Much of everyday life for the average person is inextricably linked with the job they do. Indeed, for many people, a lot of their identity is bound up in their job. When someone asks “What do you do?”, truthfully the answer could be a lot of things, but the answer they expect and are given is what you do for a living. The message that comes through again and again is that our jobs matter a lot. So this raises a question or two: perhaps most importantly “what happens if the job that you do for a living is making you ill?

Burnout is a subject that is slowly gaining more attention in the media and elsewhere, but it is something a lot of people don’t know much about. To ensure that you are in a position to identify it in yourself, and in others who matter to you, here is a quick Q&A on the issue of burnout.

What is burnout?

To make it as simple and yet as comprehensive an answer as possible: Burnout is a form of stress-based exhaustion that results from demands placed upon someone. Most commonly, this will result from their jobs, although for some people it may be linked to caring duties.

How do you know you are burned out?

A lot of people don’t. They will assume that they are either under the weather health-wise, or haven’t had enough sleep – and while both of these are true, burnout is more pernicious and can have longer-term implications. You can be relatively sure you have burnout if you feel tired or drained most of the time, and often have the sense that you will never clear your workload or progress in your career.

What causes burnout?

Overwork, and overly-stressful work, are both major contributors to burnout. Feeling that you can’t just take a beat and benefit from the services of an employee assistance programme to ease your stress plays a big part. It is also common for burnout to result from feeling underappreciated in a role. If you’re putting in the hours and the effort, and nobody’s giving you any credit for it, it’s common and understandable to feel greater stress as a result.

What can you do about it?

Burnout is not a condition that you can treat by taking a course of medication or even just a week off work. It is an issue that results from in-depth causes, and needs in-depth solutions. Taking a break from work will surely help, but it won’t do much if you then go straight back to work in the same role with the same expectations. A long-term restructuring and the promise of more downtime, recognition and – ideally – financial remuneration will go some way to helping.

In summary

Burnout is a legitimate concern for an increasing number of workers, as wages struggle to match the pace of the cost of living. The more hours you need to work, and the less you get for it, the more you are at risk of burnout. Seek medical assistance if you feel that the stresses of your job are becoming problematic.

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