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Burnout: How to Spot It and Take Action
Finding a suitable balance between work and daily living is a challenge that many workers face in the United States.

Excelling at work, exceeding expectations, and climbing the corporate ladder are all part of the American dream. But many Americans struggle to successfully combine work, family commitments and personal life.

And that struggle can lead to an all-too-familiar feeling: burnout.

Why are we so burned out?

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which represents the vast majority of the world’s most advanced economies, says 11 percent of U.S. employees work 50 or more hours a week and the average American spends 40 percent of their day dedicated to their job. As a result, the U.S. ranks toward the bottom of the work-life balance spectrum among developed countries.

And there’s a cost to the burnout: Stressful jobs contribute to 120,000 deaths each year and cost U.S. businesses up to $190 billion in health care costs, according to a 2016 paper from researchers at the Harvard Business School and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Suddenly hitting a wall?

We asked a psychologist, Shainna Ali, owner of mental health facility, Integrated Counseling Solutions, in Orlando, Florida, how to spot work burnout and prevent it before we log hours far beyond the point of diminishing returns.

Burnout can result from a number of factors, including work-life imbalance, a dysfunctional work environment and unclear job expectations.

“Job burnout normally includes signs of mental health concerns that are based around work … [such as] depleted mood, lack of motivation, or anxiety,” Ali said. “People joke about the Sunday night blues. It’s as if around 4 p.m., they give a collective groan — that’s a real thing. People should ask themselves, do I feel better when I’m leaving work? Do I grow anxious when others discuss work in leisure settings?”

Ali also notes that burnout is often generally related to anxiety, and less commonly, to depression, but that it varies from person to person. One reason may be that U.S. adults are stressed in general and are not taking enough personal time away from work.

A 2018 Gallup poll of 150,000 people around the world found that Americans were the most stressed. Fifty-five percent of Americans said they had experienced stress during much of their day in 2018 — much higher than the global average, which sat around 35 percent. They also found that Americans take fewer vacation days than people in any other country in the world.

Ways to combat work burnout
Ali says breaking negative patterns that lead to job burnout can be tricky but paying attention to one’s needs is essential to promoting well-being in the workplace.

She suggests three ways to establish self-care in the workplace:
  • Foster wellness in the workplace by establishing healthy connections at work
  • Use break time effectively, by going for walks and participating in quick, enjoyable activities
  • Take a vacation
Avoiding burnout starts by putting some of these preventative measures in place and keeping yourself accountable. If you want even more accountability, you can recruit an anti-burnout partner. Getting support and setting clear action steps will help you implement these simple practices with greater ease.

Adapted from an article on by Shamard Charles, M.D.

This material is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only.  Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, no representation is made as to its accuracy.  This material is not intended to be construed as legal, tax or investment advice.  You are encouraged to consult your legal, tax or investment professional for specific advice. 

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