A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Burnout: When work woes wreak havoc

Man relaxing in a chair - Avoiding burnout

Disconnect from work when you get home to avoid burnout.

If thinking about going to work tomorrow fills you with dread, you’re not alone.

About 28 percent of U.S. workers are showing signs of burnout, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Burnout refers to job stress that leads to mental, emotional and physical exhaustion, said Dr. Alpa Shah, a Marshfield Clinic psychiatrist.

“Most jobs involve some stress,” she said. “Burnout happens when you feel you have no control over your work, feel isolated at work and don’t have enough time for other meaningful activities because work takes up so much of your time and effort.”

More common in service professions

Health care workers, police officers, firefighters, teachers, social workers, lawyers, customer service representatives and other service providers are most likely to experience burnout. Doctors have the highest burnout rates, with more than 50 percent experiencing at least one symptom, Shah said.

Long hours, repetitive work, taking work home, feeling undervalued and lack of control over how the job is done build up slowly and cause burnout.

Burned out employees tend to flee their careers, which has led to shortages in some fields.

Negative feelings take over

Cynicism is one of the main signs of burnout. You may feel irritable, complain a lot, criticize others and get impatient with coworkers or customers. Lack of energy is common, too. It may be hard to get motivated, get up for work in the morning and do your job efficiently.

Some people have physical symptoms, like headaches, backaches, changes in sleep patterns and frequent illnesses.

When ignored, burnout often leads to more serious problems like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system.

Socialization and self-care to beat burnout

“A healthy routine that includes regular exercise, balanced diet and enough sleep helps prevent burnout,” Shah said.

Take breaks during the workday. Step away from your work for 30 minutes to eat lunch. Take short breaks to walk around your workplace and talk to coworkers. People who have social support at work are less likely to experience burnout.

Use vacation time and completely break away from work for a few days.

If you’re already feeling burned out, talk to your boss about what you need to feel fulfilled at work or suggest ways to improve workflow.

At home, spend time with family and friends and do things that bring you joy. Try to disconnect from work when you leave the office.

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