Burnout. The term is everywhere right now, and for a good reason. After months of lockdowns, school shutdowns, and little to no socializing, we are all exhausted. But does being energy-depleted and fatigued mean we are burnt out?
Burnout is a workplace phenomenon
We’ve been talking about burnout since the 1970s. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) finally recognized it as a syndrome worth including in the International Classification of Diseases, but not as a medical condition. The WHO and the leading psychological research agree burnout is specifically a workplace phenomenon.
It’s characterized by three different dimensions:
- The experience of energy depletion and exhaustion so profound that it extends into all areas of life, regardless of how much sleep or rest a person gets
- Cynicism towards one’s work
- Experiencing a lack of professional efficacy
How do you know if you’re burnt out?
It can be difficult to distinguish burnout from other potential causes for exhaustion or depletion, including stress at home, nutrient deficiencies, poor sleep, and hormonal dysregulation. When an individual is experiencing burnout, the symptoms tend to be multi-dimensional:
- Deterioration of physical health
- You have trouble falling asleep or wake up throughout the night
- You seem to get sick all the time, even when others don’t
- Deterioration of psychological or emotional health
- When you try to rest, your mind won’t stop racing
- You’re dealing with new or increased anxiety
- You feel impatient, frustrated, or irritable more often than not
- Increased hopelessness with respect to your work
- You doubt that you’re making a difference
- You feel overwhelmed by workplace politics
- You feel negative or cynical towards your workplace
What can I do about it?
Burnout more than anything is an indication of how workplace culture can have an acute effect on an individual’s wellbeing. In the inventory + assessment developed by leading burnout researcher and psychologist Dr. Christina Maslach, she identifies six organizational risk factors that lead a workplace towards being burnout-prone:
- Excessive workload
- Lack of control
- Insufficient reward or recognition of work
- Minimal workplace community
- Absence of fairness
- Conflict between personal and workplace values
Maslach’s research shows us that no industry is immune to burnout and that the way to become a burnout-proof organization is to assess and address each of these factors.
Getting to the root cause of burnout has to involve changes to risk factors in the workplace and can’t be the responsibility of the burnt-out individual alone. But for those of you feeling as though you are on the edge of burnout right now and are ready to do something about it, there are a few things you can do to start feeling better:
- Prioritize rest and relaxation. If you are having trouble relaxing in the evenings, a Holy Basil tincture or the Peace of Mind combo can be very helpful to calm a busy brain.
- Hold boundaries around work like it’s your job. If you don’t already, define for yourself and your coworkers when you are or aren’t available via email or telephone so that you get time fully off the clock.
- Remember to nourish yourself. When we’re overwhelmed with work and feel constantly busy, it’s easy to forget to prioritize feeding ourselves. It’s also not uncommon to find that some meals feel harder to digest when our minds are elsewhere. A bitters formula like this Digestion combo can be very helpful for easing digestion and bloating when taken before a meal. Put your phone down, shut your laptop and take a few moments to enjoy your food. You deserve it.
Dr. Emily Bennett, ND is a naturopathic doctor, activist, and advocate for eliminating burnout in the nonprofit and social service sector. She helps her patients find long-term recovery from their stress, anxiety, and hormonal concerns so that they can get back to dismantling the white heteronormative cis-patriarchy.
Want to transform your habits to avoid burnout? Do the free Habits Are Magic challenge.