Stress and burnout are terms that are used interchangeably, especially when discussing work. Here are some key differences between the two emotional states.
It’s an understatement to say that 2020 has been a stressful year. The pandemic, the current political climate and economical and societal uncertainties have all influenced our stress levels, which have understandably affected our work performance and the way in which we carry on with our days. It’s not uncommon for many of us to feel like we aren’t doing our best, especially when discussing work in today’s world, where words like “stress” and “burnout” are thrown around interchangeably.
According to The Huffington Post, there are some key differences between these two terms. Both refer to conditions on the same spectrum, with stress representing something more temporary, while burnout occurring after you’ve been exposed to long stretches of stress. Burnout is more difficult to treat and remedy when compared to stress.
“Suppose we continually experience stress for a prolonged period of time, without being able to change it,” says psychologist and well-being consultant Lee Chambers. “In that case, we can begin to feel empty, lacking motive, pessimistic and generally careless about life. This is burnout.”
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While stress can pop up during a high pressure moment, like a presentation, it usually fades once you’re past it. Burnout tends to affect people for longer periods of time and appears to have no source or easy solution. It tends to result in isolation, poor work performance, lack of motivation and an overall dread over topics related to your work.
Looking for early symptoms of burnout isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially during a year like this. Most of the time, once you realize you’re suffering from burnout, it’s difficult to make meaningful changes.
“Maybe your actual job description doesn’t align with your passion of bringing joy to others, but is there another way you can bring joy to co-workers or clients that could scratch that itch?” recommends clinical psychologist Ryan Howes.
Other suggestions from experts include carving out time for your self-care, even if you don’t feel like it, and taking some time off work if you’re able to. A break from your work environment can help you reconnect with what you love about your job and provide you with some perspective that’ll allow you to see outside of the tough spot you’re in. A break might also help you realize what you want to do with your life, encouraging you to keep your options open and to look for a job that aligns more accurately with what you want to do with your life.