What causes burnout or Stress?

What causes burnout or Stress?

There are many different ideas about what causes burnout but most researchers agree that chronic work stress is a significant factor. Burnout is more likely to occur when job demands outweigh job resources. Researchers also agree that both situational and individual factors may contribute or increase the likelihood of an individual developing burnout. A number of risk factors for contributing to burnout have been identified: Individual risk factors

• Demonstrating perfectionism in every aspect of one’s work, without considering priorities

• Placing too much importance on work (e.g., work as sole focus of life)

• Low self-esteem, cognitive rigidity, emotional instability and external locus of control

• Certain personal situations (e.g., major family responsibilities) disrupting work-life balance

• Difficulties in setting limits and boundaries (leading to work-life imbalance)

• Having high expectations of oneself and heightened professional conscience

• Difficulty delegating or working with a team in a stressful environment

• Inadequate adaptation strategies (dependence, poor time management, high need for support, unwise lifestyle habits, difficult interpersonal relationships)

• A highly driven, ‘A-type’ personality that is high in competitiveness and need for control Situational risk factors • Work overload

• Lack of control and inability to participate in decisions related to the way one’s work is done.

• Insufficient reward and recognition (e.g., financial compensation, esteem, respect) can be devaluing and heighten feelings of inefficacy.

• “Toxic” Community where work relationships are characterized by unresolved conflict, lack of psychological support, poor communication, and mistrust.

• Unfair treatment or incivility and disrespect can lead to cynicism, anger and hostility.

• Values conflicts on the job, where there is a gap between personal and organizational values, can create stress as workers must make a trade-off between their beliefs and work they have to do.

• Poorly defined responsibilities, ambiguous roles, and difficult schedules have also been identified as stressful when the situation persists. What helps people with burnout? The best practice approaches for burnout are multi-faceted, involving a high focus on self-care strategies for the individual, and reducing work environment stressors. Burnout interventions should focus on both:

• the individual (e.g., increase employees’ psychological resources and enhance coping; providing rest and respite from demands; enhancing the use of self-care strategies), and

• the environment (e.g., change the occupational context and reducing sources of stress, primarily related to work demands). There is more research on individual strategies than on environmental or organizational strategies. However, there is research evidence for the primary role of situational factors and it appears that individual-focused interventions are not sufficient to tackle severe burnout. Workplace stressors also need to be considered and addressed. How can you prevent or deal with burnout? For individuals

• Change work patterns (e.g., work less, take more breaks, avoid overtime)

• Develop coping skills (e.g., time management)

• Improve interpersonal effectiveness skills (e.g., assertiveness and conflict resolution skills)

• Prioritize self-care (e.g., exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep) • Practice relaxation, meditation and/or mindfulness strategies

• Obtain social support (from colleagues and family)

• Change the way you think about your work (e.g., using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy)

• Enhance self-understanding through psychotherapy

• Enhance emotional intelligence skills (e.g., self-awareness and self-regulation of emotions, as well as other awareness) For organizations

• Ensure employees have a sustainable and manageable workload – where demands are realistic.

• Involve employees in decisions that affect their work tasks so they have some opportunity to exercise professional autonomy and control/ability to access the resources necessary to do an effective job.

• Recognize and reward employees for work well done.

• Build a healthy community where employees have positive relationships and social support. Develop communication and conflict resolution skills so employees have effective ways of working out disagreements.

• Develop fair and equitable organizational policies. Treat employees with appropriate respect.

• Define organizational values, job goals and expectations.

• Promote good health (including mental health) and fitness

How can psychologists help people with burnout or Stress?

Psychologists educate workplaces (leaders and employees) about burnout so they understand what it is and how to handle it, via all-team or leadership-specific workshops and professional development sessions. Psychologists can also conduct assessments on individuals to help figure out if they are experiencing burnout and develop a plan for addressing it. Psychologists can help workplaces identify organizational factors that may be contributing to stress and burnout. Psychologists can help you build individual skills, such as coping, stress management, time management, and emotional intelligence. Psychologists can help organizations develop programs for improving employee engagement, reducing stress, and preventing burnout. Psychologists engage in research to help us better understand burnout and develop the best strategies for preventing and treating it. Finally, Psychologists can advocate for people experiencing burnout. For more information: You can consult with a registered psychologist to find out if psychological interventions might be of help to you. Provincial, territorial and some municipal associations of psychology often maintain referral services.

For the names and coordinates of provincial and territorial associations of psychology, go to . You can find additional information and free self-help resources on mental health in the workplace and burnout at:

• Workplace Strategies for Mental Health (

• CSA National Standard for Psychological Health & Safety in the Workplace ( _EN)

• World Health Organization

• Mental Health Commission of Canada ( Sante mentale en milieu de travail: