This is why you’re so stressed out at work

Did you know that burnout and work stress inform one another’s toxicity much like a snake eating its own tail?

How do we best check-in with ourselves to ensure our stress levels aren’t reaching out of control levels that become increasingly difficult to reign in? The first signs of burnout to look out for according to Professor Christian Dormann who conducted a study on the relationship between stress and burnout at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz is “the feeling of total exhaustion—to the extent that it cannot be remedied by normal recovery phases of an evening, a weekend, or even a vacation.”

When Monday approaches and you still feel depleted and unable to carry out normal work tasks you may need to take a step back and figure out better outlets to manage your stress. Better yet, it may be time to speak with management about taking a mental health day to recharge.

Mindfulness and streamlined communication in the workplace is key

Open communication between employees and their superiors can greatly reduce the effects of burnout since team members will feel more comfortable sharing feedback in regards to what is stressing themselves and fellow colleagues out on the job. Management can decide to handle this constructive criticism with levity and grace as this is an extremely stressful year for everyone. A healthy workplace culture goes a long way in keeping your employees happy, healthy, and working hard for you when you need it most.

It has been an interesting test of human being’s adaptability to leap over the insurmountable hurdles thrown our way once offices moved fully remote into our own homes back in March. Two thousand work from home respondents in a recent survey funded by The Office Group were asked for their honest opinions and feelings towards work and why they feel burnt out nowadays. Here’s what the average worker, who feels career burnout at the early age of 32, candidly had to say about their stressful work from home experience.

“Approximately 59 percent of the respondents blamed it on working long hours, noting the increase started when they transitioned to remote employment due to coronavirus lockdowns – some have worked an extra 59 hours in five months. Other responses include not taking enough days off, the pressure to complete more tasks and just under half of the participants dealing with burnout have quit their job because of the exhaustion.”

How does unregulated stress inform our work performance?

Stress has the tendency to bleed into every aspect of your work performance. Essentially stress turns every problem in need of a solution into an unsolvable Rubik’s cube of anxiety or what I like to call the “molehill into a mountain experience.”

The stress hormone cortisol clouds the hippocampus which is the center of your brain responsible for learning and long-term memory. Excess amounts of cortisol can also damage the amygdala and the frontal lobe responsible for planning, organizing, initiating, self-monitoring, and controlling one’s responses in order to achieve a goal. These are all vital functions that aid you in finishing projects for work without them you’ll be constantly struggling to organize your time and meet deadlines.

Out of 26,319 participants cross-examined over 48 different studies the team at the University Mainz found most of them admitted stress ultimately affected their work in a negative way.

The team also reports the following data from the case study as a means to back up this claim furthermore here.

“The studies were conducted from 1986 to 2019 in a number of countries with an average age at about 42 years old and 44 percent of the respondents were men. The team found that respondents noted common symptoms of burnout that led to feeling stressed and ultimately hindered performance.”

Dr. Christina Guthier one of the co-authors of the study adds, “When exhausted, the ability to cope with stress usually decreases. As a result, even smaller tasks can be perceived as significantly more strenuous. We expected an effect of burnout on work stress; the strength of the effect was very surprising.”

There is that “molehill into a mountain” phenomenon I touched upon earlier. If you’re finding anxiety and stress leaving you debilitated and completely unable to focus try breathing deeply for 5 minutes or putting on a meditation application to clear your mind. Healthy diet and exercise habits can help mitigate the toxic toll stress takes on our mind and body.

The takeaway

Do not forget to check in with your mental health on a daily basis this year. Unchecked stress responses can inform work burnout and in turn intensify the other negative fallouts associated with stress such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and cognitive decline. Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed make sure to incorporate some self-care activities to ground yourself so you’re not an unbearable person to work with. A friendly reminder to always communicate your feelings with your boss openly as they might be able to help you streamline operations in a less stress-inducing manner in the future to save you from future worries.