Preventing Burnout Burnout, a guide written by Melinda Smith M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Robert Sefal, M.A., addresses the “state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress” known commonly as ‘burnout’. Most people have days when they feel disillusioned, helpless and exhausted, but if you feel like this most of the time, you may be suffering from burnout. Signs to be aware:

  • Every day is a bad day.
  • Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy.
  • You’re exhausted all the time.
  • The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming.
  • You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.

Because burnout can have many consequences in all areas of one’s life, it’s important to deal with burnout right away.

The guide recommends the “Three R” Approach:

  • Recognize: Watch for the warning signs of burnout.
  • Reverse: Undo the damage by managing stress and seeking support.
  • Resilience: Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health.

The difference between stress and burnout:

  • Stress involves too much but still allows for the possibility that if one can just get everything under control, things will feel better.
  • Burnout is defined as a feeling of not enough: feeling empty, devoid of motivation and beyond caring, not being able to see any hope of positive change in the situation.
  • “While you’re usually aware of being under a lot of stress, you don’t always notice burnout when it happens.”

Symptoms of stress and burnout:

Lifetstyle factors include:

  • Working too much, without enough time for relaxing and socializing
  • Being expected to be too many things to too many people
  • Taking on too many responsibilities, without enough help from others
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Lack of close, supportive relationships

Personality traits include:

  • Perfectionist tendencies
  • Pessimistic view of yourself and the world
  • The need to be in control; reluctance to delegate
  • High-achieving, Type A personality

Burnout prevention tips:

  • Start the day with a relaxing ritual lasting at least 15 minutes (e.g. meditating, journal writing, stretches, reading something inspirational)
  • Adopt healthy eating, exercising and sleeping habits.
  • Set boundaries; learn to say “no”.
  • Take a daily break from all ‘technology’.
  • Nourish your creative side with an activity that has nothing to do with your work.
  • Learn how to manage stress through these tips and techniques.

If you’re already past the breaking point, “Trying to push through the exhaustion and continue as you have been will only cause further emotional and physical damage.” Additional steps are required in order to recover:

  1. Slow down: Cut back whatever commitments and activities you can and five yourself time to rest, reflect and heal.
  2. Get support: Friends and family are more important than ever during difficult times; resist the tendency to isolate yourself. “Opening up won’t make you a burden to others. In fact, most friends will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them.”
  3. Re-evaluate your goals and priorities: accept that burnout is a sign that something important in your life is not working; take time to think about your hopes, goals and dreams and change course accordingly.
  4. Acknowledge your losses: “Unrecognized losses trap a lot of your energy. It takes a tremendous amount of emotional control to keep yourself from feeling the pain of these losses. When you recognize these losses and allow yourself to grieve them, you release that trapped energy and open yourself to healing.”