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Battling Burnout?

Nicholas Noble | October 19, 2019

If not by the hand of personal experience, we can at least see the frightening trend of ‘burnout’ in those close to us. The terms ‘Burnout Syndrome’ or ‘Job Burnout’ are actually getting thrown around a lot, alongside a growing pool of health concerns. In fact, just this year ‘Burnout’ has officially been recognized by the WHO as an occupationally significant medical diagnosis. The excess of stress is suggested to dispose individuals to greater risks of mental illness, substance abuse, heart disease, diabetes, and even compromised immunity. [1] 

What’s more, is that burnout now represents a social health movement in the pursuit of improved work-life balance. These changes are just getting started, and they’re especially critical in America where the working class is against greater odds than other countries. We’re accustomed to discretionary paid time off (where most every other country has ‘minimum annual leave’), longer hours, and minimum wages often disproportionate to higher costs of living. Couple these conditions with the pressures of professional life, and you’ll sympathize with the rising emotional and physical tolls of burnout. 

Consequential, the U.S. also averages more hours worked annually than the rest of the world. Context being since the 1950s, per capita labor has been cut nearly in half in some European countries, compared to only ~10% for America. We see that if there’s a healthy balance, not many are finding it. 

Reports of burnout instead continue to rocket, defined by: “Unending stress, both imaginary and real, and the physical and emotional exhaustion that accompanies it.” 

The Physical Toll

As our bodies work to rejuvenate through sleep and a few days off, in cases of burnout these resources are further restricted by personal responsibilities and negligible chances for self-care. With this depletion comes lackluster enthusiasm and subpar performance; our stress hormones become elevated to keep up with the demands, and soon our physiology begins to perceive work as a threat to our survival. Simply, our ‘fight or flight’ response comes to associate inadequate performance at work (or the worry of) with a feared loss of safety. 

Some professions such as small-business owners and the average entrepreneur are especially susceptible to this cycle. More particular, burnout in U.S. healthcare sector further typifies this crisis; doctors, social-workers, and caretakers are expected to keep up with increasing bureaucratic duties (paperwork, health insurance, legal regulations) while maintaining quality care. Regardless of profession, burnout is established to extend virtually every reach of the job market. 

So what can we do about burnout?

While activist groups may search for regulatory changes, especially in the more problematic industries (like healthcare), things can be done on an individual level to deter burnout’s negative effects. But first, we need to be educated in identifying the root causes: 

If you're lacking concentration, a sense of place, or feeling cynical about your work environment, it may be time to take a step back in reviewing your work-life balance. Especially so, if you find yourself discouraged due to unclear expectations at work, a lack of control in workload or schedule, work that is repetitive or unfulfilling, and other possible causes. [2]  

In terms of individual response, the call to counter these risks means to develop a more robust stress-management strategy. That can include practices in healthy diet, mindfulness, exercise, and a supportive social network. [3]

Beyond these more common stress management strategies, you might try these:

1) Schedule Self-care The responsibilities between work and life can be ruthless, try being ruthless in return. If you’re feeling burned out, don’t delay on putting a self-care day in the books. At least chain off an afternoon for your own enjoyment or rejuvenation twice a month, at least. 

2) Be the Change you Need Sometimes the most discouraging dynamic at work is interactions with your own colleagues. High tensions for performance and efficiency often mean decreased civility towards one another. It’s a two-sided sword, as less ideal social interactions contribute to negative stress responses, while also being lost opportunities of relief. By choosing to emphasize civility and kindness at work, you can trigger a change in mood for the whole office. [4]

3) Share the Experience Work can be isolating as a strain on your social schedule, let alone repercussions to emotional outlook. So, while it’s tempting to make excuses, make sure to plan at least a couple get-togethers throughout the month with those you’re close to. More importantly, don’t pretend all is well if it isn’t, vent about your stress and let them do the same. It’s maybe the biggest weight off your shoulders when you stop bottling burnout.

4) Reach for the Matcha Stop eyeing those coffee beans, the excess caffeine and lack of neuro-modulating compounds means havoc for your whole body (brain too!). The cascade of these psychophysiological side effects include heightened cortisol, increased anxiety, and elevated inflammation. Analogous to empty calories vs. a nutritious meal, when you instead choose matcha as your official work fuel, you’re systematically improving your mood, absorption of important vitamins and minerals, and benefiting from some of nature’s most potent antioxidants. Even better, no more afternoon crash and your body will feel amazing from the anti-inflammatory properties. 

The bottom line

Burnout is real, but so are the growing host of ways to counter it; if you’re concerned with symptoms of burnout, it’s suggested that you coordinate a treatment strategy with your physician. Also, with a couple improvements to lifestyle, not limited to healthier diet and more fulfilling social interactions, you can get the jump on this modern phenomenon and keep it off your back. Fight for the types of self-care and time-off that you need to regain and maintain your optimal health.

Also, aside from your personal morning matcha ritual, if things are especially rough at work consider bringing some for the whole office — matcha’s energetic mood-boosting might just turn burnout into a matcha hangout. Seriously!