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June 2013

Job Burnout May Be Hard on Your Heart

A lengthy to-do list, a fast-approaching deadline, conflict with a colleague-many people struggle with such on-the-job stressors. When constant and overwhelming, this stress can lead to job burnout. Like other forms of stress, job burnout may affect your health, even raising your risk for coronary heart disease (CHD).

Photo of a man with his head down on his desk at the office

Job burnout and your heart

In a study in Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers screened more than 8,800 working adults for job burnout. They then tracked participants' heart health for an average of 3.6 years. Participants included teachers, salespeople, and blue-collar workers. Researchers found that people who suffered from job burnout were 40 percent more likely to develop CHD. Those who reported the highest burnout levels had a 79 percent higher risk.

This conclusion may come as no surprise if you've ever felt the physical symptoms of stress-perhaps a headache, back pain, trouble sleeping, anxiety, or an upset stomach. Too much stress may lower your ability to fight off illnesses such as colds. What's more, research has found chronic stress may elevate your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and-yes-even heart disease.

Understanding job burnout

Job burnout isn't simply feeling stressed while on the job. It's characterized by extreme mental exhaustion, physical fatigue, and cynical thoughts. Signs of job burnout may include:

  • Feeling too tired to get out of bed to go to work

  • Feeling fed up about your job

  • Having difficulty concentrating or focusing on your job

  • Not thinking clearly while working

  • Lacking sympathy or sensitivity for coworkers or clients

  • Distancing yourself from colleagues or customers

Chronic work stress often triggers job burnout. Employees most affected include those who cater to other people's demands. They may feel powerless in their positions and have little control over their schedules. Other causes include feeling overworked and having a job that doesn't match your skills and interests.

Coping with Job Stress

Different people respond differently to job stress. A hectic schedule may be overwhelming for one person but energetically challenging for another. Learning how to cope with job stress can improve your mental and physical health. In turn, it may lower your risk for job burnout. Here are some tips to help ward off job-related stress:

  • Know what's expected of you. Understanding your job responsibilities can help you feel more in control. Work with your employer to develop a job description, if needed.

  • Don't skip breaks. Even a five- or 10-minute breather can help you recharge. Try easing built-up tension by stretching or taking a quick walk.

  • Make a daily to-do list. It can help you organize your day and keep you focused. Plus, you'll worry less about forgetting an important detail or task.

  • Keep your mind and body healthy. Try yoga or meditation. Carve out time for a favorite hobby and fit in exercise. Most important, don't scrimp on vacation time.

  • Recognize when you are feeling overly stressed. It may start as shoulder tightness or irritability. Knowing your stress symptoms can help you be proactive in alleviating them.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

How do you respond to stress? Find out with this stress trigger assessment.

Online Resources

American Psychological Association - Mind/Body Health: Job Stress

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health - Stress … at Work