the rise and how to cope.
The term burnout has been around since the 1970’s and was first used to describe professionals like doctors and nurses who sacrificed themselves to help others – and then became exhausted and unable to cope.
However, in today’s non-stop, over-stimulated work and life environments, we all can suffer from burnout. According to WHO’s International Classification of Diseases Handbook, which is followed by health professionals, symptoms can include:
• feeling depleted of energy or exhausted
• being distanced or cynical about your job
• having difficulty doing your job successfully
While WHO does not classify burnout as a medical condition, the organization notes that work burnout is one reason people seek help from health professionals.
Is Burnout Real?
Maybe we say, “I hate my job.” Or we hear a colleague remark, “I just can’t take this anymore.” However, work burnout is a more serious condition, leading to anxiety, depression and not being able to do your job. And unfortunately burnout is increasing. In fact, a 2018 Gallup survey found that almost three in 10 millennials are very often or always burned out at work and about seven in 10 experience at least some burnout. That’s a lot of stressed people.
How to Cope with Burnout
If work is getting you down and you see burnout on the horizon, take charge and find ways to cope at your job and outside of work.
• Seek Silence: We are surrounded by nerve-racking noise and “digital noise” is a big part of the problem. Look for opportunities to decrease the noise in your life. Take a walk in nature. Retreat at a “silent spa” (no smart phones or computers allowed.) Find quiet time by embracing a mindfulness or meditation program. Or simply, shut your phone off for longer times each day.
• Make Time to Heal: Spas are places to relax and de-stress. For example, a massage is more than a luxurious treat. Stress can manifest in different ways for different people, from aches and pains, to muscle tension, to physical and emotional exhaustion to burnout. Massage counteracts your body’s negative response to stress, relaxing muscle tension and allowing your heart rate, blood pressure, and circulation to return to normal.
• Set Boundaries and Give Yourself a Break: It’s important to make time for your self and set boundaries at work and home–and, as mentioned, take a break from 24/7 social media and digital devices. Let your boss and colleagues know when you will and won’t be working (your boundaries should include emails and texts after working hours). And be sure to take real breaks during the day. Set time aside for a nourishing lunch and try to work in a walk. Grabbing a bite while sitting at your computer doesn’t count!
• Participate In Workplace Wellness Programs: If you work for a company that has a HR department or workplace wellness program in place, ask about ways you can participate. Many enlightened employers have wellness benefits and activities to help employees stay engaged and increase their wellbeing.
• Find Professional Help: If you are starting to notice work burnout, find a psychotherapist or mental wellness professional who can help you develop new coping strategies. Depression and chronic anxiety are serious illnesses and it’s important to ask for help when you first notice symptoms.