Burnout and Chronic Stress
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Burnout & Chronic Stress

In the U.S., 77% of professionals — and 84% of millennials — have experienced burnout at their current job

  • 51% have felt burned out more than once

Burnout Culture In The Workplace

64% of Americans feel stressed or frustrated at work one or more times per week

Almost 1 in 3 visited a doctor about something stress-related in 2018

Weekly Stress Symptoms

  • Fatigue: 52%
  • Exhaustion: 44%
  • Anxiety: 40%

A Brief History Of Burnout

In 1974, Dr. Herbert Freudenberger recognized symptoms of overwork in the volunteers at an addiction clinic in New York City

Intense workloads and stress led volunteers to feel: 

  • Less motivated
  • Emotionally drained
  • Depressed and cynical

Freudenberger used the term “burnout” to describe these symptoms — quickly, the concept quickly became a global phenomenon

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced work-related burnout would be included in the next International Classification of Diseases*

What’s Driving Workplace Stress?

Overwork is the biggest stressor for Americans adults — 64% saying work significantly impacts their stress level

Another 60% of Americans say money problems contribute to their stress — Combining overworking and low pay is a recipe for burnout

Employees report that they felt work-related stress due to

  • High-pressure environment: 44%
  • Lack of support from management: 38%
  • Unrealistic expectations: 30%

1 in 3 employees* blame technology for job stress, saying that tech leads to:

  • Increased workload: 45%
  • Tighter deadlines: 33%
  • Social isolation: 29%

“Stress is really important, and anxiety is what motivates us to do well. It’s when we’re continually exposed to stress and anxiety, that we’re not letting go, that it starts to turn into burnout” — Siobhán Murray, Psychotherapist & Author of The Burnout Solution

The Science: How Chronic Stress Can Change Your Brain

  • WHO defines burnout as a syndrome caused by chronic workplace stress, including 3 elements
    • Feelings of exhaustion
    • Mental detachment
    • Poor performance
  • Cortisol: The Stress Hormone
    • Increases by 2-5X during times of stress
    • Higher cortisol levels may
      • Interfere with learning & memory
      • Lower immune function & life expectancy
      • Increase weight gain, A1C, blood pressure & cholesterol
      • Heighten risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, & mental illness
  • Not All Stress Is Equal
    • Americans say stress makes them feel
      • Paralyzed: 57%
      • Invigorated: 43% 
    • Why the difference? They’re likely experiencing different forms of stress
      • Short-term stress — like worrying about a deadline
        • Has a clear endpoint
        • Challenges you to excel
        • Channels cortisol toward a tangible goal
      • Chronic stress never ends — and eventually rewires the brain
        • Less brain activity related to higher-order tasks
        • More brain activity related to survival instincts
        • Provides no outlet for cortisol

The effects of chronic stress & burnout are reversible — Unlike depression, burnout is best treated through lifestyle changes

Surviving Stress: How To Avoid Burnout

Spot The Signs Of Impending Burnout

“Someone on the brink will probably begin to feel emotionally numbed or mentally distant. Like they don’t have the capacity to engage as much in the ordinary things of life” — Jacky Francis Walker, Psychotherapist & Author of The Burnout Bible

The Biggest Red Flag: An unshakeable feeling that your work quality is lagging and you’re not showing your full potential

Stopping Pre-Burnout In Its Tracks

Step 1: Find The Underlying Problem

An oppressive work environment, mismatched company and personal values, and intense time pressures are often to blame for burnout

“If it’s not a heck yes, it’s a heck no. If you’re not totally jazzed about doing something, just say no” — Amy Kurtz, Wellness Coach & Author of Kicking Sick

Step 2: Establish A Routine

Have a predictable routine so when stress strikes, you don’t spiral out of control — be sure to build cortisol reducing activities into each day

“Turn off your phone. Leave work at a reasonable hour. Draw boundaries between your life and your work that allow you to succeed in both” — Ann Shoket, Author of The Big Life

Step 3: Prioritize Each Day

Create a to-do list to manage daily tasks so you know what to expect, — Look for long term balance instead of fitting everything into every day

“You know what is urgent in your life, like seeing your family and friends more….Even if the work is still there when you get back from vacation, you’ll come back better.” — Bea Arthur, Psychotherapist & Founder of The Difference

What You Can Do To Reduce Cortisol

Socialize: Isolation will further increase cortisol levels — BUT,  connecting with friends and family helps build resilience

51% of Americans deal with burnout by talking to friends or family

Sleep:  Stress causes sleep problems, sleep problems cause stress — get out of the downward cycle by prioritizing good sleep habits

50% of Americans fight burnout with sleep

Working late? Blue light from screens can interfere with sleep — Try filtering glasses or a color shifting app to reduce your exposure

  • Physical Activity: By mimicking natural “fight or flight” activities, you can reduce cortisol through exercise
    • 44% of Americans use exercise to combat burnout and stress
  • Meditation: Any form of meditation or conscious breathing will help slow your heart rate and decrease the effects of cortisol
    • 30% of Americans fight burnout through regular meditation
  • Get Help: Support increases resiliency toward stress — the earlier you ask for help, the more likely it is you’ll avoid or reduce stress-related complications

With a growing number of teletherapy options, you’re not too busy to ask for help — Connect with a therapist anytime over through phone, webcam, email, or text

Burnout isn’t inevitable — Escape the trap of overwork with stress-fighting habits

burnout and toxic stress

Sources: 

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/10/teletherapy-on-the-rise-as-employees-try-to-cope-with-247-workday.html

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/protect-your-brain-from-stress

https://www.framesdirect.com/knowledge-center/blue-light

https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/burnout-survey.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201301/cortisol-why-the-stress-hormone-is-public-enemy-no-1

https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/wellness/story/burnout-now-official-medical-diagnosis-63316174

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20190610-how-to-tell-if-youve-got-pre-burnout

https://www.everydayhealth.com/wellness/united-states-of-stress/#the-benefits-of-emotional-freedom-techniques

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079864/

https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/technology-increasing-stress-at-work

https://tollfreeforwarding.com/blog/stress-anxiety-and-exhaustion-the-extent-of-workplace-burnout-in-modern-america/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4936828/