Health & Wellness

Battling Burnout

Work burnout, a syndrome resulting from unmanaged workplace stress, is widespread. According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, 79% of polled American workers had experienced work-related stress in the month before the survey. In addition, nearly 60% of employees reported negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of interest, motivation, energy, or effort at work.

Burnout comes with a host of triggers and symptoms. We talked to Deepak Prabhakar, MD, MPH, chief of medical staff and medical director of outpatient services at Sheppard Pratt, about strategies to manage these feelings of extreme exhaustion and stress.

Causes of burnout

“Various factors can contribute to feelings of burnout, and broadly, we can group them into two categories: environmental and individual,” Dr. Prabhakar says.

Environmental factors can include: 

  • physically strenuous work requirements
  • unrelenting bureaucratic tasks
  • lack of autonomy
  • disorganization
  • long unpredictable hours and more

Individual factors can include: 

  • personal or family illness 
  • experiencing a death in the family
  • financial hardships
  • sleep deprivation
  • drug or alcohol use
  • poor nutrition and more

Warning signs

Do you struggle to find the motivation to return to work after the weekend? Or do you find yourself becoming less interested in the day-to-day activities at your job? If so, you may be experiencing burnout.

Dr. Prabhakar says increased absences from work, feeling exhausted, increased cynical feelings about work, and having trouble sleeping or relaxing after hours due to constantly thinking about your job can also be signs of burnout.

How to manage 

“Burnout is a mix of exhaustion, personal disengagement from work, and feeling stuck,” Dr. Prabhakar says. To manage, find activities to counter these feelings. He recommends living a healthy lifestyle, having friends at work, and finding tasks or assignments you particularly enjoy doing. 

“If possible, talk with a trusted supervisor or work support group and discuss the issues impacting your day-to-day work; this can do wonders for countering burnout without quitting your job,” Dr. Prabhakar says. “Organizations have a responsibility to create environments where their workers feel like they are thriving. What’s important is bringing awareness to it and then having solution-focused discussions, both at the individual and organizational levels.”

Burnout is a reality, but with these tips, you can manage it. And if you need a little extra help, Sheppard Pratt offers a comprehensive continuum of mental healthcare.

Featured Expert

  • Deepak Prabhakar, MD, MPH

    Chief of Medical Staff; Medical Director, Outpatient Services
    Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Traumatic Brain Injury, Concussion, Public Health, Sports Psychiatry, Suicide Prevention