According to Forbes magazine, “Over four million American workers quit their jobs each month in 2022.” Job burnout–the feeling of exhaustion and apathy about work, accompanied by decreased performance–is on the rise world-wide, especially since the stress of remote work brought about by the pandemic.
In January of 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its definition of ‘burnout’ in its International Classification of Diseases Handbook (ICD-11). The new definition reads:
“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is charcharacterizedthree dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.”
While the WHO falls short of classifying burnout as a medical condition, the new definition gives it more legitimacy, making it potentially easier for people to get help for it and opening the way to further study.
If you think you are experiencing burnout at work, seek mental health treatment. Burnout may be strictly work-related, or it may be a sign of underlying depression or another mental health condition.
Is it Stress or is it Burnout?
Stress is what we feel when we perceive a threat. When it comes to work, we feel stressed when we have too much on our plate. This may cause us to fear that we’ll miss something, will do a job poorly, or will be unable to meet other responsibilities outside of work. If we have good coping mechanisms and good physical and mental health, we can typically figure out how to get through stressful times with our sanity intact. We recover, we get back into a daily rhythm, and we function well until the next challenge arises.
But if we don’t manage stress, it can build up. The feeling of overwhelm becomes chronic. At this point, if we don’t get help in easing the stress, it can quickly worsen into burnout. This can lead to psychological and physical consequences such as the following:
- Muscle tension and pain
- Heart disease
- Substance use disorder
When burnout hits, we have been so stressed for so long that we feel completely depleted, like there’s nothing left we can give. This leads to the symptoms listed above: crippling exhaustion, negativity and cynicism about work, and a feeling of being ineffective.
Is it a Mental Health Disorder or is it Burnout?
Burnout is a condition specifically related to work. While its symptoms mimic those of depression and other mood disorders, burnout is not classified as a diagnosable mental health disorder. As psychologist Dr. Adam Borland explains it, symptoms of depression will follow you on vacation. But it’s different with burnout: “Once you detach from work or whatever it is that’s causing the burnout, you’re going to be able to enjoy that vacation and relax,” he explains. “If you’re feeling depressed, you most likely will not.”
Even so, if you’re feeling symptoms of burnout, it’s worth your while to meet with a psychologist for assessment. It’s quite possible that depression or anxiety disorder may have led to the burnout–or developed in response to it.
If you know you have a mental health condition, you’ll need to be especially aware of your potential for burnout. It can be difficult to manage symptoms of bipolar, anxiety, or PTSD while also managing a career, so be vigilant about keeping up with your treatment and self-care routines.
If you’re in a burnout crisis, you need a big change, and fast. Ask for time off, meet with a therapist, check in with your doctor, and, if necessary, quit the job.
If you’re in the pre-burnout stage, feeling the effects of stress but not too depleted by it yet, consider the following ways to take action:
- Practice self-care. Take care of your health and well-being at all levels:
- Physical – get enough sleep, exercise daily, eat nutrient-rich foods
- Mental – give your brain regular breaks; meditation is an efficient way to do this
- Emotional – take some time regularly to acknowledge and process your feelings
- Social – nurture relationships; set boundaries to protect your time and energy
- Spiritual – connect to something greater than yourself, via religious practice, nature, art, or anything that inspires awe
- Set boundaries. Set boundaries that support your self-care routine. Stop checking work email when the work day ends. Don’t work on the weekends. Speak up when your employer is expecting too much of you. Learn more about how to shift your perspective at work.
- Breathe. As one writer puts it, “Deal with the stress before you deal with the stressor.” In other words, when a person or a task makes you feel stressed, step back and pause. Take a few deep breaths, practice a short mindfulness technique, and then do what you can to take care of the issue.
- Ask for help. Help can come from a co-worker, a job mentor, or a therapist. The co-worker can help with specific tasks, the mentor can help you brainstorm ways to manage work stress, and the therapist can help you evaluate what exactly is causing stress and why.
Help is Available at Miramont Behavioral Health
If you’re experiencing severe stress or burnout that is causing mental health issues, contact our facility in Middleton, WI. We can talk with you and together determine what type of treatment would work best for your situation. We treat adults and adolescents via inpatient and outpatient care, and we ensure that you have avenues of support that will continue after treatment ends. Contact us today to learn more.