Recognizing and Avoiding Burnout

“My candle burns at both ends/it will not last the night.”  Edna St. Vincent Millay

Burnout resists simple definition because it affects so many aspects of life. In their book, Beyond Burnout, authors David Welch, Donald Medeiros and George Tate, describe burnout as a condition that affects us physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially and spiritually.

One of the first physical symptoms of burnout is fatigue.  Intellectually, there may be a loss of creativity and sharpness in problem solving; cynicism may replace enthusiasm. Emotionally, the loss of dreams and expectations can result in feelings of helplessness and depression.  In the social realm, isolation overtakes feelings of involvement. Spiritually, the person experiencing burnout may feel a lack of meaning or struggle with finding a purpose in life.

According to a recent study, one in three Americans is expected to burn out on the job in the near future and, in the two years preceding the study, 14% of the work force quit or changed jobs due to job stress.  But burnout can happen in all walks of life, not just on the job.  How can you avoid becoming one of the burnout statistics?

Recognizing Burnout

  • Feelings of frustration, overwhelm and never being caught up,
  • A sense of losing control over how you live and what happens in your life,
  • Emotional outbursts,
  • Withdrawal and isolation,
  • Dreading going to work,
  • Frequent sickness, low energy or other health problems,
  • Self-medicating through over consumption of alcohol, drugs or food, and/or
  • A desire to quit or run away, along with a fear of doing so.

Taking a few days off or a vacation to Tahiti won’t contain the burnout.  Neither will simply leaving one job or situation for another.  Burnout has more to do with an individual’s attitudes and behavior than it does with his or her external situation.  It is primarily an act of self-destruction.

Avoiding Burnout

 1: Self-management.  Set specific, realistic goals that are aligned with your values and communicate them clearly to others.

 2: Stress management.  Know your own responses to stress and develop a plan to manage them.  Exercise, take breaks, eat healthy, leave work at work, make time for play and rest.  Discover what works best for you and your body and practice consistent, nurturing self-care.

3: Support systems.  Family, friends, co-workers, spiritual groups and other organizations can help in times of stress.

4: Skill building.  Look for opportunities to leverage and further develop your natural skills, talents and abilities.  Encourage your continued growth rather than stagnation.

5: Balance.  Seek an intentionally balanced life.  Feed your soul by infusing your life with relationships and activities that matter to you.

6: Think positive.  Helpless thinking is a major contributor to burnout. Replace negativity with optimism.  Everything’s an opportunity.  Look for the silver lining in even the darkest cloud.

7: Be creative.  Adopt a new perspective.  Try a different approach to your unpleasant situation and perceived problems.  Break free from your everyday routine.  Let your workspace express your individuality.

8: Humor and playfulness.  Humor reduces stress, promotes physical healing, is essential for mental health and can add years to your life.  No wonder they say laughter is the best medicine.  Make enjoying yourself and your life a priority.  You matter!

Author’s content adapted under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

About djwlifecoach

As a retired board-certified coach, author and Reiki master teacher, I continue to share hope, possibilities and empowerment with the world. What's love got to do with minimizing stress and getting unstuck? Everything! My book, "Choose Your Energy: Change Your Life!" (Hay House/Balboa Press 2013) shares my story and the stories of 10 of my clients along with my signature Discovery Framework. During my 30 years as an organization transformation consultant, I served as a senior partner in four of the world's largest, most prestigious global professional services firms. In 2005, I took a five-year sabbatical to find healing and peace because non-stop work had taken its toll. My recovery from burnout, including a sustained 80-pound weight loss and freedom from 10 years of debilitating depression, led to finding my purpose sharing hope, possibilities and empowerment with the world. Through healing and self-exploration, I discovered that loving yourself unconditionally is the key to transforming your personal life, your work and the world. With attention and intention, I learned to live in alignment with love through a wealth of energy-shifting tools and techniques that help me reduce stress, anxiety and overwhelm by releasing limiting beliefs, emotions and habits. My books, blog and radio episodes help individuals and organizations harness the transformative energy of love to turn unexplored possibilities into fulfilling realities and step into their greatness. Learn more and access FREE resources at For fun, I love singing, reading, sewing, knitting, golfing and movies. I live in Williamsburg, Virginia with my husband, Wilson, and the coaching cats who manage my life—SiddhaLee and Maisy Jane.
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1 Response to Recognizing and Avoiding Burnout

  1. CLR says:

    Thanks for this article Deborah. This article will be good to review once a week to refresh my mind to curb the burnout slide.

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