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How to spot, reduce work stress before you reach 'burnout'

‘Burnout' has been declared an occupational syndrome

Many of us have found ourselves in situations where work stress has left us feeling burned out.

Now, according to an update from the World Health Organization (WHO), "burnout" has been classified as a syndrome resulting from unmanaged workplace stress.

So how do we know if we are a little stressed or suffering from burnout?

According to Dr. Joseph Rock, of Cleveland Clinic, it all boils down to three main points.

“When you talk about burnout, you’re talking about three basic things -- one of them is, just generally, you’re more exhausted; you’re more lethargic,” he said. “The second thing, is you’re less efficient; you’re not working as well as you used to work. And the third thing is, you’re getting very negative and cynical in your thinking -- about work particularly.” 

Rock said the recent WHO classification comes as no surprise, since studies have been showing a rise in work-related stress for decades.

But is there harm in walking around with burnout?

Aside from the danger of losing a job, Rock said people have the tendency to take this type of work stress home with them.

When stress starts to grow beyond work, it begins to affect our overall health, both mentally and physically.

But, he admits the cure for burnout is not always simple.

Quitting a job could be the answer, for some of us. But Rock warns that if we aren’t able to change our frame of mind about work, those feelings may follow us to our next job as well.

He said a better approach begins with creating boundaries between work and home.

“You want to get a better balance between work and home life,” Rock said. “There’s a lot of ways to do that, in terms of setting limits for yourself on how many hours you’re going to let yourself work. It involves being able to really leave work at work, and not answer work emails, or work phone calls when you’re at home.” 

He said it’s also a good idea to get a support network of co-workers -- and this doesn’t mean finding a group of people to complain about work with, as this can just make burnout worse. Instead, find a group of people to talk with, in order to feel less isolated. 

For those who find themselves getting negative and cynical at work, Rock advises investing some time in a change of perspective. Try self-help or talking to a professional to see if a course-correction is possible.