Is Job Stress Hurting Your Health?
by Erica House
Signs that you're burned out and may be in need of a career change
My first job, after receiving my Master's degree in Psychology, was an academic advisor at a community college. The position had never been on my dream list of occupations, but my job search corresponded with the beginning of the recession and so I figured I'd take what I could get. At first, I loved it! From a very young age I loved school, and working at a college gave me the chance to be around students who were eager to get their lives started.
Things went well for about two years.
Then, budget cuts forced the school to combine departments and lay off employees. My workload and stress increased substantially. I started applying for other positions, and after more than 50 applications and just two interviews, I began seeing some pretty devastating consequences of chronic stress.
What I didn't realize at the time was that I was suffering from job burnout. It's a term not used lightly and its symptoms are much worse than just the general 'I hate my boss' feelings everyone is bound to have at some point.
For me, the turning point came when I started researching job burnout and kept reading the same warning sign over and over; if you are sitting at home on Sunday afternoon and start to get physically tense at the thought of going into the office the next day, you may be suffering from burnout symptoms. Things I used to enjoy about my job no longer gave me satisfaction. I had knots in my stomach the second I sat down at my desk and I felt utterly trapped. Unsurprisingly, this kind of job distress can have severe consequences for one's health.
Recent research from Tel Aviv University found that job burnout is linked with obesity, insomnia and anxiety. Even more startling, it found participants who scored in the top 20 percent on burnout levels had a 79 percent increased risk of coronary heart disease. This means job burnout is a stronger predictor of heart disease than smoking, blood lipid levels and lack of physical activity!
So, what can you do about burnout? It helps if you can talk to your boss and see if there are any ways your working environment can be improved. Perhaps management is unaware of how much stress you are under and any workload increases that have occurred.
Unfortunately, most cases of burnout I've seen aren't easily rectified, and the only permanent solution is to do what I did -- quit. While the stress of not knowing how things were going to work out in my life was overwhelming at times, it still paled in comparison to the physical and emotional symptoms I suffered due to my job burnout.
My only regret was that it took me a year to quit, and thinking that it was 'normal' to be that dissatisfied in a job. It's not. If you think you are suffering from burnout, you owe it to yourself to be proactive and start looking for a job that invigorates, not drains, your life!
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Is Job Stress Hurting Your Health?