The Strange Psychology of Stress and Burnout. Machine Intelligence Explained. America’s Top Spy on Our Ominous Future.
- By Alina Dizik
17 November 2016
As a neonatal nurse, Jennifer Welker learned to thrive under stress.
Rather than allowing the pain of handling a sick infant to affect her, Welker deftly handled some of the most challenging moments in her career, and quickly moved on from difficult situations.
She credits her efficiency to the advantages of working under stress. Harnessing the innate pressure that came with her role, she says, improved her productivity and performance. Still, it was a fine line between harnessing the pressure and ignoring it altogether.
“I was almost too good at my job,” says Welker who would often have to spend time in the morgue. “I had become cold and callous because you have to emotionally withdraw from the moment.”
After some time, the stress involved in her work reached a tipping point and won out. She could neither control nor ignore it any longer.
I was almost too good at my job
“I saw a lot of death and people on their worst day – that weighs on you,” she said. Ultimately, she began to suffer from what is termed chronic stress. Symptoms can include anything from decreased immunity to sleep problems. She launched a jewellery business as a therapeutic outlet from the demands of nursing.
With her health beginning to suffer, Welker quit her job three years ago and turned to her jewellery business fulltime.
It can be good for you – until it’s not
While bouts of workplace stress can help you better focus on tasks and increase efficiency, chronic stress can impact the quality of your work, jeopardising your employment, and your life outside of the office.
It’s difficult to tell when the stress hits a breaking point, and you start suffering the effects of burnout. While stress is emotional or mental strain that can come and go, burnout is the physical, mental emotional exhaustion that occurs after prolonged stress. It emerges over time and can be more difficult to recover from.
“It’s not always made explicit, but in reality there are consequences that people face when they appear not to deal with their stress in the workplace,” says Stefano Petti, a partner at Asterys, an organiational development firm in Rome.