Burnout at work: how to spot the symptoms and what to do
Changes in eating habits – eating more or less than usual – can also be a sign of burnout: in the study of Italian health workers, 56% reported changes in their eating habits. People may eat less because they’re too busy or distracted, or they may crave “those comfort foods we all like to go to when we need something to feel better,” Dr. Bennett said. Research also suggests that stress hormones can affect appetite, making people less hungry than usual when under a lot of stress, and hungrier than usual when that stress subsides.
Headaches and stomach aches can also be brought on by burnout, Dr. Gold said. A study in Sweden of people with burnout disorder – a medical condition similar to burnout – found that 67% said they had nausea, gas or indigestion, and 65% had headache. It’s also important to note that burnout can develop alongside depression or anxiety, both of which can cause physical symptoms. Depression can cause muscle pain, upset stomach, sleep problems and changes in appetite. Anxiety is linked to headaches, nausea and shortness of breath.
What to do
If you’re experiencing physical symptoms that could indicate burnout, consider seeing your primary care physician or mental health professional to determine if they’re stress-motivated or rooted in other physical conditions, the report said. Dr Dyrbye. Don’t just ignore the symptoms and assume they don’t matter.
“It’s really easy to get rid of your own symptoms, especially in our culture, where we’re taught to work hard,” Dr. Gold said.
If it’s burnout, the best solution is to get to the root of the problem. Burnout is generally recognized when motivated by work, but chronic stress can have a variety of causes – financial issues, relationship issues, and care burdens, among others. Think about the “pebbles in your shoe all the time that you have to deal with,” Dr. Maslach said, and think of ways to get some of them out, at least once in a while. Perhaps you can ask your partner to help you more with your toddler’s bedtime routine, or get takeout when you’re especially busy so you don’t have to plan dinner as well.
Despite popular cultural coverage of the problem, burnout cannot be “fixed” with better self-care, Dr Maslach said – in fact, this involvement only makes the problem worse, as it shifts blame responsibility on those who suffer from burnout and implies that they should do more to feel better, which is not the case, she says. However, certain lifestyle choices can make burnout less likely. Social support, for example, can help, Dr. Gold said. This can include talking to a therapist or meeting friends (even via Zoom). It may also be helpful to take advantage of mental health or exercise benefits offered by your employer. Getting more sleep can also help — so if you have insomnia, talk to a doctor about possible treatments, Dr. Bennett suggested.
When burnout stems from work-related issues, it can help to ask for better working conditions. Dr. Maslach suggested brainstorming with coworkers and pitching ideas to your employer that might help — like providing quiet areas for breaks and personal phone calls, create “no meeting” days so that employees have more time to focus, or making sure there’s always coffee in the break room. Even small changes like these can reduce the risk of burnout if they solve a problem people face at work every day. “It’s the chronic stressors at work that drive people really crazy after a while – they don’t have the right equipment, they don’t have the things they need, they don’t have enough people to get the job done,” Dr. Maslach said. noted.