Burnout Syndrome Is Real

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
June 10, 2019
Businessman sitting slouched on edge of conference table --- Image by © Steve Hix/Somos Images/Corbis

According to the World Health Organization, chronic workplace stress can lead to burnout syndrome — or, in everyday language, getting really sick of your job.

Burnout syndrome is real — and it isn’t caused only by working too many hours.

Burnout emerges when you feel the job just isn’t worth it. Maybe you have too little control — or too much pressure. Maybe the pay is too low or you feel starved for recognition from colleagues. Maybe you feel unfairly treated. You may need a workplace with different values or a stronger community.

If you’re burned out, you won’t be doing as good at your job as you used to. Depending on your personality, you might feel emotionally exhausted, cynical, or detached.


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The World Health Organization recognizes burnout as problem, most recently defining it as a syndrome caused by chronic workplace stress that may become a factor in another illness. There is evidence that burnout syndrome is a risk factor for heart disease and leaves its signature on the brain. The brain damage, in fact, may be similar to the effects of early trauma.

Most human resource executives think burnout syndrome is making it harder for companies to keep staff, a 2017 survey by Kronos found. A Harvard report said that the burnout among American doctors is a public health crisis.

You can help protect yourself during high-stress periods by eating healthily and getting enough exercise and sleep, despite all the pressure to just work more hours. Over time, if you can’t maintain a reasonable schedule and do your job, your workplace may be a burnout factory.

People slide into burnout and may not recognize when the usual stress has crossed a line and become damaging.

What are the signs of burnout?

  • You never get excited about work. Achievements that used to make you feel good don’t have the same impact.
  • You do the bare minimum.
  • Your work isn’t as good.
  • You feel exhausted even though you’ve had enough sleep.
  • You are cynical about your employers or profession.
  • You expect the worst at work.
  • You have new physical complaints or your old symptoms intensify. You might have chest pain, headaches, heart palpitations, dizziness, or gastrointestinal distress.
  • You withdraw from people or get into more conflicts.
  • You think about work when you’re not working.

What can do to fight burnout?

The answer isn’t just to take some time off, though that can help you do a reset. Several other strategies can reduce your stress for the long-term:

  • Think about what makes you relax and do it regularly.
  • Set limits on using electronic devices — turn the cell phone off and check email less often.
  • Don’t turn to cigarettes, alcohol, sugar, or drugs.
  • Get more organized so work is easier.
  • Tone down self-critical thoughts.

The bigger picture is to reassess your goals — aligning both short- and long-term goals with your talents and beliefs. You may need a different boss or a new job — or a career switch. And you may need to remember that there’s more to life than work. Cultivate hobbies, relationships, and daily pleasures.


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June 10, 2019

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN