The New Health Condition To Know Now: Burnout

The New Health Condition To Know Now: Burnout

Overextended, overworked, overtired? Let’s face it, we’re all juggling life at a fast pace, but it seems that it’s finally catching up with us. According to a study by the Health and Safety Executive, 526,000 of UK workers suffer from job burnout, which is now recognised as a growing health condition. Here’s everything you need to to know…

The term ‘burnout’ has been applied to everything from tiredness at the weekend to being on the verge of depression…

Most recently, burnout has been closely associated with the millennial generation. While some may argue that the term is becoming an excuse for laziness, burnout has now been officially recognised by the World Health organisation as a health condition. This new classification has massively helped people who need medical assistance to manage their burnout. 

Symptoms include feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion…

As well as an increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativity or cynicism related to one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy. Your job plays a lead role in the condition as so much of the strain is stress-related. Whatever the cause, feeling burnt out can affect both your physical and mental health. Fatigue can cause a vast range of other physical, mental and emotional symptoms including: chronic tiredness and headaches.

You know you suffer from burn-out when...

  • You have a lack of control. An inability to influence decisions that affect your job — such as your schedule, assignments or workload — could lead to job burnout. So could a lack of the resources you need to do your work.

  • There are unclear job expectations. If you're unclear about the degree of authority you have or what your supervisor or others expect from you, you're not likely to feel comfortable at work.

  • There are dysfunctional workplace dynamics. Perhaps you work with challenging colleagues, or you feel undermined by colleagues or your boss micromanages your work. 

  • There are extremes of activity. When a job is monotonous or chaotic, you need constant energy to remain focused — which can lead to fatigue and job burnout.

  • You have a lack of social support. If you feel isolated at work and in your personal life, you might feel more stressed.

  • You have a work-life imbalance. If your work takes up so much of your time and effort that you don't have the energy to spend time with your family and friends, you might burn out quickly.  

Burnout may not be a medical condition per se, but it has serious health consequences if it’s ignored or unaddressed…

Including excessive stress, fatigue, insomnia, sadness, anger or irritability, alcohol or substance misuse, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and vulnerability to illness, because of your low immunity. However, if you regularly experience negative feelings — or experience them for a prolonged period of time — this can cause depression and an overall feeling of negativity in everything that you do. 

There’s a difference between stress and burnout…

Burnout may be the result of unrelenting stress, but it isn’t the same as having too much stress. Stress, by and large, involves too much: too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and mentally. However, stressed people can still imagine that if they can just get everything under control, they’ll feel better. Burnout, on the other hand, is about not enough. Being burned out means feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress feels like you’re drowning in responsibilities, burnout is a sense of being all dried up. And while you’re usually aware of being under a lot of stress, you don’t always notice burnout when it happens.

Dealing with burnout requires the “Three R” approach:

Recognise: Watch for the warning signs of burnout.

Reverse: Undo the damage by seeking support and managing the stress.

Resilience: Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health

As wellness coach Naz Beheshti explains: “Burnout is ultimately a sign of despair, and hope is its most potent antidote. Hope thrives amidst connection, purpose, and engagement. If you deliberately and intentionally foster these things in your workplace, you will have a head start in keeping burnout at bay.” 

Here’s how you can start to overcome burnout:

Re-evaluate your priorities: Burnout is an undeniable sign that something important in your life is not working. Take time to think about your hopes, goals, and dreams. Are you neglecting something that is truly important to you? This can be an opportunity to rediscover what really makes you happy and to slow down and give yourself time to rest, reflect, and heal.

Set boundaries: And don’t overextend yourself. Learn how to say no to requests on your time. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that saying no allows you to say yes to the commitments you want to make.

Take a daily break from technology: Set a time each day when you completely disconnect. Put away your laptop, turn off your phone, and stop checking emails.

Creativity is a powerful antidote to burnout: Learn to nourish it by trying something new, start a fun project, or resume a favourite hobby. Choose activities that have nothing to do with work or whatever is causing your stress.

Set aside relaxation time: Try some relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing, activating the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the stress response.

Feeling tired can exacerbate burnout: It causes you to think irrationally, so keep your cool in stressful situations by getting a good night’s sleep.

Make exercise a priority: Even though it may be the last thing you feel like doing, make time for exercise when you’re burned out, as it’s a powerful antidote to stress and burnout. It’s also something you can do right now to boost your mood. Aim to exercise for 30 minutes or more per day, or break that up into short, 10-minute bursts of activity. A 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours.

Minimize sugar and refined carbs: You may crave sugary snacks or comfort foods such as pasta or French fries, but these high-carbohydrate foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy.

Eat more Omega-3 fatty acids: This’ll give your mood an instant boost. The best sources are fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines), seaweed, flaxseed and walnuts.

Stub out smoking: Having a cigarette when you’re feeling stressed may seem calming, but nicotine is a powerful stimulant, leading to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety. Avoid it at all costs. 

Drink alcohol in moderation: Alcohol temporarily reduces worry, but too much can cause anxiety as it wears off.

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