Between juggling to-do lists, dodging daily battles with your boss and power struggle woes, it’s little wonder that around 15.4 million days were lost last year due to work-related stress and anxiety.
But burn-out is now an officially recognised medical condition, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Yep, according to the International Classification of Diseases, or the ICD-11, the organisation’s handbook which guides medical providers in diagnosing diseases, burn-out has been added to the catalog.
It will become officially recognised globally in 2022, which will help enable medical experts diagnose someone suffering from the condition.
What is burn-out?
The WHO describes burn-out as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” along with three defining symptoms:
feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
reduced professional efficacy
Sounds like most of us, right? But according to experts there is a difference between feeling stressed and being burnt out.
"Burn-out is the result of prolonged stress - the signs and symptoms present in the same way as stress but are more extreme,” explains Dominique Antiglio, Sophrologist and author of The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology.
“For example, with stress, you may feel tired most days, however, with burnout, you are more likely to feel exhausted perhaps to the point where you cannot get out of bed.”
And burn-out is a lot more common than you might think.
The Mental Health Foundation found that 74% of Brits had at some point, over 2018, felt so stressed they were "overwhelmed or unable to cope".
Antiglio says that when you are stressed, it is natural to feel low on energy and motivation, whereas when you're suffering from burn-out, you can become completely detached from your daily activities.
”During times of stress, you might lose the joy of meeting with friends and family, but when you are burnt out, you may feel negative about meeting at all and avoid interaction, and unable to cope with your environment,” she explains.
And extreme stress doesn’t just affect our mental wellbeing. It can have a bearing on our overall health too, with 62% of people reporting that stress has affected their health and 67% per cent of people believing their body reacts physically to stress, causing them to suffer more headaches, stomach discomfort, colds, skin flare-ups and sore throats.
Burn-out can impact your sleep too.
“If you're having difficulty sleeping, it could progress to insomnia where you're so exhausted that you can no longer sleep,” explains Antiglio.
“Emotional outbursts and inability to control anger can also be signs. Physically, burnout can manifest as palpitations, a tight chest, and a lack of energy and strength, difficulty breathing or spells of dizziness."
Who is more at risk?
According to Gerard Barnes, Chief Executive, Smart TMS individuals working in certain professions, where workers are more frequently exposed to disasters or other stressful events, may be at a higher risk of developing work-related psychological trauma or burn-out.
“However, as the UK’s working environment increases in its exposure to stress and work-life imbalance, burn-out is now - more commonly - a combination of extreme tiredness, loss of engagement with the job and a sense of ineffectiveness or failure which is caused by chronic work related stress.”
How can you prevent burn-out?
Antiglio recommends that if you are feeling burnt out the first port of call should be to see your GP.
But there are some other supporting methods you can try to help you feel more calm and relaxed including taking some time out.
Easier said than done when your inbox is off the scale and your boss wants that report, like, yesterday, but sometimes you just need to take some time out.
According to recent stats more than a fifth of Brits say they work more than 50 hours a week, leading to increase in cases of stress, anxiety and depression, so it’s vital we take time away from the office both physically and mentally.
“Create some space each day to rest,” suggests Antiglio. “Even if you're not doing anything special, it's the intent of booking that time in that puts you on the path to reclaiming your time."
Antiglio also recommends giving sophrology a go. The relaxation technique uses breathwork, gentle movement and visualisation techniques to help build up your confidence, calm and energy again.
“If you are highly stressed, just 10 minutes of Sophrology a day can help you be more mindful of learning when to stop, rest and recharge so you can avoid progression to burnout,” she says.
The idea is that by helping you to become more mindful of your emotions and your mental and physical state you can more easily recognise when you’re being pushed to your limits.
“This will allow you to better manage and spot the symptoms of burn-out to seek help early,” Antiglio says.
Emotional intelligence can also be an asset in terms of helping to manage your mental health.
“Having emotional intelligence means you are emotionally connected and aware of yourself, your needs, desires and limits, and are able to express them clearly,” explains Antiglio.
“It protects you from burnout as you can gain perspective on your situation and set good boundaries."
Gerard Barnes has some other suggestions for helping to combat burn-out at work.
“Physical exercise, hobbies that you find helpful for de-stressing, maintaining a disciplined and balanced work/life balance (leaving at 5pm/not bringing work home), confiding in peers, colleagues, spouses about work, spreading out holidays evenly during the year and maintaining a good level of self-care are all helpful ways to reduce/prevent work-related burn-out,” he says.