How Work Stress Can Grow into Burnout and Ways to Prevent it
Representation purpose only.
No matter what your profession, work can get stressful at least sometimes if not most of the time. Meeting deadlines, juggling targets and adjusting your personal life accordingly can often take a toll on your physical and mental health. Excessive and prolonged work stress can therefore lead to burnout.
According to a new study published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, work stress and burnout are mutually reinforcing. This means that not only does work stress lead to burnout but also chronic burnout can lead to more acute stress and eventually to a nervous breakdown. The study concludes that recognising the signs of burnout early on and breaking the cycle is very important.
Signs of work-related burnout
Burnout often involves the same symptoms as stress, which is the reason why people often fail to recognise it in time. There are, according to The American Institute of Stress, three basic points where burnout differs from stress:
- Excessive feelings of tiredness or exhaustion
- Lack of enthusiasm and increased negativity towards the job
- Decreased ability to do your job
The following are some other symptoms associated with burnout:
- Frustration or anger
- Irritability and annoyance
- Change in appetite and sleep patterns
- Frequent headaches and muscle pain
- Withdrawing from work responsibilities
- Isolating from others, especially work colleagues
- Decreased sense of accomplishment and satisfaction
- Using food, drugs and alcohol to cope
Tips to prevent burnout
If you’re already spiralling due to work-related stress and are afraid it may lead to burnout, you can take the following preventive measures immediately to keep burnouts at bay.
1. Know your breaking point: You need to know your own limits before you can ask others to stick to and respect them. Assess yourself to understand how much time you can give to your work without feeling stretched and strained and how much time you need regularly to unwind and refresh.
2. Reach out: If you’re feeling overwhelmed or too stressed, reach out to your colleagues or boss and let them know how you’re feeling. You might also want to consult friends or family members to figure out how to relay your issues to the management so you can take some time to recuperate.
3. Learn to say no: Saying yes to everything can make you appear more appealing and efficient but it’s not humanly possible to do everything. It will only make you feel chronically stressed and may lead to burnout. It’s better to say no once in a while rather than taking on more than you can do.
4. Switch off: It can be difficult to switch off from work in the digital age, especially given the fact that everyone is now accessible all the time via smartphones. But demarcating your me-time from professional commitments is very important. This can give you the distance from work and enough personal time to appreciate both.
5. Get sleep and nutrition: Sleep and food are often the first few things people compromise on when work-related stress increases. Ensure that you don’t compromise with either. Follow a balanced and nutritious diet and get eight to nine hours of sleep every day.
For more information, read our article on Stress.
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