Coping With Burnout

24 Dec, 2009 || by

Richard dreaded waking up every morning.  The first thought to pop into his head each morning was that of facing work and of all the other responsibilities he had.  He felt drained, depleted, empty and trapped…and the day hadn’t even begun.  The temptation to stay in bed, to call in sick, was getting greater every day.  But he also knew that if he didn’t get going, his workload would become more mountainous than ever, making things so much worse.  Furthermore, he felt increasingly distant from his wife and children.  There were times he found himself uncharacteristically ill-tempered and emotionally distant from them.  To add to his misery, bills were getting mislaid, meetings missed, and jobs left unfinished.  If only the stress would let up; or if people around him truly appreciated all he did; or, better yet, if others would lend him a hand to get everything on his plate done.  Then, this feeling he had would go away and he could be like he use to be…happy, energetic, and productive.

Richard, like many people, is experiencing classic signs of “burnout.”  Burnout can be the result of an excessive workload, emotional strain, unrealistic expectations, or a combination of situations that can lead to self-negativism and feelings of isolation (real or imagined).  But burnout is more than simply feeling overworked and in need of a vacation.  If ignored or denied, the consequences can be quite serious, not only for you, but for family, friends and co-workers.

Do You Suffer From Burnout?

Looking back on the last six months, answer the following questions by assigning each one a score between “1” (little or no change) and “5” (a great deal of change):

  1. Do you tire more easily?  Feel fatigued rather than energetic?
  2. Are people annoying you by telling you, “You don’t look so good lately?”
  3. Are you working harder and harder and accomplishing less and less?
  4. Are you increasingly cynical and disenchanted?
  5. Are you often invaded by a feeling of sadness you can’t explain?
  6. Are you forgetting appointments, deadlines, etc., or misplacing items?
  7. Are you increasingly irritable, short-tempered, and/or disappointed in the

people around you?

  1. Are you seeing close friends and family less frequently?
  2. Are you too busy to do even routine things like make phone calls, return e-mails, make the bed, etc?
  3. Are you suffering from physical problems such as aches, pains, lingering headaches, colds, etc?
  4. Has one area of your life become disproportionately important?
  5. Does the feeling of happiness seem elusive?
  6. Do you take yourself too seriously?
  7. Does sex seem like more trouble than it’s worth?
  8. Do you notice that you have very little to say to others?

Add up the totals or all 15 questions and compare it to the following scale:


0 – 25       No problem

26 – 35       Pre-burnout

36 – 50       Mild

51 – 65       Moderate

Over 65       Severe

What Can You Do About Burnout?

Burnout is a form of psychological exhaustion caused by prolonged periods of work-related (both personal & professional work) stress.  While there may or may not be anything wrong with you physically, more than likely, psychological symptoms will be present in force.  If faced with burnout, the following strategies can help:

  • Downtime – The mind needs downtime to rest and repair, much like the body needs sleep.  Downtime does not mean watching TV, surfing the internet, or having a few drinks.  Downtime does involve relaxing, engaging in meaningful conversation, listening to music, etc.  Burnout often involves having so much on your mind that you often forget to think.
  • There is a saying that says:  “Most people burnout because they have never been on fire.”  Figure out what you have a passion for and strive to do it more often.
  • Practice good health habits – exercise, get enough sleep, fuel your body with good food, and drink enough water.
  • Make sure you have something to look forward to.  When we have things to look forward to, like weekend get-a-ways or activities, time with friends, a new book to read, etc, it’s more difficult to succumb to burnout.
  • Strike up a new hobby.  Burnout tends to be less of a problem for kids, probably because much of what they do is new, and involves a new learning.  As we get older, it takes more forethought and work to keep life new and refreshing.
  • Resolve conflicts in your life.  Ongoing conflicts sap our strength and energy, as well as keep our focus on what’s wrong in our lives.
  • Delegate some of your responsibility.  Rather than feeling like the workhorse in your home and/or office, look closely at what steps you can take to share some of the burden you carry.
  • Take time to appreciate what you have, rather than focusing on what’s wrong.  Strive not to be like Eeyore (Winnie the Pooh), constantly followed by a little rain cloud.

If none of these strategies helps to improve your situation, you may want to speak with a professional counselor.  Sometimes an objective opinion and fresh perspective are necessary to help pull oneself out of unhealthy patterns.

Over the long term, burnout adversely affects one’s personal and professional lives.  It is therefore very important to remedy the situation as quickly as possible.  By making a few meaningful changes in your life, it is possible to improve your situation and feel more zest and enthusiasm in your life.

Bookmark and Share

Leave a Reply

If you'd like a picture to show up by your name, get a Gravatar.