I DON’T LIKE UNPRODUCTIVE MEETINGS. Some of my colleagues believe I’m not too fond of any meetings, but that is not right. I’m not too fond of conferences where the leader could have dispersed the information via email without losing power.
You probably know what I am talking about — those meetings where it seems as though a limited number of people want to hear their voice.
For many of us, with non-productive meetings comes stress and fatigue. Productivity can take a hit, too. You will not be surprised to learn that one survey reported 83 percent of the meetings on their calendars were unproductive.
Professionals in the United States rated meetings as the leading office productivity killer.
Today, I want to look more broadly than unproductive meetings. Let’s examine work burnout, including a new study showing how it can change your brain.
Job burnout — Do you have it?
To determine whether you may be burning out, ask yourself these questions:
- Have you become cynical in the workplace?
- Do you dread going to work and have challenges getting going?
- Are you impatient or irritable?
- Are you non-productive because you lack energy?
- Is it challenging for you to concentrate?
- Do achievements provide no satisfaction to you?
- Are you disillusioned about your job?
- Are you using alcohol, drugs, or food to feel better or not feel?
- Have you had negative changes to your sleep?
- Do you have physical ails such as stomach problems or headaches?
Did you answer yes to any? If so, you may be suffering from job burnout. Please consider talking to a healthcare provider or a mental health professional because these symptoms can also be related to health conditions such as depression.
Job burnout — Stress can change your brain
Chronic stress can contribute to physical and psychological problems. But does our brain change structurally? Researchers recently provided insight into what happens to the brain when under stress.
U.T. Health San Antonio researchers discovered memory loss and brain shrinkage occurring before stress symptoms emerged.
Study author Sudha Seshadri, M.D. explains that the brain’s matter can thin in the prefrontal cortex. This brain region enables appropriate behavior and insights into ourselves and others.
We also use the prefrontal cortex for complex decision-making and abstract reasoning.
These structural changes can translate to a compromise in our ability to pay attention and retain memories. We have more challenges learning and have a higher chance of making mistakes.
There is more: Burnout and related stress can make our “fight or flight” center (the amygdala) more prominent. This part of our brain can generate emotions such as fear, with an increase in its size potentially causing us to see the world as harmful (when it is not).
Mice studies hint that we may be able to reverse these brain changes. In addition, a 2018 human study showed that the amygdala size could be reduced and the prefrontal cortex changes brought back to pre-stress levels.
I want to keep the negative brain changes from occurring in the first place. The locus of control — feeling we are in charge — can go a long way to preventing negative brain changes from occurring.
Job burnout — An action plan
Let’s look at some ways you may fight burnout. First, discuss your concerns with your supervisor. Perhaps you can change expectations or re-set goals.
Getting physical activity is a crucial element to dodging work-related burnout. I am also trying to incorporate stress reducers such as meditation and yoga. I did tai chi during my Shito-Ryu karate days. Do you practice some form of mindfulness?
I would be remiss if I did not mention sleep, as it can be critical to protecting your health. Finally, reach out; get support from co-workers, friends, or loved ones. While I have not had burnout issues, I am glad that my workplace has an employee assistance program.
Don’t let a demanding job undermine your psychological and physical well-being. If you feel you need help, please get it, whether through an employee assistance program, a therapist, a psychologist, or your primary care doctor.