12 Signs of Burnout | Natural Health Blog

Date: 02/14/2017    Written by: Hiyaguha Cohen

Are You Courting Burnout?

12 Signs of Burnout | Natural Health Blog

In 1980, a film called Nine to Five hit the big screen.1 As their theatrical trailer said, “Twentieth-Century Fox presents a tribute to anyone who has ever been overworked, underpaid, and pushed to the edge by an ungrateful boss.” The name of the film refers to the fact that back then, most employees started work at nine in the morning and ended at five p.m. sharp, with an hour off for lunch. If you do the math, that adds up to 35 hours of work a week--less coffee breaks and water cooler time--and yet, as the trailer suggests, plenty of employees resented the “grueling” schedule. In fact, back then, most assumed the future would bring far fewer hours at the office and more play-time, as automation would make everybody’s job simpler.

But that’s not what happened, is it? Instead, work hours increased for most of us over the years, little by little; and now we are working harder than ever, putting in more hours, having far less time to come up for air. In fact, the average work week in the US now is 47 hours—12 hours more than back in 1980!2 A whopping 40 percent of workers put in more than 50 hours per week, with 20 percent—one in five—doing more than 60 hours (one in four among salaried folks).  Only a measly eight percent work fewer than 40 hours a week.

All that time at the office takes a toll not only on physical health, but on mental health as well, says a new Australian study of 8000 workers. The researchers found that after 39 hours of work, mental health starts to decline.3 Mental health was measured by administering instruments to measure anxiety and depression. What makes working excess hours particularly difficult is that a huge percentage of working adults are also primary caregivers, in charge of either children or elderly parents. In Australia, that percentage is about two-fifths of the workforce.  In the US, 60% of families with young children have two working parents, and about 70% of mothers work.4 

As the study authors note, “Long work hours erode a person’s mental and physical health, because [working too many hours] leaves less time to eat well and look after themselves properly.” By the way, quitting altogether is no solution. The researchers also found compromised mental health in those who worked too little, and in fact, at 39 hours, the average worker had peak mental health.5

For women, though, the scale was skewed, with women showing signs of distress even when working fewer than 39 hours.  That’s probably because women still do a majority of the domestic work and caregiving at home, making long work hours doubly stressful.  The study authors suggest that women shouldn’t work more than 34 hours a week for optimal mental health. So, maybe the movie Nine to Five wasn’t that far off after all, since the leads were all women.  By the way, it’s interesting thatthe researchers didn’t suggest instead that men should pitch in a little more with chores to equalize the burden. 

In any event, in many places around the world, the government imposes limitations on the number of hours employees can work.  In France, for instance, the 35-hour work week is law.6 Meanwhile, the EU’s Working Time Directive sets the bar at a 48-hour cap, maximum, including overtime, with a guaranteed four weeks off for vacation.7 But in the US, as already stated, the typical workday is now 9 to 6, and overtime is a given.

The negative physical effects of working too many hours have been well documented in the past, as we have discussed in previous blogs.  But how can you know if all that time you are putting in actually is undermining your physical and/or mental health—if you are, in fact, burning out?

Here are 12 signs that you could be on the fast track to trouble:

  1. Checking your watch every 15 minutes.
  2. Dreading Monday and celebrating Friday.
  3. Feeling exhausted at the end the workday—or even before.
  4. Finding yourself snapping at coworkers.
  5. Impatience with clients, customers, colleagues.
  6. Having other people asking too often if you are OK.
  7. Muscular tension problems, back problems, neck problems.
  8. Increasing digestive issues.
  9. Increasing cynicism.
  10. Insomnia.
  11. Fantasizing about giving notice.
  12. Starting to lose hope.

If you recognize yourself in the above list, it is time to take action before your mental health declines or you find yourself seriously sick.  What can you do given that the norm is to work more hours than we are equipped to handle?

For one thing, you can schedule a vacation. You can make sure you’re taking those 15-minute breaks the law prescribes. Take lunch away from the office, and use the entire time allocated. Exercise before or during work. Eat well, even if the stress is getting to you. Talk to your boss honestly to see if you can ease some of the burden. And if all else fails, look for another job—or move to Europe.

