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Saturday, January 26, 2013

What Job Stress Really Means to Your Health

As published in the Washington Observer-Reporter. 

When dream jobs become real jobs, not everyone can tolerate the disparity.

By "not everyone", I mean the vast majority.

According to a recent study, a whopping 75-percent of the workforce considers themselves "job seekers." 

Think about that. 

In an economy that has marginalized glitterati and gas pump attendants alike, 75-percent of us still can't wait to jump ship. 

Our work culture is either that bad, or we are the most ungrateful group of miserable schmucks alive.  

I, for one, have more faith in us that that. 

I think we all had dreams about our jobs, no matter how mundane or highfalutin they might be. Once upon a time, there was something great about them which motivated us to fill out each annoying block of the employment application and made our hearts sputter with excitement when we got the job offer. 

While a vocational love affair isn't necessary to bring home the bacon, the term "burnout" does have a clinical definition and set of warning signs for which we should be vigilant. 

To know if you're possibly suffering from job burnout, a type of job stress, think about your habits and how they might have changed. 

Think about your work day: Do you drag yourself to work, have trouble getting started or lack energy to be productive? Consider your sense of pride: Are you satisfied with your achievements or do feel disillusioned about your work environment? 

In an additionally crappy turn of events, burnout doesn't only affect your life at work. Recall some of your habits at home: Have your eating, drinking or sleeping habits changed? Do working-hour worries bombard your thoughts even after you've punched out?

I can hear some of you calling me a bleeding-heart for even addressing this. 

Perhaps it seems that I belong to the coddling generation responsible for the overindulgence and entitlement rampant in our culture. Yes, I know that it's a relatively privileged few who actually enjoy going to work most of the time. In this economy, maybe it's downright short-sighted for anyone with a profitable job to complain. But, you do need to know that these symptoms can have more consequences than a need to get the lead out on Friday night. 

Agreed: Sometimes, we all need to evoke our best drill sergeant stereotype, get in our own faces, spit as we talk and just go to work. That applies to job dislike. 

Job burnout, on the other hand, is owed a more thoughtful reaction. 

Those who truly suffer from job burnout and ignore their needs may experience excessive stress, fatigue, insomnia, a negative spillover into personal relationships, depression, anxiety, even stroke and heart disease. 

To add even more legitimacy to the clinical understanding of burnout, check this out: The ICD-10, a medical classification list developed by the World Health Organization and the code system by which our medical treatments are catalogued and reimbursed, contains a code for those individuals suffering from the condition. 

Meaning, a doctor can charge your insurance company for a visit related to, well, hating your job.

I don't intend to argue that the unhappy 75-percent should quit their jobs to become Call of Duty experts--not in the least. 

However, there those for whom the act of going to their current job causes a degree of stress that does, or has the potential to, compromise their well-being. For them, a little self-exploration is in order. 

See a professional; make a pro-con list; put your favorite playlist on loop. Employ whichever constructive coping techniques you must to brighten your work-related thoughts, but don't ignore the intimate relationship between health and happiness.