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  • Writer's pictureEmma

The Road to Burnout

Updated: Feb 5, 2022

How would you define a full-time occupation, academically or professionally? A typical answer would be anything that consumes 40 hours of your time weekly. However, often those 40 hours come and go by far too quickly. And when more responsibility is offered, why say no? This could be a chance to learn something new or it could lead to future opportunities. It is also a reflection that your superiors believe you can handle more. All that sounds great, but there comes a point where we spread ourselves too thin.

Admittedly, I rarely say no to new responsibilities, while still carrying the weight of all my old ones. Recently, a friend joked that I was burning myself out. Well that didn’t sit well. Being myself, I did some research.

Photo by Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

Burnout Syndrome is it is a psychological reaction to the unsuccessful management of chronic professional stress. It is then characterized by three points; increased mental distance from one’s job, reduced professional efficacy and sentiments of exhaustion and lack of energy (1).

Burnout itself has bounced around from being a psychological construct to an identifiable clinical diagnosis. Naturally, this has led to a search for a diagnostic biomarker linking occupational stress to a physiological mechanism. The centre of this search has been the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis is responsible for the neuroendocrine adaptation to situational stress. However, thus far, no concrete changes to the neuroendocrine system have been identified in relation to burnout. Which implies burnout is a separate phenomenon from the stress and mental health disorders that have been previously documented to affect the HPA axis (2).

This does not make burnout any less real. As indicated in Jonsdottir and Dahlman’s article, an important point for future studies would be to further differentiate Burnout Syndrome from other stress and mental health disorders in respect to both the definition and pathophysiological research (2).

I attended a seminar at work recently that emphasized the importance of being intentional with your time. As a final note, I would like to pass this onto you. Your time is valuable. Of all your commitments, which ones are the priorities? Being intentional with your time allows you to focus on the commitments that are most fulfilling. You don’t have to yes to everyone, only yourself.

Written by Emma.


1. World Health Organization (2021).

2. Ingibjörg HJ & Anna SD (2019). European Journal of Endocrinology 180(3): R147-R158.

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