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Burnout Is Now Considered as an “Occupational Phenomenon”

We’ve all been there – feeling like you just can’t get out of bed in the morning, being tired and stressed throughout the most of your day, feeling fed up with work and the world, only to wake up the next day and do it all over again. We gave it a name many years ago, but now burnout is considered as an occupational phenomenon for which people can seek medical care.

Burnout is a real problem

CNN reports that this new development comes after decades of research. Psychologist Herbert Freudenberger was the first to do a formal study on the state of burnout, which was published back in 1974. A review of the study done back in 2017 by Linda and Torsten Heinemann found that in the forty years that followed after the initial study, hundreds of other studies appeared on the same subject. These studies noted that burnout was not considered to be an actual mental disorder, even though it is among the most widely discussed mental health problems in today’s society.

The reason why it took so long for burnout to even be considered as something you can seek medical help for, is because research that was previously done mostly focused on the causes and associated factors that lead to burnout, instead of developing diagnostic criteria. There was also the problem of differentiating between depression and burnout – the symptoms can be very similar, which also prevented burnout from officially being identified as a condition which could require medical aid.

Burnout is finally being addressed

Luckily, burnout is no longer going to be considered as just another one of those things you simply “have to deal with”. The World Health Organization now lists burnout as one of the problems related to employment or unemployment.

A doctor can now potentially diagnose a patient with burnout if they experience the following symptoms:

  • Feeling exhausted.
  • Feeling mentally distanced from their job, or experiencing negative feelings or cynicism related to their job.
  • Experiencing a decline in their efficiency at work.

Image: AFP

In order for doctors to diagnose a patient with burnout, they first need to rule out other factors, like adjustment disorder, anxiety, and mood disorders. The diagnosis is also limited to work environments and cannot be applied to other life situations. According to NBC News, WHO said that burnout is strictly an occupational phenomenon, which could lead people to seek medical help, but they would not call it an official medical condition.

A worldwide problem is finally getting attention

According to WHO, burnout seems to be a big problem all over the world, but especially in the US. One of the many reasons seems to be the increase in the use of global technology, which causes people to never really switch off from work. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that 11 percent of US employees work 50 or more hours in a week and they spend 40 percent of their day dedicated to their job. This puts the US near the bottom of the work-life balance spectrum among other developed countries. What’s even more shocking is that stressful jobs contribute to 120,000 deaths in the US every ear. We are in an era where people literally work themselves to death.

Image: CC0 Public Domain

The main causes of burnout

There are many causes of burnout, and psychologist Shainna Ali says that some of the main factors include experiencing a work-life imbalance, unclear job expectations, or a dysfunctional work environment. People who suffer from burnout will usually experience symptoms associated with mental health that are based on their work. These signs can include a lack of motivation, a depleted mood, or even anxiety. Ali says that people who think they are experiencing burnout should check in with themselves and ask themselves whether their work makes them feel better or worse.

“People joke about the Sunday night blues. It’s as if around 4:00 p.m., they give a collective groan – that’s a real thing. People should ask themselves, do I feel better when I’m leaving work? Do I grow anxious when others discuss work in leisure settings?”

Image: Getty Images

Ali also notes that burnout is usually connected to anxiety or even depression, but this will, of course, vary from person to person. It has been shown that adults in the US are generally stressed because they don’t take enough time off from work.

How to beat burnout

For those who want to tackle burnout head-on, Ali has a few tips for creating self-care within your work environment:

  • Create healthy connections with your colleagues – this helps to promote general wellness in the workplace.
  • Use your break times wisely – take a quick walk, or do a fun activity.
  • Take some time off and go on a well-deserved holiday.

Positive working environments are a must

Ali adds that the WHO’s new guidelines show that human resources need to do more to create a positive working environment.

“I think this acknowledgment by the WHO gives job burnout some validity that this is a concern at work and warrants attention. Self-care is important and surging in popularity, even in the workplace.”

Image: iAfrica

Take care of you

We need to remember that taking time off when we need it and putting ourselves first at times are very important for our wellbeing. Humans are not machines – we need to remember that. Sometimes we keep driving full speed on an empty tank and that can be extremely dangerous. Take the necessary time out of your day to make sure that you take care of yourself – even if it’s just a quick meditation. Your mind and body will thank you for it. Self-care shouldn’t be a luxury, it should be a priority.

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