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Burnout: Symptoms and Strategies to Cool Down

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If juggling your work and other responsibilities, such as parenting or caregiving, is leaving you feeling burned out, know you are not alone.

While burnout, specifically job burnout, is technically not a medical diagnosis, its effects are very real. It includes physical as well as mental symptoms and has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and more.

Psychologist Christina Maslach’s research and writing on job burnout have framed our understanding of the syndrome. She explained that job burnout has three symptoms—exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy — and it results in “a detachment from work and a lost sense of meaning,” according to The New York Times.

The Harvard Business Review explained the three symptoms of burnout as follows:

  • Exhaustion: This is when your fuel tank is nearly spent, the gas light is on and it’s hard to fill up the tank. Having too much to do, or not possessing the skills to complete a task, can cause exhaustion, which then makes aspects of your job you previously enjoyed seem arduous. It can also create physical symptoms that can jeopardize your health.
  • Cynicism: Cynicism can be the result of work overload, but it is also likely to occur in the presence of high conflict, unfairness, and lack of participation in decision making.”
  • Inefficacy: Not as easy to define as the first two symptoms, inefficacy means “feelings of incompetence and a lack of achievement and productivity.”

It should also be noted that you don’t have to experience all three symptoms, or all three symptoms equally, to feel burnout.

If you are feeling job burnout, the Mayo Clinic offers several recommendations and strategies to help you recharge.

  • Seek support: This can take many forms. One option is to reach out to coworkers, friends or loved ones to help you cope. Another option is to use the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) available through your employer.
  • Practice mindfulness: “Mindfulness is the act of focusing on your breath and being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “In a job setting, this practice involves facing situations with openness and patience, and without judgment.”
  • Get some exercise: This is a great way to take your mind off work, among other things.
  • Get some sleep: “Sleep restores well-being and helps protect your health,” according to the Mayo Clinic. If you are struggling with sleep and are a member of HealthFlex, the Virgin Pulse Sleep Guide in the “Health” tab can help.
  • Take time off: If you are truly burnt out, you may not be able to squeeze in recharging after work. It may mean setting clearer boundaries or taking time away to reset.


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