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Burnout culture: how to stop overworking

Updated: Aug 24, 2022


Feel your to-do list is never-ending? Constantly stressed and tired? Is working a 60+ hour week expected by your boss? All these are all products of the burnout culture which is the result of normalising burnout. This normalisation of excessively working and being stressed has obvious consequences, such as having to take time off work as a result or developing more serious mental health issues. This post covers what it is and how to avoid ending up burnt out. 

What is burnout culture? 

Burnout is the term used to describe exhaustion which is caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It will often occur when you’re feeling overwhelmed or unable to meet demands for a sustained period of time. Burnout mainly occurs in relation to your occupation but isn’t limited to mental health, you can physically burn yourself out too. 

Burnout culture refers to burnout becoming increasingly normalised through causes such as; being extremely busy, being stressed, working long hours, placing your own worth on productivity. The modern world is fast-paced, and it’s only getting faster as being busy becomes more accepted. This puts an increasing amount of pressure on us to keep up with the world around us, which can result in burnout. 

In 2019 The World Health Organisation upgraded burnout from a symptom to an official syndrome. They also directly related it to occupation, naming the three main symptoms: low energy, negativity related to one's job and the reduction of efficiency at work. The upgrade of burnout shows it’s prevalence in modern society. 

Burnout is more likely to occur in work environments where you are being given an unreasonable amount of work, there is workplace violence or bullying or unrealistic deadlines are being set. If you are feeling any of these things it's important to take it up with your boss, this will not only save time in the long run but save your mental health too.  

Why is it so bad? 

Exposing yourself to lots of stress over prolonged periods of time won’t make you feel flash and is linked to developing anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. There is more to life than work, despite what society may tell us. There are definitely other ways to measure success than your career. Ironically, becoming burnt out is bad for our productivity too. A 2019 study in the UK showed 12.8million working days were lost due to burnout, stress or anxiety. If you’re experiencing burnout you’ll likely lose enthusiasm towards work and need some time to recover. 

How can we reduce our chances of burnout? 

1) Change your mentality 

If you’re trapped with thoughts such as determining your worth on how hard you’re working or feeling as though you have to pull abnormally long hours to reach the top it might be time to try adjust your thinking. Since becoming burnt out is so normalised you may not even realise you are suffering. Check-in with yourself and evaluate whether you need to add some balance back into your life. If your priority is your career, then take steps to ensure you don’t reach a state of burnout. 

2) Find balance 

Find time to do the things you love. It’s important to make sure we have things we enjoy outside the office which will reduce our chances of overdoing it at work. If you’re not overly passionate about anything outside work, it’s a great time to find a new hobby which completely takes your mind off the busyness of life. 

3) Live healthily 

As we all know, eating well and exercising leads to reduced stress and will help us find balance in our lives. It can be hard to find time to exercise but even getting off the bus a few stops early and walking will be beneficial for your physical and mental health. 

4) Take a mental health day

If you’re feeling increasingly anxious about work, worn out or feel you need a day off there's no shame in taking a day off work every once and awhile. Catching it early and giving yourself a break will minimise loss of productivity or time you need to take off in the future. 

Read here about the benefit of taking regular breaks.

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