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Has Your Job Stress Escalated to Burnout?

WHO now considers burnout a syndrome

Man hitting head against cube wall in frustration

Do tight deadlines, a tough boss and a never-ending stream of incoming emails ever leave you feeling stressed and burned out from work?


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You’re not alone. According to an update from the World Health Organization, burnout has now been classified as a syndrome resulting from unmanaged workplace stress.

How do we know if we are a little stressed or actually suffering from burnout? According to Joseph Rock, PsyD, it all boils down to three main points:

  1. You’re more exhausted and lethargic.
  2. You’re less efficient and not working as well as you used to.
  3. Your thinking (particularly about your job) has become negative and cynical.

Dr. Rock says the recent WHO classification comes as no surprise, since studies have been showing a rise in work-related stress for decades.

Is there harm in walking around with burnout?

Aside from the danger of losing a job, Dr. Rock says people have the tendency to take this type of work stress home with them.

When stress starts to grow beyond work, it begins to affect our overall health, both mentally and physically.

But, he admits the cure for burnout is not always simple. Quitting a job could be the answer for some, but Dr. Rock warns that if we aren’t able to change our frame of mind about work, those feelings may follow us to our next job as well.

A better approach, he says, begins with creating boundaries between work and home.

“There are a lot of ways to do that, in terms of setting limits for yourself on how many hours you’re going to let yourself work,” he says.

“It involves being able to really leave work at work, and not answer work emails or work phone calls when you’re at home.”

It’s also a good idea to get a support network of coworkers, he says — and this doesn’t mean just finding a group of people to complain about work with (this can actually make burnout worse). Instead, find a group of people to talk with to help you feel less isolated.

For those who find themselves getting negative and cynical at work, Dr. Rock advises investing some time in a change of perspective. Try self-help or talking to a professional to see if a course-correction is possible.


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