Stress affects us all at some point during our lives. At moderate levels, stress can motivate us, and is perfectly healthy. However, stress extended for long durations of time can cause stress burnout: a state of complete mental exhaustion. Stress burnout is costly to both employees, and workplaces. Often the best employees are the victims of stress burnout. Their pride in the importance of their work leads to them to push themselves beyond what is reasonably expected to the point where they can no longer continue their obligations.
Workers face a legal grey area when in need for stress leave. Legally, there is no such thing as stress leave in British Columbia. Medically, professionals largely disagree on the definition of stress burnout. In the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), stress burnout is not even recognized as a disorder that can be diagnosed. However, in the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), stress burnout is recognized as a disorder.
One might even argue that stress burnout is part of another disorder. Stress is often the symptom of other mental health issues, and usually coexists with depression.
Regardless of legal, and medical definition, stress is often partially caused by employment environments. Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey reported that 1 in 4 Canadians felt highly stressed. 60% of those categorized as ‘highly stressed’ reported that work was their main cause of stress.
By learning how to reduce stress, organizations can reduce turnover, and training costs. Comfortable communication is key. Only when we make the conscious decision to talk about what is stressful in an environment, can we change the environment itself.
As individuals we can do the following to help cope with stress:
- Schedule brief breaks for yourself throughout the day.
- At the end of each day, set your priorities for the following day.
- Make a distinction between work and personal life.
- Say “No” when necessary to establish boundaries.
- Take time to recharge.
- Practice self-awareness, for example, mindfulness meditation or cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Reach out for support from friends and family.
- American Psychological Association. “Coping with stress at work.” American Psychological Association. Accessed June 19, 2017.
- Bianchi, Renzo, Irvin Sam Schonfeld, and Eric Laurent. “Is it Time to Consider the “Burnout Syndrome” A Distinct Illness?” Frontiers in Public Health. June 8, 2015. Accessed June 19, 2017.
- Crompton , Susan. “What’s stressing the stressed? Main sources of stress among workers.” Statistics Canada. November 27, 2015. Accessed June 19, 2017.
- Mckenzie, Kevin Hinton & Ryan. “How to go on stress leave, or get time off trying.” BCBusiness. August 11, 2014. Accessed June 19, 2017.
- Mckenzie, Kevin Hinton & Ryan. “Stress Leave: Legitimate or Escape Tactic?” BCBusiness. March 07, 2011. Accessed June 19, 2017.