Many stressors plague us in the laboratory, with some leading to burnout, but there is hope in reducing or eliminating stress by understanding the cause and developing appropriate interventions. Our bodies adapt to stress in three stages: alarm (flight or fight response), resistance (handling only one stress at a time), and exhaustion (burnout). Stressors are physical or psychological demands placed upon an individual that result in a negative strain. Common physical stressors include environmental temperature or humidity, noise levels, uncontrollable noises, lighting levels, job pace, workload, hours worked, or even the work shift. Think of all the timers and alarms going off in the laboratory; they represent unconscious, physical stressors through uncontrollable noise.
Chronic stress causes burnout. Burnout results when you deplete your coping means because of the prolonged response to psychological strain from persistent work stressors. Burnout is seen as emotional exhaustion (the feeling of being drained by work), depersonalization (becoming hardened), and low personal accomplishment (feeling powerless). Early warning signs of burnout are cynicism and high exhaustion. What does burnout look like? Burnout looks like pessimism, detachment, hopelessness, irritability, loss of appetite, depression, and/or increased illness. When you cannot find the motivation to go to work, you are experiencing burnout. The perception of inequality or disparity in the lab will always lead to burnout. However, work environments that do not experience inequality can reverse the signs and symptoms of burnout when addressed early.