It’s the beginning of the week and you’re already longing for the weekend. Work is hell – you’re swamped with deadlines, unrealistic demands, time pressures, meetings and a toxic work environment. Worse yet, when you go home you struggle to switch off. You have absolutely no work-life balance and you feel completely fried. Sound familiar? Congratulations – you’re officially burned out.
And you’re not alone. A recent study into the mental health of corporate Australia found that it’s actually a serious epidemic; almost one in three workers from a range of industries are suffering from some form of mental illness. The study showed that 36 per cent suffered from depression, 33 per cent from anxiety and 31 per cent from workplace stress. And to be honest, we’re not exactly surprised by these stats.
What’s the difference between stress and burnout?
So, are stress and burning out the same thing? Well, not really. According to sleep specialist Olivia Arezzolo, while burnout may be the result of unrelenting stress, it isn’t the same as stress. “Stress can actually be positive - it catalyses action. Eustress, aka ‘positive stress’, excites us and helps us smash our goals,” says Arezzolo. When you’re running on eustress, you’ll often feel more energised, productive and focused. “However, in excessive amounts, too much stress becomes ‘distress’, leaving us anxious, overwhelmed and exhausted,” explains Arezzolo.
“Burnout, on the other hand, is specific to work. In 2019 [the] World Health Organization classified it as an ‘occupational phenomenon’. Burnout symptoms include poor motivation, lack of enthusiasm and fatigue. Unlike stress, there is no positive burnout. As anyone would recognise who has suffered [from it] (myself included); burnout is a truly awful experience.”
Now that burnout has been officially recognised as a syndrome, what can we do to avoid it? Well, for starters, you have to keep in mind that burnout is a gradual process that develops over a period of time - occupational stress can creep up on you and you don’t always notice that it’s happening. While the signs and symptoms are subtle at first, they can get worse as time goes on, so it’s crucial to know the risk factors of job burnout so you can remedy them before they result in serious health problems.
What is the most common cause of burnout?
“Poorly managed stress during the day is the most common reason: it could be because of an excessive workload, unrealistic demands, conflict within the workplace and/or misalignment of your skill set to your role,” says Arezzolo.
What are some symptoms of burnout?
We all have days where we feel tired, unmotivated and don’t want to get out of bed. But if this is happening to you on the regular, and you feel like you’re waking up every day with a massive weight on your shoulders, or you constantly feel like there isn't enough time in your day to complete your workload, this is a big red flag. “Lack of motivation, an inability to concentrate, daydreaming, recurring sickness (particularly on work days), apathy, headaches or migraines are all typical signs of burnout,” reveals Arezzolo. “Essentially, you lose your energy and enthusiasm for life.”
Wondering what this means for your emotional and physical health? Arezzolo says that if you don’t pay attention to the symptoms and work on actively reducing your stress levels, burnout can lead to a whole range of health conditions. “With ongoing time, the symptoms above can manifest in chronic conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, weight loss/gain and insomnia.”
How to deal with burnout
The best way to both recover from and avoid the risk of burnout is to be proactive. If you don’t work on addressing the issues at hand, your job performance, personality and health will suffer, not to mention your quality of life. According to Arezzolo, self-care is crucial. “Work can wait - your health cannot,’ says Arezzolo. “Either you will choose to take time to recover from burnout, or your body will do it for you.”
“Be gentle with your body, accept its limitations [and] know that the best results are produced when you are at 100 per cent. If you’re not there at the moment, take a step back to charge up and then move ahead - you’ll reach heights you could have never imagined. But it all starts with taking care of the most important thing in the world: you.”
Here’s where to start:
#1 / Seek professional help
“No one deserves to suffer - nor should they need to. On the edge of burnout, you can’t make calculated decisions, so you might not be able to see a solution – but someone else can. A counsellor, friend, family member or Lifeline are all ready, willing and available to support you. Exactly as you would want for your best friend, honour yourself with the same respect and share your sadness,” says Arezzolo.
#2 / Fuel your body
According to Arezzolo, as you near the state of physical and emotional exhaustion your body is less likely to absorb nutrients properly, “exacerbating fatigue, brain fog and mental confusion.” Make sure you’re providing your body with the right foods and nutrients it needs to maintain a physiological balance (known as homeostasis). Eat plenty of dark green and leafy vegetables (like spinach and kale), adaptogens (like ashwagandha, ginseng and rhodiola) and hot herbal and spiced teas (like chamomile). Arezzolo also recommends adding supplements into your diet. “To both avoid and recover from burnout, take Performance Lab WholeFood Multi each morning: the synthetic-free multi has 100 per cent of your nutrient needs for 17 micronutrients. I also advise [having] Performance Lab MCT Oil - the organic formula fuels brain cells directly, so within minutes you’re able to concentrate, focus and think more clearly.”
#3 / Sleep
When you’re not sleeping well, your body and brain will not function at their prime – so don’t skimp on it! “If you’re lacking motivation, clarity or energy; this is your body’s signal to rest. Replenishing the happiness hormones serotonin and dopamine, sleep literally transforms your mood,” explains Arezzolo. “Sleep also detoxifies the brain from beta-amyloid, a neurotoxin otherwise causing memory loss - a common symptom of burnout. Thirdly, fatigue can add strain to your already-overwhelmed state; compounding the difficulty of executing seemingly simple tasks (e.g. getting transport to work).” If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, hit up Arezzolo’s Instagram page for some tips on how to wake up with more energy.
Looking for advice on stress management? Check out our wellbeing tips to stress less.
Are you experiencing chronic workplace stress? What are some things you’re doing to combat burnout syndrome? Share with us in the comment section below.
Main image credit: Getty
Erin Docherty is a Beauty Writer for BEAUTYcrew, Beauty Editor for Women's Health magazine and a Grooming Writer for Men's Health magazine. She has a keen interest in cosmeceutical skin care and is currently working on minimising her 9-step skin care routine – because ain’t nobody got time for that. When she’s not writing about the latest beauty news, or applying copious amounts of serum, you can find her spending all her money in Sephora.