What does it mean to be burnt out? UK could become a 'burnt-out' nation according to mental health charity

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

The UK is at risk of becoming a “burnt-out” nation as a mental health charity says there is a “worrying number of people taking time off work due to poor mental health caused by stress”.

The Mental Health UK called on the government to intervene, after a YouGov survey revealed more than a third of adults faced extreme pressure from their workplace in the past year. 

The poll results revealed out of 2,060 adults, 35 per cent had experienced high levels of pressure at work, with 20 per cent needing time off due to the stress they faced.

Mental Health UK’s chief executive, Brian Dow, warned the UK is “rapidly becoming a burnt-out nation,” with a “worrying number of people” taking time off work after facing extreme stress.

He added: “High levels of work absence due to poor mental health are a major challenge, but its causes are complex.

“Public attitudes and understanding towards mental health and work have changed, particularly as the workplace transformed overnight in response to the pandemic.

“Meanwhile, we live in unprecedented times, and life outside work has become increasingly difficult due to the cost-of-living crisis and pressures on public services, while global challenges such as climate change and artificial intelligence fuel stress, anxiety and feelings of hopelessness.”

Almost 49 per cent of workers said their employer did not have a plan in place to spot the signs of chronic stress. 

So what is burnout and how do you spot the signs?

What is burnout?

According to the World Health Organisation, burnout is recognised as an “occupational phenomenon”.

Burnout is a state of “physical and emotional exhaustion” caused by long-term extreme stress, often from work.

It’s not a recognised medical condition but is classified as a syndrome.

A survey in 2022 conducted by Westfield Health revealed almost 46 per cent of UK workers are close to a burnout. Figures from the Center for Innovative Public Health Research show almost 79 per cent of adults feel stress once a month, usually from work. The phenomenon is on the rise, with research conducted in February 2023 showing 42 per cent have reported burnout, the highest since May 2021.

What triggers a burnout and what are the health implications?

Research shows the top six factors that contribute to a burnout include, excessive workload, perceived lack of control, reward, breakdown of community, mismatch of values and unfairness.

Overtime burnouts can cause health consequences, according to a paper published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Studies have shown that burnouts can cause concentration and memory issues, reduce coping capacity, cause anxiety, depression and insomnia. It can also lead to increased alcohol and tobacco consumption.

What are the signs of burnout?

Mental Health UK says the most common signs of a burnout include:

  • Feeling tired or drained most of the time

  • Feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated

  • Feeling detached/alone in the world

  • Having a cynical/negative outlook

  • Self-doubt

  • Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done

  • Feeling overwhelmed

What to do if you are experiencing burnout? 

Recognising the signs of a burnout is the most important step. Pinpoint exactly what is causing the burnout, then make a plan for recovery.

The most common steps to recover from a burnout include, taking a break, practicing self-care, setting boundaries, and seeking support.

Exercising and practicing mindfulness are also other steps you can take to blow off some steam.