Workplace stress: Are you heading for burnout?

With workplace stress on the rise, looking after our wellbeing has never been more important for managing stress and avoiding burnout.

The Health and Safety Executive reported an estimated 875,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in GB, 2022/23. Levels are higher than pre-pandemic – resulting in 18 million working days lost.    

In fact, one in five employees took time off work last year as a result of burnout.

In this article, Paul Yates from YPS Psychology explains what burnout is, how to spot the signs, and how you can avoid or minimise the effects of burnout.

What is burnout?

Working under pressure in a fast-paced environment can help us to get stuff done, but too much stress can become a problem.

First identified by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in 1974, burnout is characterised by exhaustion, mental detachment from your job, and poor performance. In 2019, the World Health Organisation recognised burnout as an occupational phenomenon resulting from chronic workplace stress.

Burnout can result in a variety of symptoms, from emotional reactions like depression, lack of motivation and reduced cognitive performance, to impacts on your social and emotional life. There are three types of burnout:

  • Overload: you’re ambitious, but you sacrifice your health and personal life for your job.
  • Underchallenged: you’re indifferent and bored with your work, and don’t find time for personal development.
  • Worn-out: you feel like you have little control over results and that your efforts go unacknowledged, leading you to become neglectful.

What causes burnout?

There are many internal and external factors that can cause burnout, such as:

  • having high expectations of yourself
  • desiring recognition
  • always wanting to please others
  • high demands at work
  • being under time constraints or pressure
  • lack of resources
  • pressure from your management

Am I going to burnout?

Burnout can make it difficult to deal with stress and day to day responsibilities, which is why it’s important to learn how to spot signs of burnout, including exhaustion, irritability, and isolation.

In fact, psychologists have identified the 12 stages of burnout, from excessive ambition and neglecting your own needs, to behavioural changes and lack of interest.

How to avoid burnout

Learn how to manage your stress

Not all stress is bad, but long-term increased levels of stress can lead not only to burnout but depression, anxiety, and even physical health conditions. By understanding the effect that stress can have on you and being aware of your triggers, you can keep your stress levels under control.

Set boundaries

A healthy work-life balance is key to not letting your work spillover and impact the rest of your life. This can be especially challenging if you’re working from home, but simple things like not answering emails out of office hours can help you to set boundaries.

Practice gratitude

From keeping a journal to work through your worries, to making time for mindfulness in your daily routines, gratitude can help you to lower your stress levels and promote positivity. Make a list of three things you are grateful for today, no matter how small.

Slow down and rest

It can seem counterproductive to rest when you feel like the tasks on your to-do list are piling up, but you only have so much energy. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so take the time to step away from work and recharge your batteries.

Stress less, achieve more

Stress can be a barrier to your success, affecting your closest relationships, career, or social life. It can lead to burnout and an early exit from your work and life goals.With this Gold Membership course, you’ll access professional support that will teach you the techniques you need to keep your mental wellbeing intact. You’ll be able to build positive habits that will enable you to enjoy the results for a long time.

Find out more about YPS Psychology.

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