Brain Health

Burnout and The Brain

In the greatest of circumstances, work doesn’t feel like work at all. In the worst of conditions, work takes such a toll on us that we fall victim to burnout. Workplace burnout is less about the actual workload and more about our feelings and perception of that workload.

Burnout is a kind of emotional exhaustion caused by chronic stress. Although a little bit of stress is good, chronic stress can lead to major imbalances in the brain, from which you cannot recover overnight. The World Health Organization identified consistent evidence that high job demands, low control, and effort-reward imbalance are all risk factors for mental and physical health problems. But what exactly happens in the brain when we burn out?

The Amygdala becomes enlarged

The amygdala is your brain’s response center and is primarily associated with emotional processes. The Amygdala activates under stress, pressure, and tension. You can think of it as your brain’s alarm system responsible for signaling when there’s something in your environment you need to be upset about. When you burnout the amygdala becomes chronically overactive, enlarging in size.

The Prefrontal cortex shrinks

The prefrontal cortex is the area of your brain that is responsible for executive functions such as decision-making, focus, and emotion regulation. Burnout weakens the prefrontal cortex by accelerating the thinning of grey matter. The weakening of the prefrontal cortex makes it more difficult to counteract the enlarged amygdala’s emergency sirens.

Research has shown that burnout is associated with a decline across three major cognitive functions.

  1. 1. Attention
  2. 2. Memory
  3. 3. Executive function

How can we protect ourselves from burnout?

Know the signs:

  • Working life equals a constant chase of unreachable goals
  • Working life has too much randomness
  • Working life doesn’t provide enough emotional reward
  • Working life is rigged in some way
  • Working life comes with too many mixed messages
  • Working life makes people chase the wrong goals

Promote work/life balance

Succeeding at work does not mean never taking a break. Make sure to make time for exercise, family, and self-care. Ask for a flexible working schedule, try being off-grid during vacation, and actively disengage from work by not working after hours.

Remember, engaging in low-resource hobbies, fostering social relationships, and participating in activities that enhance physical and mental health not only safeguard against burnout but also help you recharge. This ensures a smoother transition from one project to the next.

Managers make a difference

Just as the healthy family dynamics form the cornerstone of a happy home, the professional employee-manager relationship may very well be the foundation of a successful organization.

Next time you are looking for a new career opportunity, pick your manager wisely. As the saying goes, people rarely quit a job, they leave a manager.

Stimulate your brain with neurofeedback

Did you know that you can train your prefrontal cortex directly with Mendi? Mendi uses fNIRS based neurofeedback technology, fitted with non-intrusive sensors that bring your brain activity to life in a brain-training game.

As you place the headband on your forehead and start the game, Mendi begins to measure oxygenated blood flow in response to neural activity in your prefrontal cortex. This type of brain training effectively strengthens your prefrontal cortex over time, making you more resilient to life stressors whenever they arise.

  • Experience your brain, improved
  • Natural & risk free training
  • Can (and should) be used by everyone

Get your Mendi now

Take your first step towards a healthier brain, improved focus, and mental resilience.

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