World Health Organization Labels Work-Related Burnout a Serious Health ‘Syndrome’

Some of us are still working fulltime. Others have slowed down to part-time. Even those of us who are retired may exhaust considerable time working in and around the home. Or perhaps we serve as caregivers for a family member.

Regardless, many of us are still busy doing something. And undoubtedly, a number of us experience burnout.

We don’t really need anyone to tell us our burnout is legitimate. But someone recently has done just that.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that work-related stress is a “syndrome.” They are describing burnout as an “occupational phenomenon.”

The description ties burnout to “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

‘Energy Depletion or Exhaustion’

Now, WHO is not declaring burnout to be an official disease. Or even a medical condition.

But the group is saying that burnout is a serious health condition. Both physical and mental.

And that it is characterized by “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.”

As well as “increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job.” And “reduced professional efficacy.”

A Variety of Symptoms

What are some of the symptoms of burnout? There are a number of them.

They include headache, muscle tension, muscle pain, and chest pain. Others are fatigue, change in drive, upset stomach and sleep problems.

A survey conducted in the United Kingdom found that 30 percent of human resource directors believe that burnout is widespread in their groups.

A Harvard University study resulted in calling physician burnout in the U.S. a public health crisis.

Creating Burnout Awareness

Some health experts are taking the problem of burnout very seriously. Among them is Torsten Voigt, a German sociologist.

“People who feel burnout are finally fully recognized as having a severe problem,” he said. He added that WHO’s new definition could be a step toward making it easier for people to get help.

Elaine Cheung is a professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

She said, “There needs to be greater critical discussion on how we can more precisely measure and define this condition.” She added that highlighting specific aspects of burnout “might create better awareness.”

Some companies are now providing mental health training sessions and days off. As well as group meditations.

Ways to Deal With It

No doubt we’ve all suffered from burnout at one point or another. We’ve been overworked, exhausted and stressed out.

That’s regardless of whether we’re a white-collar or a blue-collar employee. Or someone who goes above and beyond in and around their home, or is a caregiver.

Fortunately, there are things we can do to alleviate some of that burnout and anxiety. Among them are getting regular exercise and practicing relaxation techniques.

Others are socializing with family and friends. And setting aside time for hobbies we enjoy. Including listening to music, reading books, gardening and many others.

Food for Stress Relief

Another good way to deal with work-related stress is eating the right kinds of food. Studies show that pathways in our guts may affect our mental health and anxiety symptoms.

This is perfectly logical. Our guts serve as a bodyguard for our immune systems and neurological systems. A healthy GI tract can be a big help in regulating our moods.

Not surprisingly, many of the foods that are good for fighting off anxiety and depression are the same ones that are good for us more generally.

Such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and unsweetened dairy products.

In no particular order, here are seven healthy foods that will help keep anxiety and stress in check:

  • Avocado. Loaded with Vitamin B6 and magnesium, this fruit is packed with nutrients. Add it to a variety of foods including salads, omelets and smoothies.
  • Plain Greek yogurt. Use it with your breakfasts, dips and snacks. Plain and unsweetened, it’s said to help with stress and mood problems. Add your own fruit if you choose.
  • Pumpkin seeds. A good source of potassium and magnesium, these seeds can be sprinkled on many meals, or consumed as is. While you’re at it, add walnuts and other nuts.
  • Seafood. Some people only eat seafood on the rare occasions that they dine out. But it helps to eat it regularly. Mood enhancement and a cognitive boost are two of the advantages, thanks to its omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Kiwi. It’s been called nature’s perfect food. I’m not sure about that, but the combination of Vitamins C and E plus folate in kiwi is believed to be an oxidative stress reliever.
  • Cherries. One of the many fruits that contain calm-inducing antioxidants, cherries are a delicious way to help reduce anxiety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Americans eat far too few fruits.
  • Whole grains. Barley, bran and oats are among the whole grains that contain prebiotics. Among other foods, including beans, they help the serotonin receptors in the GI tract function properly.

How Do You Handle It?

Have you ever experienced work-related burnout? If so, what did you do about it?

Have you found that any particular foods are good for relieving tension?

Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.

About Jeff Reagan, Editor, Jeff Reagan's Daily Health Newsletter for Conservatives

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