What you can do to avoid burnout

Feeling on the brink of a breakdown? You are not alone. The WHO has acknowledged burnout as a serious problem.
Feeling on the brink of a breakdown? You are not alone. The WHO has acknowledged burnout as a serious problem.

Having a particularly bad week at work? The impact of burnout on your health is even more far-reaching than previously believed.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), attention should be given to the medical problems that can be created by work-related stress. The WHO announced recently that the definition of “burnout” will be updated in the latest version of The International Classification of Diseases – ICD-11. This definition will be official from January 2022.

While “burnout” is not yet an official medical condition according to the WHO, it is classified as an “occupational phenomenon”.

Do you suffer from burnout?

We all have bad days at some stage. But if you carry on hating your job for months, you might be heading towards proper burnout. The WHO lists the following signs of burnout:

  • Feelings of exhaustion or depletion
  • Mental disconnect from your career
  • Feelings of negativity or cynicism related to your job/career
  • Decreased productivity and reduced professional efficiency

How can it affect your health in the long run?

While the earlier definition of burnout was simply put as “a state of vital exhaustion”, it is now more detailed and gives more legitimacy to the condition.

Not only will burnout take the joy out of your life and affect your overall productivity, but it will also affect your body – your immunity will take a knock, your sleep will be compromised, and your normal healthy diet and exercise regime may be affected.

What can you do?

According to Ron Friedman, a psychologist for corporate and private clients, the problem of burnout is much bigger than it was a decade ago. There are many misconceptions about burnout, such as the stigma that you are simply not cut out to do your job, leading to the condition being ignored and mismanaged.

But, with this newly detailed definition by the WHO, workplaces will hopefully take burnout more seriously.

However, in the meantime here are a few tips to help you manage:

1. Value your work

When your work feels mundane and boring, it’s difficult to have a sense of purpose. But focusing on ways you help others through your job may give you a sense of purpose.

2. Don’t put your eggs in one basket

Find joys and hobbies outside of work. Value your family and friends or hobbies and activities away from work. If you feel like there is nothing outside work, find a new activity or club that you can join over weekends. Start volunteering at charity organisations, or reach out to your community to meet people from outside your work sphere.

3. Make your work 'work' for you

Use the resources that your company has to offer, whether it’s free counselling sessions, the opportunity to work flexi hours, or extra courses. Make use of your leave days, and take sick leave if you need it. 

4. Focus on nutrition

Nutrition plays a big role when it comes to overall energy levels and productivity at work. Instead of visiting the local coffee shop for your daily croissant, start making a habit of packing a healthy variety of tasty snacks that will boost your energy levels, like nuts and fresh fruit.  

5. Socialise at work

Feeling isolated and alone? Colleagues may be experiencing the same problems as you. Start chatting to that person you see in the cafeteria every day. Smile at people in the elevators.

Don't ignore the feeling

While you should do your best to remain positive at work, never dismiss feelings of despair or burnout. Don’t hesitate to talk to a medical professional or contact an organisation such as the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) or TherapyRoute if you feel you need help.

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