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Fighting Burnout At Work During Stressful Times

By: Brian Wallace


Mother working from home with kids. Quarantine and closed school during coronavirus outbreak. Children make noise and disturb woman at work. Homeschooling and freelance job. Boy and girl playing.

Ever slump into your chair and wonder when all the crazy stress at work is going to go away? Well you’re not the only one, 51% in the U.S. say they have felt burned out more than once. Without having to look further, pop-culture often reflects current sentiments, so it’s no surprise acclaimed group Twenty One Pilots composed the popular song “Stressed Out.” Since 77% of professionals and 84% of Millennials have experienced burnout at their current job, it looks like we’ve adopted a burnout culture.

With 64% of Americans feeling stressed or frustrated at work one or more times a week, what’s stressing people out? Looking at our roots across the pond, in the U.K. employees felt work-related stress due to a high-pressure environment, a lack of support from management, and unrealistic expectations. Add all that to the stress of the Covid-19 pandemic, uprooting and isolating workers forcing them to work through remote technologies, and you have some burnt-out employees.

Even before the spread of Coronavirus, 1 in 3 employees blamed technology for their stress. They claimed that tech leads to increased workloads, tighter deadlines, and social isolation.

Causes aside, chronic stress is no joke, besides all the symptoms we’re familiar with, it can change your brain. The WHO defines burnout as a syndrome caused by chronic workplace stress displaying feelings of exhaustion, mental detachment, and poor performance. You may know about the stress hormone, cortisol, which increases 2-5 times during times of stress.

Higher cortisol levels can:

  • Interfere with learning and memory
  • Lower immune function and life expectancy
  • Increase weight gain, A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Heighten risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, and mental illness

But let’s not forget that stress has a healthy place in our lives. Short-term stress, like worrying about a deadline, can be healthy. Healthy stress has a clear endpoint, challenges you to excel, and enables you to channel it toward an attainable goal.

Chronic stress, however, never ends, and inevitably reprograms your brain. Unhealthy stress reduces brain activity related to higher-order tasks, increases brain activity related to survival instincts, and provides no outlet or tangible goal.

How can you avoid chronic stress? Lifestyle changes have been the most effective and successful at combating burnout.

  1. Find the problem, is it an oppressive work environment, mismatched company, and personal values, or intense time pressures?
  2. Establish a routine, Ann Shoket, author of “The Big Life,” suggests, “Turn off your phone. Leave work at a reasonable hour. Draw boundaries between your life and your work that allow you to succeed in both.”
  3. Prioritize each day, make a to-do list to manage daily tasks, and look for long term balance instead of fitting everything into every day.

Although the most effective, lifestyle changes can take a while to cement and reap the benefits. Fighting stress on the way will get you to the finish line. Socializing with family and friends builds resilience, while isolation will further increase cortisol levels. Getting a good night’s sleep is also important, since lack of sleep adds to your stress, which can affect the quality of sleep, and then a downward cycle starts. Stay active; exercise burns up cortisol, helping keep levels manageable.

Burnout doesn’t have to take over your life, with a slew of stress-fighting habits you can nip a chronic case of stress in the bud. Your workplace may have followed you home, but so has options for help. Teletherapy has become a great resource for people to manage stress with the help of a therapist through phone, webcam, email, or text. Never give up, and don’t be afraid to ask for help, the earlier you ask the better the outcome.

Learn more about burnout here.

Burnout and Toxic Stress
Source: Online PhD Degrees

Published: April 3, 2020

Source: Online PhD Degrees

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Brian Wallace

Brian Wallace

Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-2018.

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