  • 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOYDV3IIWFQ
  • 2. Saad, Lydia. “The 40 Hour Work Week Is Actually Longer—By Seven Hours.” 29 August 2014. Gallup.  3 February 2017. http://www.gallup.com/poll/175286/hour-workweek-actually-longer-seven-hours.aspx.
  • 3. McCauley, Dana. “Working more than 39 hours a week damages physical and mental health, study finds.” 3 February 2017.  News.com.au.  3 February 2017. http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/at-work/working-more-than-39-hours-a-week-damages-physical-and-mental-health-study-finds/news-story/bdf0b3a4e4bb7243b6a7ea5fdda0ec7a
  • 4. “Employment Characteristics of Families --2015.” 22 April 2016. News Release. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  3 February 2017. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/famee.pdf
  • 5. Dennin, James.  “This is the maximum number of hours you should work each week to be healthy, according to science.” 2 February 2017. MicCheck Daily.  3 February 2017. https://mic.com/articles/167417/maximum-number-of-hours-you-should-work-each-week-to-be-healthy-according-to-esearch?bt_ee=AWimk7r2uA3dTLq9/oJ+TZzp9kmUHBozWiSa77Nhy5u+MsG+r0FndY+5cUr3KNSb&bt_ts=1486091460190#.41RIPx4Mg
  • 6. McLaughlin, Erin and Dewan, Angela.  “Why are the French on strike… again?” 2 June 2016. CNN.  4 February 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/02/europe/france-strikes-labor-reform-bill/
  • 7. http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=706&langId=en&intPageId=205
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Comments

  •  
    Submitted by Angie on
    February 23, 2017 - 10:20am
    Coventry ,

    I'm exhausted mentally and physically! It's 4.20pm and I'm still in bed! I don't really no wat to do now. I've spent thousands on trying to help myself. Gave up work 12 yrs ago. Left it a bit long and should have left 20 yrs ago.basically I'm worse though. I can't really go to doctors. I don't trust them. They give me drugs to try and finish me off a bit quicker. They get it all wrong every time . I e got m.e lymes, morgellons and systemic fungal problems. Now I've got fibromyagia and dimentia to. Not to mention thyroid and depression problems! That's only my option! My body tells me! The doctors tell me I'm fine it's. Bit delusional! Most people will agree. Except me and my body. See we no! Can't e plain why I no could be all the symtoms or my intuition or both. Got no money left now so can't help myself! I know g. M . Big problem for me! No don't laugh it's true. Shall I just count down the days and stop fighting this? I've lost a d I've got to accept it . Took me years to do that! See you probably think I'm a negative hyprocondric? You wud be so wrong! I was actually hAppy successful optimistic to a plot of being stupid, loved my job, still love my fantastic daughter, and loved life! Now I live sleeping! Find I don't no how the world works , sort of confussed. I still look amazingly young , healthy and I'd say attractive as other people think I do aswell ! I'm 60 in couple of months! So everything must be fine??? Buts it's not and it's bad! I don't no wat to do now ( not like me!). MAy e praying will work ? Why not? Miracles happen! I've got a theory by the way! When I was about 15 was given antibiotics for acne. Probably for about 18 months. Good bacteria wats that I'd never heard of it!! Anyway it didn't work. Not in the slightest! Wen I went on the contraceptive pill cleared acne in less than a week! Obviously hormonial! Not bacteria cos you didn't wash your face 100 x a day ! Bet doctors won't agree with me! Rant over now! Sorry about that!

  •  
    Submitted by George on
    March 14, 2017 - 11:39am
    Auckland ,

    Hi Coventry
    I was saddened to read your story as I know it well as I am very close behind you. The hard thing is like where can you go for help? Most people especially the doctor thnk you are crazy. I have read that scientists have almost found the virus that cause Chronic Fatigue so there may be some hope.
    The greatest hope that I have is knowing Jesus Christ as my Saviour and that I will in eternity receive a new body. Without this hope I could not live my life. Thank you for sharing your story it is an encouragement to me, as I know we are not alone. God answer your prayer Coventry and heal your body or give you a new one.
    George

  •  
    Submitted by janet meah on
    March 17, 2017 - 3:52pm
    Stevenage ,

    i would recommend you get hold of the 9 part documentary by Dr. Isabella Wentz called the Thyroid Secret; if you go online and find the website they have released daily freebies 24hours for each one, and may do it again. If you have no money they will help you, probably send it to you at a cut price or free as they do that. The information specifically about thyroid applies and broadly refers to all autoimmune conditions, and what can reverse these conditions and recover health, will improve any health restriction. It's fantastic and extremely satisfying knowing how many people are suffering, and so many recovering health.

    best wishes,

  •  
    Submitted by Tom on
    March 18, 2017 - 4:57am
    Paris ,

    "By the way, it’s interesting thatthe researchers didn’t suggest instead that men should pitch in a little more with chores to equalize the burden."
    Probably because it was a study about working hours, not division of labour in the home. Were such concerns part of the remit of the study? Were any kind of remedial actions, even?

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