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Job burnout: A major cause of depression in those under 45

 How to handle burnout (Photo: iStock)

Although job burnout is not classified as an illness or health condition, it is a "state of vital exhaustion", a syndrome that results from chronic and unresolved workplace stress and is unrelated to experiences in other aspects of life.

According to the World Health Organisation, job burnout is a factor influencing the health status of individuals and one of the reasons why they contact health services.

You are likely to get burnout if...

You have a work overload

When you are too dependable in fixing everyone's problems, work will take a toll on you. People in the "helping professions" such as health care, where their day-to-day routine involves dealing with people when they are most vulnerable and rely on them to make things better, are also at risk of suffering from burnout.

You have little control

Inability to influence or make decisions that concern your job -- such as resources needed to make your work easier, workload, and task schedule -- can make you feel that you have no control over your work responsibilities.

When your job expectations are unclear

When you have no idea about how far your supervisor expects you to exercise authority, you will always be uncomfortable at work. Micro-management by your boss can get you pretty stressed. It doesn't make it better if you feel undermined at work or if there is that bully who is always on your case. These dysfunctional workplace dynamics contribute greatly to job burnout.

You have a boring job

Fatigue can also result from chaotic or boring work activities. Your job is not enjoyable when you find yourself constantly using energy drinks to remain focused at work. The inability to explore your creativity will obviously make work monotonous and unexciting.

You lack a balance between work and personal/social life

Biased office relations can also weigh you down. Do you find yourself isolated at work? Is your personal life equally as lonely? Do you find yourself too tired to spend time with your family? It is conceivable that your family will get used to spending quality time without you.

You will be missing out on a lot of memorable fun times with loved ones. Your problems will weigh you down without your loved ones taking note. That lack of social support is likely to contribute to stress that leads to burnout.


When you find yourself having prolonged negativism, decreased professionalism and being overly critical, maybe you should do some self-examination.

Do you lack consistency, or are you easily irritable at work?

Have your sleep patterns changed over time?

Do you find yourself stress-feeding, or using alcohol and other drugs to ease the bad feelings or not to feel at all?

Are you experiencing unexplained bowel issues or headaches? Make a point of seeing a doctor or a mental health specialist because you could just be wallowing in job burnout.

Are you losing interest in stuff you used to enjoy and detaching from colleagues and loved ones?

Having trouble concentrating at work, forgetfulness and serious anxiety and panic attacks are also associated with burnout.

If left unchecked, burnout will lead to:



*Alcohol and substance abuse


* Type 2 Diabetes

*Heart disease

* Depression

*Lowered immunity to illnesses.


Take time to take care of yourself. Set boundaries for yourself. For instance, you can decide not to carry work home. Get more sleep, meditate, exercise, eat right and try relaxing activities to release tension from work.

Self-examine: Be more self-aware of your personality and your ability to handle stressful situations. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and how they impact your work and productivity.

Connect with others. Seek social support from others around you especially those who can help you in your career growth. Reach out to loved ones who will help you cope with stress and take advantage of the company and time they spend with you to be better.

Air out your concerns. Talk with your boss or supervisor about issues you need to be addressed so that you can be more productive. Be willing to change your expectations or make compromises on goal setting. Prioritise tasks and follow up on postponed assignments.

Innovate creatively: Enhance experiences by putting a new spin on how you do your work assignments. Relieve yourself of the dullness and uneventful way of a monotonous routine day in and day out. Switching things up will help you feel motivated and inspired.

An unrewarding job can undermine your health. The worrying thing is that burnout is not easily recognisable. Most people notice it when the symptoms have started affecting other people around them.

The Four Stages of Burnout:

Physical, Mental and Emotional Exhaustion:

Juggling lean resources to manage ambitious objectives leads to brain strain, energy shortage and stress.

Shame and Doubt:

You project a confident and competent image to your supervisor and colleagues yet deep down you question if you can handle the job responsibilities that come with your supposed competence.

Cynicism and Callousness:

You develop an abrasive and obnoxious attitude that makes your colleagues want to avoid you. The abrasive behaviour leads to a constant state of frustration and anger; a formula for hypertension and premature heart attacks.

Failure, Helplessness and Crisis:

Your body begins to wear out. Here the symptoms of chronic fatigue and prolonged stress can no longer be hidden.

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