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The Burnout Epidemic—Are We Prepared?

July 22, 2019 by Etta Hornsteiner in Care Management, For Individuals, For Professionals, Health and Wellness

business men displaying burnout epidemic

First, it was the obesity epidemic. Then, it was the loneliness epidemic. And now, could it be we are facing a burnout epidemic?

According to a recent Gallup poll, two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job.

“Burnout” has become the culture of many workplaces.  Known as chronic workplace stress, employees affected by burnout are more likely to take a sick day and/or visit the emergency room. Though burnout is not a medical condition, the World Health Organization officially categorized it as an occupation phenomenon in the latest 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11):

The ICD-11 defines burnout as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

Burnout is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.

These characteristics are associated with the occurrence of depression, which eventually can lead to physical, mental and psychological symptoms.

Symptoms of Burnout

Burnout symptoms appear in three stages:

Stage One

woman burnout with hand on her forehead

Poor concentration and memory.

Insomnia.

Fatigue.

Poor productivity and more mistakes.

Guilt.

Denial.

Loss of libido.

Depression.

Anxiety.

This stage may be followed by:

Stage Two

Becoming uncooperative and resistant to change.

Resentment, cynicism.

Frustration, boredom.

Feeling isolated.

Paranoia.

Irritability.

Aggressiveness, short-tempered.

This stage may progress yet further to:

man suffering from burnout epidemic-undecided

Stage Three

Poor timekeeping.

Indecision.

Avoidance behavior.

Apathy.

Amnesia.

Appearing withdrawn.

Alcoholism, drug dependence or other inappropriate behavior.

Research also shows that those suffering from burnout might experience “physical symptoms such as non-cardiac chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, bowel upset, dizziness or headaches.”

In addition, they may also experience emotional eating, leading to overweight and obesity.

Burnout has been shown to be a “risk factor for myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease. It has also been related to reduced fibrinolytic capacity, decreased capacity to cope with stress and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis hypoactivity.”

The ICD-11 also states that the term burnout cannot be applied to any other area of life besides the workplace. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines workplace as any place where work is done.

So, in a world where technology has changed and reshaped our lives, the workplace can be in our homes and/or can even impact our home life.

Thus, many see life as being stressful.

Causes of Stress

The top seven causes of stress listed by the American Institute of Stress are:

  1. Job pressure
  2. Money
  3. Health
  4. Relationships
  5. Poor Nutrition
  6. Media Overload
  7. Sleep Deprivation

One can see how job pressure, money and health alone can create a torpedo effect. For example, take the sandwich generation—families with young children caring also for older parents — also known as Generation X. Or think about an adult child caring for her parents. This becomes a job too for the adult child or children, transforming the environment into a place of work or “labor of love.”  With many older adults suffering from chronic illnesses, this condition puts a tremendous burden on their loved ones. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that six in ten Americans live with at least one chronic disease, like heart disease, cancer, stroke, or diabetes. As a result, many caregivers find themselves burnt out.

Reasons for Caregiver Burnout Epidemic

Here are some reasons for caregiver burnout according to the Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education.

Busy caring for others: Caregivers often are so busy caring for others that they tend to neglect their own emotional, physical and spiritual health. The demands on a caregiver’s body, mind and emotions can easily seem overwhelming, leading to fatigue, hopelessness and ultimately burnout.

Role confusion: Many people are confused when thrust into the role of caregiver. It can be difficult for a person to separate the role as caregiver from the role as spouse, lover, child, friend or another close relationship.

Unrealistic expectations: Many caregivers expect their involvement to have a positive effect on the health and happiness of the patient. This may be unrealistic for patients suffering from a progressive disease, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.

Lack of control: Many caregivers become frustrated by a lack of money, resources and skills to effectively plan, manage and organize their loved one’s care.

Unreasonable demands: Some caregivers place unreasonable burdens upon themselves, in part because they see providing care as their exclusive responsibility. Some family members such as siblings, adult children or the patient himself/herself may place unreasonable demands on the caregiver. They also may disregard their own responsibilities and place burdens on the person identified as primary caregiver.

Other factors: Many caregivers cannot recognize when they are suffering burnout and eventually get to the point where they cannot function effectively. They may even become sick themselves.

With the changes and demands we are facing as a society, we need to seriously consider how we care for ourselves and our loved ones. Are we prepared? How well do we practice self-care? For the care of others will depend on how well we care for ourselves.

Many believe they can simply hire a friend or a neighbor, only to discover that caregiving though simple, is not easy. Training in human relations is needed in order to carefully care for another human being.

We need experts who are trained and skilled in care. These individuals practice self-compassion, being nonjudgmental, self-awareness and self-care. For in order to show compassion, awareness and care, one first has to experience them.

These are the care managers at Intervention Associates. They are trained in compassion, mindfulness, human relations, and care. Avoid the burnout. Don’t become a statistic in the burnout epidemic. Protect your health and give your loved one professional care. Consider a professional care manager who is skilled to take on the challenges we are facing.

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