We often hear about this word on the TV show, radio, or in a conversation. BURNOUT.
However, what is burnout? It is a psychological and physical form of exhaustion. The person constantly feels overwhelmed in life domains, work and is emotionally and physically stressed. The causes can be different at work:
- Having too many assignments and responsibilities.
- The feeling of receiving unfair treatment.
- Lacking social support in the work setting.
The symptoms can be psychological (anxiety, depression, hopelessness, cynicism, and resentment of others), physical (chronic fatigue, insomnia, lack of appetite or hyper appetite), or behavioral (lack of productivity).
Thinking about this topic, I wondered if a difference between males and females exists in terms of symptoms.
I found an article from a research group from the Netherlands (Houkes et al., 2011). The authors considered the differences between females and males using the Maslach Burnout Inventory subscales (physical exhaustion; cynicism; inefficacy at work) in three different time waves (2002, 2004, 2006). They found that males experienced cynicism at first and the physical exhaustion. Interestingly, males don’t generally feel they are inefficient at work, and they think physical exhaustion cannot affect their job performance. Based on these results, burnout seems to be sneaky in males because they can have difficulties recognizing and admitting that they have a problem at work.
What can a male worker do whenever he feels physical exhaustion and is close to burnout? We always have to remember that the best thing we can do is change our behavior:
1) Are we working too much? Are there some assignments/responsibilities we have that we don’t want anymore because they are too distressing? Well, we MUST work less and stop doing the things that are too distressing. As the authors of the previous article underlined, an excellent way to recalibrate our homeostasis at work is to talk with our employer, explain the situation, and find a solution. Talking with the boss seems sometimes tricky, but… Better safe than sorry!
2) Physical activity is crucial. Burnout makes people tired; being tired makes people depressed. Therefore, we must often exercise, if it is possible daily, to increase our endorphins. Remember, more exercise = more endorphins = less sadness and tiredness.
3) Sleeping and eating well. If there is a problem (at work or not), we could have difficulties falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night. Too many thoughts can make us stressed. A good habit could be following a sleeping hygiene protocol, such as avoiding electronics one hour before sleeping and using the bedroom just for sleeping and intimacy. We always have to eat and balance what we eat: not too much/not too small. Latins said: In medio stat virtus.
4) Mindfulness can be good training for our mental health. We must “educate” our mind to be in the present, and we have to be able to recognize our “negative” thoughts and step back from them. Remember: we are not our thoughts.
Burnout is a beast and can attack everybody, males too. It is difficult and painful, but we can always change our behavior to improve our lives.
Houkes, I., Winants, Y., Twellaar, M., & Verdonk, P. (2011). Development of burnout over time and the causal order of the three dimensions of burnout among male and female GPs. A three-wave panel study. BMC Public health, 11(1), 1-13.