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November 14, 2012, last updated November 27, 2015
By L. Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Do you feel disillusioned, helpless and exhausted at work? Is your job
driving you into the ground but you can’t find the will to change? You
could be suffering from burnout.

The term "burnout" was first coined in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger
in his book “Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement.” He
described the condition as “a complete lack of motivation or reaction to
incentives” at work.

Today burnout is widely used to describe anything from a bad day at
the office to a complete nervous breakdown. What is burnout exactly?
What are the symptoms of burnout and what causes this chronic

Burnout is described as a state of complete mental, physical and
emotional exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress.
Burnout happens when you feel so overwhelmed you cannot meet the
demands of your job. This leads to withdrawal, cynicism and
disillusionment. You find yourself losing interest and motivation until
you can’t seem to find enough energy to even care about your work,
let alone do anything about the problems you face.

What Are the Signs of Burnout?

Ask yourself – is every work day a bad day? Do you feel there’s no
point in caring about your work or your home life? Do you feel
detached, cynical and negative? Are you exhausted and bored beyond
belief? Do you feel like nothing you do makes a difference? Feeling like
this could be a sign of burnout.

Burnout can also be experienced physically, for example you may suffer
from chronic fatigue,
headaches, chest pain and indigestion. Your
behavior may change and you find yourself eating more or less,
drinking more or taking drugs. You feel emotional or sensitive, isolated
from other people, depressed, anxious, helpless or hopeless.  

Burnout is different from stress although stress can cause burnout.
Stress feels like too much of everything while burnout is more of an
emptiness, a feeling of being beyond caring.

You will probably notice stress while burnout can creep up on you
unannounced. (Read more about
foods to help you reduce stress.)

What Are the Causes of Burnout?

Burnout is closely associated with work and the condition is
increasingly a problem in today’s society. Recession hits and job
security plummets while responsibilities and tasks rise. We must work
harder, for less reward and in an environment of greater insecurity. We
find ourselves doing the work or two or three people and support is
hard to find. You may also suffer from burnout when you are
disillusioned and overwhelmed with looking after children or aging

Burnout is often due to a lack of control over your job and your
working conditions, bad workplace dynamics, unclear job expectations,
and a mismatch between your values and the values you are expected
to show in the workplace.

Other factors contribute to burnout, including your personal habits and
lifestyle and your personality. You may be working too much and
neglecting your friends or family, not getting much sleep, or lacking a
good quality close relationship. If you are a perfectionist or a pessimist
you are likely to suffer more from burnout. The need to be in control
also affects how well you deal with burnout.

Who Suffers from Burnout?

The true number of people suffering from burnout is hard to pin down.
Many people never acknowledge the condition, let alone visit a doctor.
Two out of three workers  --- that's 66% of us --- felt extreme levels
of stress and tiredness alongside a feeling of being out of control, while
more than half of those surveyed said they missed one or two days of
work a year due to stress, according to a 2012 study by ComPsych

Around 10 percent of working women in the Netherlands suffered from
burnout, according to 2004 research from CBS Statistics Netherlands.
Single women and women who worked longer hours were more likely
to burnout.  Women working 20 hours or more a week were twice as
likely as women who worked 12 to 19 hours to suffer from burnout.
Those women who lived alone suffered more frequently from burnout
than those with partners.

Are Guys More at Risk of Burnout?

Traditionally men have had the stressful jobs outside of the home and it
used to be thought that men “burned out” more often than women.
But today, with both sexes working and taking care of homes and
children, are women more likely to suffer from the condition?  

Professional women under the age of 30 are increasingly suffering
from burnout and men are twice as likely to advance forward in their
career at each transition stage, according to research from McKinsey
and the Captivate Network. Experts suggest that men are more likely to
take part in activities that increase wellbeing at work than women – for
example, taking breaks throughout the day, or going out for lunch to

Burnout is a serious problem and it is more than “having a bad day at
the office”. Burnout can threaten your health, your relationships, and
your job.

But burnout is not impossible to manage. You can feel better and more
in control. We look at the scientific evidence for burnout remedies,
coping strategies and prevention tips so you can feel fulfilled at work

Say "No Thanks" to Shift Work to Prevent Burnout

Avoid shift work if you want to decrease your risk for feeling burned
out. For hospital nurses, the longer the shifts, the greater the risk of
burnout, according to a 2012 study from Project HOPE, a non-profit
health charity based in Millwood, Virginia.

Shift work is defined by most health authorities as irregular work
patterns, part-time work, night shift work or any work that interferes
with a normal night time sleeping pattern. In addition to the Project
Hope study, many other studies have found that shift work can cause
significant health problems including drowsiness during the day, high
blood pressure and of course burnout. A 2013 study from Haukeland
University Hospital, in Bergen, Norway found that only 25% of
Europeans have a regular work schedule.

Researchers also discovered that the longer the shifts the higher the
levels of work dissatisfaction.

Nurses working for longer than 10 hours at a time were two and a half
times more likely to suffer burnout and dissatisfaction, and to want to
leave their jobs, than nurses who regularly worked shorter shifts. If
you work shifts or manage shift workers, make sure you respect the
length of the shift and ensure you or your staff depart promptly once
work time is over.

Focusing on the Positive May Help Prevent Burnout

Having a positive view of your work and your role helps you avoid
burnout, particularly if you have a stressful or emotionally draining
role. A 2012 study from the University of Coimbra, Portugal showed
that even though palliative care nurses had repeated contact with
suffering and death they showed a low risk of job burnout.

The researchers concluded that employers developed protective
strategies to create a positive outlook in the teams and the nurses had
a positive view of their own role within the team.

And a 2012 study from the Department of Medicine, Mayo Clinic,
Rochester reported that members of the American College of Surgeons
who focused on what is important in life and maintained a positive
outlook were less likely to suffer from burnout.

Exercise to Prevent Burnout

Continue reading         page 1    page 2

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Burnout is more than just having a bad day
at work.