WHO officially recognizes job burnout – here are the symptoms and solutions

Burnout
© Nadia Snopek

The World Health Organization has included job burnout in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases as an occupational phenomenon.

Have you lost your workday pep? Are you feeling grumpy at the office? You may have burnout!

What has long been the realm of abstract complaint – what is burnout, anyway? – has now been officially recognized as a thing by the World Health Organization (WHO).

While not classified as a medical condition, burnout has been included in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases as an "occupational phenomenon." It is included in the chapter titled, "Factors influencing health status or contact with health services" – in other words, health complaints that are not classed as illnesses or health conditions.

The WHO defines the exhausting drudgery of it all as follows:

Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

The symptoms of burnout

They go on to describe the three "dimensions" of burnout.

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.
3. Reduced professional efficacy.

And while yes, one may feel all of these things outside of work as well – housekeeping, marriage, et cetera – WHO notes that burnout "refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

The organization will soon be developing guidelines on mental well-being in the workplace – and it can't come soon enough. Just after money, work is the second most common source of stress in the U.S. according to the American Psychological Association. And burnout can become a dangerous health risk.

The consequences

According to the Mayo Clinic, the consequences of burnout aren't just frustration and fatigue. Ignored or unaddressed job burnout can have significant consequences, including:

• Excessive stress
• Fatigue
• Insomnia
• Sadness, anger or irritability
• Alcohol or substance misuse
• Heart disease
• High blood pressure
• Type 2 diabetes
• Vulnerability to illnesses

How to cope

All of these can have dire consequences. So what to do? Mayo has these suggestions:

Evaluate your options. Discuss specific concerns with your supervisor. Maybe you can work together to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions. Try to set goals for what must get done and what can wait.

Seek support. Whether you reach out to co-workers, friends or loved ones, support and collaboration might help you cope. If you have access to an employee assistance program, take advantage of relevant services.

Try a relaxing activity. Explore programs that can help with stress such as yoga, meditation or tai chi.

Get some exercise. Regular physical activity can help you to better deal with stress. It can also take your mind off work.

Get some sleep. Sleep restores well-being and helps protect your health.

Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of focusing on your breath flow and being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment. In a job setting, this practice involves facing situations with openness and patience, and without judgment.

And to which I would heartily add:

Take a walk in the park. Spending time in greenspace – from a walk in the forest to sitting in a park – reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure, among other benefits.

For more on coping with burnout and stress, see related stories below.

WHO officially recognizes job burnout – here are the symptoms and solutions
The World Health Organization has included job burnout in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases as an occupational phenomenon.

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