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World Health Organization bringing new attention to work-related stress

The agency recently announced that it is updating its definition of burnout in the new version of its handbook of diseases.

WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. — If constant job stress has you feeling  completely exhausted , helpless,  and over whelmed  you may be on the road to burnout.

The World Health Organization now defines it a "syndrome" and specifically ties burnout to "chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed." The WHO makes it clear that burnout is not a medical condition . this new classification will go into effect January 2022 .

Burnout was first described about 40 years ago as a psychological term by a German psychologist Herbert Freudenberger .  He used it to describe cases of physical or mental collapse in "helping" professions such as nurses and doctors .

According to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), almost 50 %  of US workers  report their job is "very or extremely stressful."

And one-fourth of US employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives. 

Much of that stress or emotional strain is attributed to demanding circumstances. However, stressed people can still imagine that if they can just get everything under control, they'll feel better.

Burnout, on the other hand, is about lack of control. Being burned out means feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don't see any hope of positive change in their situations.

According to the WHO, the symptoms of burnout are  feeling depleted of energy or exhausted; feeling mentally distanced from or cynical about one's job; and problems getting one's job done successfully. The WHO notes that burnout is to be used specifically "in the occupational context" and that it "should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life."

Workplace burnout is a multi-layered problem  that can result from various factors, including: lack of control, unclear job expectations, dysfunctional workplace dynamics, extremes of activity, lack of social support and  work-life imbalance. If your work takes up so much of your time and effort that you don't have the energy to spend time with your family and friends, you might burn out quickly.

Stress is a highly personalized phenomenon and can vary widely even in identical situations for different reasons. Ignored or unaddressed job burnout can have significant consequences, including: fatigue, insomnia, sadness, anger or irritability , alcohol or substance misuse, heart disease, high blood pressure , type 2 diabetes and increase vulnerability to illnesses.

In the end, burnout is tied to our relationship with our work and with our workplace but it can also be prevented. To get started evaluate your options and discuss specific concerns and solutions with your supervisor. Find support whether you reach out to co-workers, an employee assistance program , friends or loved ones, collaboration might help you cope. Try a relaxing activity such as yoga, meditation or tai chi. Get some exercise, it can help you to better deal with stress. It can also take your mind off work. Get some sleep. It restores well-being and helps protect your health. Schedule time to turn your devices off. Avoid your phone and computer before bed and put them in a separate room while you sleep.

Find a system that works for you, but bottom-line do your best to keep an open mind. Your job is not worth your health.