What Is Burnout?
The voice of burnout is not YOUR voice. Burnout will say you aren’t cut out for it, that you don’t enjoy it, that you aren’t good at it. Don’t make career decisions while you are burned out. Switch employers, cut down hours, get a side gig selling slotted spoons on eBay, do what you need to do to equal out your stress and your support resources.
Burnout doesn’t look like what we were trained to think it looks like, and it isn’t caused by the things were were raised to think cause it. Burnout doesn’t look like simply “not liking” what we do – it will tell us we aren’t good at what we do, and that we don’t like it or don’t care about it anymore. It can eventually destroy our ambition, our idealism, and our sense of worth. And stress doesn’t cause burnout alone; stress alongside inadequate resources does. If the demands of a job outweigh the resources to cope, then burnout is likely.
It’s no surprise in a culture that prizes “pulling oneself up by the bootstraps,” even as it become increasingly socioeconomically impossible to do so, exists a model for burnout that blames employees for their experiences of burnout. The more modern neuroscience studies burnout, however, the more we find the cultural narrative about it and its causes is mostly myth.
How Burnout Affects Us & How We Can Help:
This short article, Burnout and the Brain by Alexandra Michel, is my favorite resource to recommend for reading about burnout. The main takeaway: burnout isn’t weakness, incompatibility with the field, or even a simple response to stress: burnout is what happens when we are exposed to more stress than we are given resources to cope with. A portion of these needed resources are self-care, but it’s more about professional resources: good supervision/management, time and space to process our work at work, and time off to recharge.
Agencies and organizations often put the burden on staff via instructions to “self-care,” but evidence suggests this is an occupational health problem. Organizations can reduce employee burnout by increasing support resources, such as Employee Assistance Programs (which offer short-term counseling and related services) or through providing flexible working environments.
For a high quality printable download and rights to use this visual educational resource for 1:1 supervision, group, or for corporate trainings, purchase the download:
To learn more about burnout, its causes, and how to help – check out these other resources:
For a more in depth exploration of the roots of burnout, see this well researched article on the deeper cause of burnout.