Burnout Isn’t Considered a Health Issue. Here’s Why It Should Be.


It’s a word we love to use to describe the agonizing exhaustion, stress, and anxiety that we can get from our day jobs.

People, especially millennials, have it wired into their brains to never complain about being overworked. Otherwise, they’ll have to endure being called “entitled,” “lazy,” and “taking things for granted.” They have mentally and emotionally conditioned themselves to just “suck it up” and carry on, believing that they always owe their struggles to someone they can’t afford to let down.

But an extended period of overwork, no matter how rewarding (usually not), can eat us up from outside-in—starting with our energy levels and ending in our mental state. And when we’re almost at our limit, it feels like our mind, body, and spirit have shut completely down.

Burnout Comic by Karina Farek

Source: Karina Farek via College Humor

Burnout is a plague that affects every single working person in the world, and yet its seriousness is yet to be acknowledged by health professionals who say that burnout isn’t considered a medical condition. Instead, it is trivialized to being a mere “occupational phenomenon” by the World Health Organization which consequently affirms the belief that the best possible way to overcome it is through “self-care.”

(READ: UPDATE: “Burn-out” is an occupational phenomenon, not a medical condition)

Most of what we know about treating burnout is about the different ways we can exercise self-care: taking breaks, treating ourselves with retail therapy or a pampering session, eating our favorite food, and so on. We’ve been convinced that constant self-care is the solution to reducing our anxiety levels, improving our stress management, and lowering the risk of depression.

But is it really all we can do?

I once worked at a 9 to 6 job that increasingly became the place I hated going to the most. The company bosses were becoming more demanding and critical with our output and would often remind us to always be accessible to work even beyond working hours and during the weekends. Every day, I along with my coworkers would come to the office already tired, demotivated, and in fear of those in charge. I endured it all with “self-care”, thinking that it was the only thing I could do.

But eventually, even that wasn’t enough to take away the anxiety, inadequacy, and under-appreciation I’ve been made to feel five days a week.

I realized that no matter how much you bear with the stress with self-care methods, it won’t be enough. It will never be enough.

Burnout Work Spongebob

(ALSO READ: Passions Change, But Here’s Why It’s a Good Thing)

I believe that burnout should be taken more seriously because of how much a person who has it suffers. Chronic fatigue, headaches, insomnia, aggression, a feeling of near emptiness… these are just the extreme things someone can endure. It can very well be a legitimate mental health problem because of the possibility of it bringing forth depression and anxiety, which is even more difficult to live with. But the lack of proper and dedicated research on burnout as a medical condition hinders people from discovering better preventive measures and effective treatments.

We may have to wait much longer for medical institutions pioneering the in-depth study of burnout to present us the answers we need, but perhaps we can make use of this time to demand an improvement of the work culture here in the Philippines where, most of the time, employees are taken advantage of, overburdened, and under-compensated. Don’t keep telling employees what they should do to live with the toxicity, but start making employers accountable for their employees’ health and wellness.

Burnout isn’t something we should “learn to get over.” It’s something that shouldn’t happen in the first place. And until we realize this, we are going to have a generation that will continue to grow up completely and unimaginably exhausted.

What are your thoughts on burnout? Share them with us in the comments.

Header photo by Karina Farek via College Humor


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