Many of us spend a large chunk of our day at work which inevitably leads to stresses and strains that we often don’t even recognize. Unfortunately, for years mental health issues at the workplace were either stigmatized or simply not considered important enough.

Last year brought to the workplace two pieces of good news on mental health.

First, the World Health Organization recognized burn-out as an occupational phenomenon. It defined burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

WHO characterized burnout by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.

Closer home, an equally positive move last year was the implementation of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, directing every insurer offering health insurance products in India to cater to policyholders with mental illnesses the same way they did for physical illnesses or injuries. Slowly but surely, burnout, and mental health, is shifting upfront from the back-burner.

Workplace mental health is a broad swathe of concerns each with its accompanying costs for both the employee and the employer. But burnout was a much-misused word. Now with WHO’s definition, at least we can start to use it appropriately. It is only then that we can recognize it for what it is.

Clearly, burnout is both a feeling and a condition. Whichever it is for you, the important thing is to be alert to its onset and then seek the right support at the earliest. This may be in the form of a tête-à-tête with a more experienced colleague or friend, an appointment with a therapist, a chat with your HR representative, or simply a quiet conversation with yourself. Thereafter, the solution could lie in a change of scene, a change of pace, or a change of tracks. In fact, burnout is often a signal that it’s time for you to strike out again and anew.

Having experienced it myself, I can assure you that there is Burnol for burnout.

 Indu Anand is Associate Director, Curriculum at Harappa Education.

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