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What is Burnout or Stress?

What is Burnout or Stress?

Chances are you have said or thought to yourself “I’m burned out!” at some point. In everyday life, we often use the term burnout to mean that we are “exhausted” or “wiped out” or to refer to “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation, usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). But in psychological research, burnout refers to more than just exhaustion. The term burnout is used to describe a group of signs and symptoms that consistently occur together and are caused by chronic workplace stress. Different uses of the same word can make things hard to understand – especially since even the terms themselves vary across sources – burnt out, burned out, burnout. Adding to the confusion, the term burnout appears in The International Classification of Diseases - 11th Edition (ICD-11) but it is not classified as a disease or a medical condition. In 2019, the World Health Organization identified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” – something due to the conditions of work. Burnout is defined in ICD-11 as: “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1. feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2. increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and 3. reduced professional efficacy. Burnout refers specifically to the work environment and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.” Researchers have identified exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy as three key dimensions of the burnout experience. We all feel wiped out from time to time but if you are experiencing burnout, the exhaustion is overwhelming – you feel tired almost all of the time, both physically and emotionally. You will also perceive an increased mental distance or detachment from your job, or have a lot of negative and cynical thoughts related to your job. You may feel you dislike a job you previously were passionate about – and this lower engagement itself starts to feel frustrating. It will also be harder to work – you may notice a lower sense of efficacy (ability to produce a desired or intended result) and reduced productivity, accomplishment or ability to cope with the demands of your job. Everything feels overwhelming and the effects ripple into our personal lives. It is important to keep in mind that burnout is not just an individual problem. Burnout is the result of multiple factors from the work environment. We experience stress when the job demands we face – physical, emotional, or otherwise – are greater than the job resources we have. Think about a campfire – if there is no wood to put on the fire and it’s pouring rain – it’s going to be hard to keep that fire going. No one wants or chooses the experience of burnout. People would prefer to be engaged and have enough resources to keep up with the demands of work and their day-to-day lives.

• 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? 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