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Beyond Exhausted At Work? Noticing The Signs Of Occupational Burnout

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- Have you ever felt like you are beyond exhausted and your job is really getting to you? You may be suffering from workplace burnout.

According to the World Health Organization, burnout is recognized as a phenomenon that can lead people to seek treatment, and has negative health consequences.

Mental burnout is defined by three critical parts:

  • The stress response to exhaustion
  • The negative response to the job
  • The negative evaluation of oneself

Psychologist and UC Berkeley Professor Emerita of Psychology Christina Maslach says while mental burnout can happen in any area of our lives, it most commonly happens in the workplace.

"People have been using that term because there are some other things that are a part of the experience and one of them is this cynical, negative, 'take this job and shove it' attitude toward the work," Maslach said.

That attitude, combined with a physical and emotional sense of exhaustion along with a negative feeling about yourself, is burnout.

But is it the job - or the people at the job - that causes it? Maslach says it can be both.

"It's the condition of the situation you're working in. You're not getting stressed-out all by yourself," Maslach explained. "Stuff is happening and you are responding to that."

Fixing the workplace is complicated. This is because people initially blame themselves for how they are feeling, and don't want to ruffle feathers at work.

"How to get that message across has been a real challenge because we don't have easy ways to talk about fixing those social environments and those job conditions," Maslach said.

According to Maslach, people who work in the tech, medical and human services industries may be more prone to burnout than others.

If you're unsure if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from burn-out, look for some of these signs:

  • Cynicism or criticism at work
  • Irritability or impatience with coworkers
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Lack of satisfaction from achievements
  • Feeling isolated at work, even if surrounded by people

If any of those apply to you, or someone you may know, here are some short-term solutions:

  • Find people you can vent to, to talk about life and not just work
  • Do something that makes you happy
  • Create personal boundaries
  • Try to lessen the chronic stressors that are small, but adding up
  • Problem-solve what you can without getting the boss involved
  • Define meaningful goals that give you a sense of purpose


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