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How Burnout Affects Your Brain by Dana Loyal

You may not realize the impact burnout has on your brain.

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Many people are at risk of experiencing burnout, and in fact, many may be experiencing it and not realize it. It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of employees have feelings of burnout while working. The World Health Organization defines burnout as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress. The three main characteristics of burnout are exhaustion, increased mental distance or cynicism towards your job, and reduced work efficiency. What does this mental and physical toll do your brain? Are there long-term effects, and how can you manage your stress before it turns into burnout?

You may not think that there are such strong effects of burnout, but one study found that there are, and it does alter your brain. Burnout causes the part of your brain that controls emotional reactions, called the amygdala, to enlarge. This can result in increased mood changes and a heightened response to stress. Aside from an enlarged amygdala, burnout can also weaken the parts of your brain that control memory and attention spans. Burnout takes a toll on your mind by decreasing creativity, working memory, and problem-solving skills, as well. 

If you ignore the stress and feelings of burnout, you could be dismissing some real side effects. Although these effects of burnout are worrying, they have not shown that they are permanent and can be reversed with regular self-care. Scientists have found that our brains have neuroplasticity, which means the brain can reshape itself in response to experiences and stimuli. If you want to reverse the effects of burnout, you can do some simple things to reduce your stress. 

Take a Break

We all need a break from the daily grind every once in a while. Especially if you are feeling stressed, it’s essential to step away from your work and take a break. Do not get sucked into checking your work email and make sure you are fully unplugged. Having the time to clear your work stress from your focus completely will help you recharge and reduce burnout. 

Set Boundaries

If you are feeling overwhelmed with endless meetings or are continually being pulled in different directions, setting clear boundaries for yourself can be a real game-changer for your stress levels. Try blocking off time in your calendar where you won’t be disturbed, and you can actually focus on the tasks you may have been avoiding or those that have been pushed to the back burner. Also, don’t be afraid to say no. You have to be able to let people know how much you can handle and never add too much to your plate when it can be avoided.

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