Feeling Burned Out?

What is burnout and could it happen to you?

The term “burnout” was coined in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger in his book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement. Freudenberger defined burnout as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

Burnout is most often caused by chronic job stress. It can lead to exhaustion, cynicism, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, resentment, and feelings of reduced professional ability. Burnout can contribute to physical symptoms such as heartburn, ulcers, high blood pressure, and sleep issues. And it can contribute to emotional wellness concerns including depression, detachment, lack of motivation, negative outlook, feelings of failure, and self-doubt.

In Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, authors Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski explain why women experience burnout differently than men and how women exhaust themselves trying to close the gap between them. With the often unequal burdens of childcare and chores at home, women tend to feel more stress and burnout than their male counterparts. According to a survey by LinkedIn, 74% of women said they were very or somewhat stressed for work-related reasons, compared with just 61% of employed male respondents.

Psychology Today outlines how to tell if you are experiencing burnout, and the difference between burnout and stress:

How do you know if you’re burned out? Physical and mental exhaustion, a sense of dread about work, and frequent feelings of cynicism, anger, or irritability are key signs of burnout. Those in helping professions (such as doctors) may notice dwindling compassion toward those in their care. Feeling like you can no longer do your job effectively may also signal burnout.

What’s the difference between burnout and stress? By definition, burnout is an extended period of stress that feels as though it cannot be ameliorated. If stress is short-lived or tied to a specific goal, it is most likely not harmful. If the stress feels never-ending and comes with feelings of emptiness, apathy, and hopelessness, it may be indicative of burnout.”

Tips to help with burnout:

  1. Talk about it. Set aside some time with your leader to talk about what you are feeling. If possible, offer some suggestions that might help reduce your level of stress and burnout, such as delegating tasks and setting more manageable deadlines and goals.
  2. Ask for help. Reach out to co-workers, friends or family members for support. If your company offers access to an employee assistance program, take advantage of their services.
  3. Self-reflection. Carefully evaluate your work life. If you have a coach or mentor, talk it through with them. What aspects of your work cause the highest levels of stress and unhappiness? What brings you the most joy and feelings of fulfillment at work? Honest self-reflection can help you to uncover the root of feelings of burnout, and perhaps find some solutions.
  4. Self-care. While we may not always be able to avoid stressful situations in the workplace, we can learn how to take better care of ourselves to lessen the impact on our bodies and minds. Try these 10 tips.
  5. Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can put your health and safety at risk, which is why it’s essential that you prioritize and protect your sleep on a daily basis. Try these apps and resources for help.
  6. Practice mindfulness. Here are tips and resources that we share with our coaching clients to help them build their mindfulness muscle and stay present during challenging times.

Additional Resources:

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement by Herbert Freudenberger

Job burnout: How to spot it and take action – Mayo Clinic

How to deal with burnout – Psychology Today

Return to all posts