Struggling with burnout? You’re not alone.
by Laura Harrington on Mar 24, 2023
In today's fast-paced and ever-changing work culture, burnout has become an increasingly prevalent issue. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress. It can occur in any profession, and it can have serious consequences for individuals and their workplaces. Over half of NZ workers are struggling with burnout at work, so what impact does burnout have on the brain? And what can we do to help cope?
Burnout can have a significant impact on the brain, both in terms of structure and function. Here are some ways that burnout can affect the brain:
- Decreased grey matter: Studies have shown that individuals with burnout have less grey matter in certain areas of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making, planning, and other executive functions.
- Impaired attention and memory: Burnout can affect the ability to focus and remember information, which can have a negative impact on job performance.
- Heightened stress response: Burnout can lead to chronic stress, which can cause changes in the brain's stress response system. This can result in heightened levels of cortisol, a hormone that can cause a range of negative health effects.
- Decreased motivation and pleasure: Burnout can cause a decrease in the activity of the reward system in the brain, leading to a decrease in motivation and pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable.
- Impaired decision-making: Burnout can lead to impaired decision-making, as individuals with burnout may have difficulty weighing the costs and benefits of different options.
- Reduced empathy: Burnout can cause a decrease in empathy, as individuals with burnout may have difficulty understanding and responding to the emotions of others.
It's important to recognise the potential impact of burnout on the brain, and to take steps to address burnout in order to minimise its negative effects. Here's our top tips to cope with burnout:
- Prioritise self-care: One of the most important things you can do to prevent and cope with burnout is to prioritise self-care. This means taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental health. Make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as exercise, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones.
- Set boundaries: Setting boundaries is crucial in preventing burnout. Learn to say no to tasks that are beyond your capacity or outside your scope of responsibility. Communicate your workload and limits with your manager or colleagues to avoid being overwhelmed.
- Take breaks: Taking regular breaks throughout the day can help prevent burnout. Set a timer to remind yourself to step away from your work and take a few deep breaths or go for a short walk. Taking a lunch break away from your desk can also help you recharge.
- Connect with colleagues: The feeling of isolation and disconnect from colleagues can contribute to burnout. Make an effort to connect with your colleagues, whether it's through virtual coffee breaks or in-person meetings. Having a support system at work can help reduce stress and prevent burnout.
- Seek help: If you are experiencing symptoms of burnout, it's essential to seek help. Talk to your manager or HR representative about your workload and stressors. Consider speaking with a therapist or counsellor to help you manage stress and develop coping strategies.
In conclusion, burnout is becoming more prevalent in today's fast-paced work culture. However, by prioritising self-care, setting boundaries, taking breaks, connecting with colleagues, and seeking help, you can prevent and cope with burnout. Remember, taking care of yourself is essential to maintaining your health, happiness, and productivity at work.