The World Health Organization (WHO) considers burnout to be a syndrome. In previous editions of the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), burnout wasn’t considered a serious condition, and its only listed symptom was exhaustion.
The WHO’s decision to upgrade burnout to a syndrome and provide a detailed set of symptoms communicates its serious stance on the dangers of burnout. Additionally, the WHO clarified in a public statement that burnout is an “occupational phenomenon” resulting “from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
In addition, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2022 Report, half of U.S. and Canadian workers reported consistent feelings of stress the previous day – making the region “home to the world’s most stressed-out workers.” Unfortunately, chronic and long-term stress can greatly increase your risk of developing a serious health condition.
What is burnout?
According to the WHO’s ICD-11, doctors can diagnose you with burnout if you exhibit the following symptoms:
- Exhaustion or energy depletion
- Decreased engagement at work, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to your job
- Reduced productivity or efficacy
The negative effects of burnout can extend beyond the workplace and into your home and social life. It can also increase your risk of getting sick and developing chronic conditions.
How can I recognize burnout?
Since burnout is the result of prolonged and chronic workplace stress, it’s important to know how to recognize the signs of workplace stress. Common job stressors include:
- Heavy workload
- Intense pressure to perform at high levels
- Job insecurity
- Long work hours
- Excessive travel
- Office politics
- Conflict with co-workers
While dealing with stress is a normal part of everyday life, here are some early warning signs that signify red flags, alerting you to stress on the job:
- Anxiety or depression
- Low morale
- Short temper
- Stomach or back problems
If you experience any of these symptoms, it may be time to address your chronic stress.
What is stress?
Stress is your body’s natural response to any type of demand. It is a feeling of emotional or physical tension in response to an event or thought that causes you to be angry, nervous, or frustrated. For example, you may feel stressed out about meeting a deadline or when traveling. Short-term instances of stress are not typically harmful to your long-term health.
Prolonged stress that is not addressed can become a serious health concern and can lead to burnout. Examples of chronic and long-term stress include financial troubles and heavy workloads. Stress that is left unchecked can contribute to health problems like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
What are the symptoms of stress?
Stress affects your mental health, but it can show itself in other ways too. Back pain, poor focus, and headaches can all be symptoms of stress. Here are some other signals that you may be feeling stressed:
- Trouble sleeping or fatigue
- Feelings of anxiety, depression, irritability, restlessness, or anger
- Upset stomach
- Change in appetite
- Social withdrawal
- Chest pain
9 ways to address stress
While it may not be possible to eliminate all of the stressors in your life, there are plenty of ways to reduce their effects on your life. Recognizing the signs of stress is the first step to improving your health. Consider these tactics to keep stress at bay:
- Plan and prioritize your most important responsibilities.
- Limit interruptions so you don’t have to refocus each time you’re distracted. Some ways to limit distractions include using a Do Not Disturb function on your phone or blocking off time on your calendar to finish a project.
- Take breaks away from your workstation to mentally regroup. Consider going for a short walk to re-energize your mind.
- Listen to relaxing music to help you calm down.
- Take time off from work to clear your mind.
- Avoid caffeine, as this stimulant has been proven to exacerbate feelings of stress.
- Get some exercise to work off your stress. Exercise releases endorphins that can help you relax.
- Try meditating. Meditation is an activity that can calm your mind and keep you focused on the present.
- Learn to say no. Often, we overschedule ourselves, which can lead to feelings of stress. Don’t be afraid to say no to taking on a project or going to an event if you need a break or time for yourself.
5 ways to manage your job stress to prevent burnout
Reducing your job stress is crucial for preventing burnout. Here are some simple ways to get your workplace stress under control:
1. Plan and prioritize
When you’re feeling stressed out, don’t panic. Make a list of the tasks you must complete, and set realistic deadlines.
2. Focus on what you can control
You know what your job tasks are. Break the larger tasks into smaller, more doable steps.
3. Slow down
When you have a lot of tasks looming over you, it can be tempting to hurry through them just to get them off your plate. Rushing through tasks, though, can cause you to feel more stressed and increase the odds of mistakes being made. Take a deep breath when you start to get overwhelmed and slow down.
4. Maintain a good attitude
Try to think positively about tasks at work – avoid negative thinkers and always acknowledge your accomplishments, even if it’s just by mentally congratulating yourself.
5. Ask for help
Sometimes the best way to overcome your workplace stress is to ask peers or your superiors for help.
What should you do if you think you’re experiencing burnout?
If you feel like you’re burned out, you should talk to your supervisor or manager, as they may be able to help you reduce your workplace stress or direct you to valuable workplace resources, like an employee assistance program.
Talking to other co-workers, friends or family may also be helpful, as they may have insight into how you can reduce your stress and improve your burnout syndrome. Implementing healthy stress coping mechanisms, such as exercising, hanging out with friends, or taking time off from work, can also help alleviate your stress.
If you still have trouble coping with stress, talk with your doctor about treatment options. Don’t wait too long before seeking help, or you’ll risk letting the stress pile up.
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