The Flames of BurnoutBurnout Image

“37% of full time employees say that they are now doing the work of two people; 30% say they are burned out.”, October 2009, based on a survey of 4,435 full time employees

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. As stress continues, burnout seems to take on a life of its own.

People feel pulled from all angles of their lives in an increasingly complex, fast paced world. The negative effects may spill over into every area of life – work, social and personal.

So, what’s the difference between stress and burnout?

Stress involves too much – too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and psychologically. However, even under much stress, people know and imagine that if they get things under control, they’ll feel better.

Burnout involves not enough. People who are burned out feel empty, devoid of motivation and beyond caring. One other difference – people typically know when they are under stress, but they may not know they are burned out.



Characterized by over engagement

Characterized by disengagement

Emotions are overactive

Emotions are blunted

Produces urgency and hyperactivity

Produces helplessness and hopelessness

Loss of energy

Loss of motivation, ideals and hope

Primary damage is physical

Primary damage is emotional

Leads to anxiety disorders

Leads to detachment and depression


Causes of burnout may be related to work, lifestyle or personality traits.

Work related burnout comes from: no control over your work, lack of recognition, unclear and overly demanding job expectations, doing unchallenging work and working in a high pressure environment.

Lifestyle burnout is defined as working too much with not enough time for relaxing and socializing, being expected to be too many things to too many people, taking on too many responsibilities, not getting enough sleep and lack of close, supportive relationships.

Personality traits may also lead to burnout. Some examples are perfectionist tendencies, pessimistic views of yourself and the world, the need to be in control, reluctance to delegate to others and high achieving Type A personality.

To prevent and deal with burnout, use the 3 R Approach – Recognize, Reverse, and Resilience. Burnout is a gradual process so first recognizing the importance of changing your behaviors is critical.

Try the following prevention tips:

  • Set boundaries – Learn to say “no”. Remember saying “no” allows you to say “yes” to other things that are more satisfying to you.
  • Take a break from technology – Set aside time each day to completely disconnect. Put away your laptop, stop answering emails and shut off your smart phone.
  • Do something creative – Creativity is a powerful antidote to burnout. Try something new, resume a favorite hobby and choose things that have nothing to do with work.
  • Manage your stress – Use relaxation or physical activities to develop positive energy.
  • Build a strong support system – Take active measures to spend time with your family, friends, and community.
  • Acknowledge yourself – Set personal goals and celebrate your achievements.
  • Modify your job – All jobs have some leeway. Look for ways you can improve work flow and increase the satisfaction of your position.
  • Get professional help – Call your Employee Assistance Program. Talking it out will help you determine your best course of action.

Resource: “Preventing Burnout: Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Coping Strategies”,