Around one in three professionals is struggling with burnout. Two in three say workload is the main reason for the burnout, while other reasons include long work hours and lack of work-life balance.
In the United States alone, job burnout accounts for an estimated $125 to $190 billion in health-care spending each year and has been attributed to type 2 diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, coronary heart disease, high cholesterol and even death before reaching age 45.
“Burnout is an occupational phenomenon where a person is exposed to chronic stress, especially in the workplace. It is not a medical condition,” said registered psychologist Katherine dela Cruz. Dela Cruz is the clinic manager of Prescription Psychiatry and Psychology at Centuria Medical Makati, outpatient medical-IT facility in Century City, Makati.
“Burnout is the endpoint of unmanaged stress. It is a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. There is a risk of developing depression after,” she said.
Five factors lead to burnout: Unfair treatment at work; unmanageable workload; lack of role clarity; lack of communication and support from a boss; and unreasonable time pressure.
“Clearly, the more you prolong your exposure to your stressor, the more you put yourself at risk of burnout,” Dela Cruz said. “And the more emotionally involved you are, like in the case of health workers, the higher your risk. But burnout should not be inevitable.”
The key, she said, is to know when to unplug, and to unplug regularly. Dedicate time for each day to keep away from your gadgets, to keep moving (“do not sit for more than an hour at a time”), and make space in your life for laughter and play.
Spend time with supportive colleagues, but be mindful of doing activities that do not involve work. “Do something else or talk about something else when you’re out with coworkers.”
Emotions are a source of energy, she said. If you enter a roomful of happy people, your emotions will tune in to that energy. If going out with coworkers means hours of complaining about work and bosses, then you’re better off steering clear of them for the sake of your mental health.
Find something you are passionate about. Cultivate a productive, nonwork life and participate in rewarding non-work-related activities.
“The effects of burnout can become psychosomatic, when physical manifestations, such as raised heart rate and difficulty breathing begin to show up,” she said. “If you leave it untreated or if you allow yourself to be in a situation where you feel burned out, eventually this will physically affect your life.”
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen to anyone: parents, students, bosses and employees. Both men and women can experience burnout. There is no gender difference, Dela Cruz said, although women tend to become emotionally exhausted while men are more likely to have a low level of job satisfaction.
Risk factors include lack of control in your job, unrealistic expectations, unhealthy work culture (bullying boss or colleagues), and a workplace that doesn’t value your skills and talents.
If you’re the boss, Dela Cruz said, change how you manage and lead. If an occupational burnout remains unaddressed, then the workplace becomes a toxic environment where employees do not feel and perform their best.
You may be experiencing burnout if you feel exhausted all the time, you lack motivation, if you’ve become frustrated and cynical, if you’ve been having cognitive problems (burnout could interfere with your ability to pay attention or concentrate), if your job performance has been slipping or if you’re preoccupied with work when you’re not at work, if you’re beginning to have interpersonal problems at home and at work, or you’re no longer taking care of yourself.