A state of vital exhaustion – this is how the International Classification of Diseases (ICD 10) defines burnout. It stems from chronic stress. The WHO has actually flagged burnout as a significant cause of concern, as it causes deep exhaustion and erodes our productivity. But, what exactly is the cause of burnout? Most of us cannot point to the exact experiences that lead to burnout. And they might have nothing to do with our workload.
Psychologist Ellen Hendrickson has answers to offer. She says that while a toxic work culture, a negative relationship with your manager, and lack of breaks cause burnout, there are other surprising factors that drain us without our awareness.

Let’s explore them:

A pessimistic mindset. An important contributor to burnout is a negative attitude. Research conducted by Journal of Personality and Individual Differences studied 1000 individuals to see how their interpretations of situations affected their interactions. For example, they were asked, “You are going to meet a good friend today. You haven’t seen them for years. You feel emotional, thinking about how much they might have changed.” They had to rate such scenarios as positive or negative.
Those who rated scenarios as negative, viewed it as ‘the glass is half empty’. They were critical, failed to pick up on opportunities for building connections, did not give or receive appreciation thinking it’s a waste of time. They were emotionally exhausted and unable to contribute – a hallmark of burnout.

Social media consumption. While we know that there is a bigger debate unfolding about the impact of social media on our lives, mindless use of it triggers burnout. Which means, those who scroll through Facebook or Instagram as a distraction, filler, or when bored, have higher chances of feeling disconnected from their coworkers, procrastinating, and avoiding problem solving. In turn, this leads to isolation, which is a tipping point to burnout.

Lack of coworker support. A study from Wayne State University looked at prison guards and found that, counterintuitively, the support of family and friends didn’t impact burnout at all. What did? Not feeling supported by colleagues. Coworkers can fully understand the demand or intricacies of a job role and workplace dynamics. Hence, they can offer the exact help someone needs, when going through a tough time at work. The lack of such support causes depersonalization – feelings of resentment, cynicism, and being critical. This depersonalization leads to burnout.

Now that we’ve uncovered some unacknowledged sources of burnout, how would you like to tackle them? Write in and tell us.

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