Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress. It’s physical and/or emotional exhaustion that involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of identity. Researchers point out that individual factors, such as personality traits and family life, influence who experiences job burnout. Whatever the cause, job burnout can affect your physical and mental health. This article can help you determine if you’ve got job burnout and what you can do about it.

Symptoms of workplace burnout

To start with, ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and/or have trouble getting started?
  • Do you get irritable or impatient with colleagues or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be experiencing job burnout. Try talking to a doctor or a mental health professional like those a Journey Into Wellness; these symptoms can be related to other health conditions, such as depression.

Possible causes

Workplace burnout can result from various factors, such as:

  • Lack of control. An inability to influence decisions that affect your job — such as your schedule, assignments, resources, or workload — could lead to job burnout.
  • 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.
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics. Perhaps you work with an office bully, or feel undermined by colleagues, or your boss micromanages your work, all of which can be stressful.
  • Extremes of activity. When a job is monotonous or chaotic, you need constant energy to remain focused, leading to fatigue and burnout.
  • Lack of social support. If you feel isolated at work and in your personal life, you might feel more stressed.
  • 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.

Job burnout risk factors

The following factors may contribute to workplace burnout:

  • You have a heavy workload and/or work long hours
  • You struggle with work-life balance
  • You work in a helping profession, such as health care
  • You feel you have little or no control over your work

Consequences of job burnout

Ignored or unaddressed, job burnout can have significant consequences, including:

  • Excessive stress
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Sadness, anger or irritability
  • Alcohol or substance misuse
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Vulnerability to other illnesses

Handling burnout

Try to take action. Here are some ideas:

  • Evaluate your options. Discuss specific concerns with your supervisor. Maybe you can work together to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions. Try to set goals for what must get done and what can wait.
  • Seek support. Whether you reach out to co-workers, friends or loved ones, support and collaboration might help you cope. If you have access to an employee assistance program, take advantage of relevant services.
  • Try a relaxing activity. Explore programs that can help with stress such as yoga or meditation.
  • Get some exercise. Regular physical activity can help you to better deal with stress, taking your mind off work.
  • Get some sleep. Sleep restores well-being and helps protect your health.
  • Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of focusing on your breath flow and being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment.

Keep an open mind as you consider the options. Try not to let a demanding or unrewarding job undermine your health.

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