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What’s Behind Your Burnout (And How to Kick It For Good)

Stop drowning and start living again



If you’re burnt out, you’ve probably felt, “I’m just so tired of all this. I want out, but I don’t know how.”


If you have, you’re not alone. In the US alone, 59% of workers feel the same way.


Studies everywhere, from before COVID-19 to today, try to measure how burnt out our country is. The percentage varies with each due to differing demographics, industries, and methods. But it’s clear the US workforce has more burnt-out workers than energized ones. That’s a problem for those burnt out and for future work in the US.


This massive shift in work ethic is happening exactly as AI is suited to take over many tasks. Timely or inconvenient? I want to show the full effect a workforce filled with burnout has on society. But let’s be honest—you’re here to find a way to eradicate it for yourself. And that’s the best starting point. So, let’s begin.


To start, you must pinpoint the exact source(s) of your burnout and your responses to it.


The Top Sources of Burnout

Burnout comes from both work and lifestyle. They don’t exist in isolation, often overlapping. Here are some of the most common.


  • Work overload: Includes too much work, short deadlines, and no control over your tasks. Feeling constantly swamped can drain your energy and leave you feeling helpless.

  • Lack of control: Feeling like you have no say in your work or how things are done can be incredibly stressful. This can include unclear expectations or micromanagement, as well as a work environment where priorities constantly shift.

  • Work-life imbalance occurs when work bleeds into personal life. It makes it hard to relax and recharge. This can be due to long hours, constant availability expectations, or a lack of support for taking breaks and vacations.

  • Lack of recognition can be demotivating. It can make you feel undervalued for your contributions and lead to cynicism.

  • Workplaces can have unfair treatment, bullying, or a lack of support. These create a toxic environment that leads to burnout.

  • Parental pressures stem from a lack of understanding at work. Your employer doesn’t understand your desires and needs regarding prioritizing your children.

  • The financial strain comes from the higher cost of goods and inflation. There’s also a lack of salary increases to match the real cost of living. So, workers often manage multiple jobs to make ends meet or to build meager savings.

The Top Symptoms of Burnout

Your body’s response to the above sources can look like these and often includes more than one symptom.


  • Exhaustion is the hallmark symptom of burnout. You feel tired physically and mentally, making even small tasks overwhelming. Sleep doesn’t help, or you are not able to sleep well at night due to anxiety.

  • Cynicism and detachment: You become cynical about work and lose interest in contributing.

  • Apathy and detachment: Feeling disengaged and isolated from the world around you. Withdrawing emotionally at work and home.

  • Lack of feeling accomplished: Even when you complete tasks, they feel meaningless. You doubt your abilities and feel like a failure.

  • Physical Illness: Headaches, muscle tension, difficulty sleeping, or changes in appetite.

  • Mental Illness: You feel anxious, irritable, have difficulty concentrating, and depressed.

  • Feeling stuck: Unable to make decisions about your life, feeling incapable of escaping the sources of your burnout. Lack of trust and connection to self.

Tackling Your Personal Burnout

You can now see you’re not alone in this and can separate your sources and symptoms. But now what? How do you eliminate this once and for all and feel alive and free again?


You have two options:


  1. Severe your ties with the sources and seek out something new. (In the case of work burnout, you can quit.) Or…

  2. Do some inner and outer work first.


Now, I know what you’re saying…

“I can’t just quit! I have no money to support myself if I don’t work.”

and…

“Didn’t you hear me? I’m already exhausted and overworked…I can’t do MORE work!”

You’re right on both, but those two stories keep you in the burnout cycle.

You must flip the script to eliminate your burnout once and for all.


How?


  1. Put more effort into yourself.

  2. Put less effort into the sources of burnout.

Let me explain. Burnout happens after long periods of time. It forms after we’ve catered to the excessive requests of the outside world more than we have catered to our own needs. Before you were burnt out, you were likely living a more fulfilling, energetic life. If so, you were living in alignment with your values and authenticity.

Over time, you got pulled more into the outside world's demands and had less time to check in with yourself first. You started reacting to the world around you instead of responding to them.


  • Reacting is ‘re-acting’ past trauma as you get triggered by your environment. It’s a fight-or-flight response.

  • Responding, on the other hand, is taking intentional action to align with your values and meet your needs in the present moment.


The catch? Reacting is quick, unregulated, and expends more energy. Responding is slower. It takes time and a strong connection to self, and it can’t happen under constant pressure.

As our outside environment pressures us, it threatens our security and well-being, making us go into survival mode. It’s here that we abandon our more intentional responses and defer, instead, to our reactive ones.


The more we do this, the weaker our connection to ourselves becomes. We lose our ability to think clearly and authentically. Eventually, our relationship with ourselves gets completely buried.


So, to cure our burnout once and for all, we must learn to respond to our environment again by connecting back to ourselves in a deeper way.


How to find yourself again


The Brain Loop

The Cognitive Behavior Therapy Loop can help. It visually represents how our brains and bodies process and reinforce information and experiences.


  1. Situation: An event happens in the outside world. Which by essence is “neutral”.

  2. Thoughts/Stories: We make sense of the situation by filtering it through our thoughts (the negative, neutral, or positive stories we hold about ourselves and the world.)

  3. Emotions: The interpretation we arrive at from that filtering determines our emotions.

  4. Behavior: We either react or respond according to our emotions.

  5. Self: Your behavior then evolves your identity (for good or for bad).


Img by author


In the case of burnout and the CBT Loop, it’s easy to see that once our stories start to change toward the negative, the more negative we feel, the more negative our behavior becomes and the greater impact it has on self. This often changes the way we view ourselves altogether. This forms and reinforces our limiting views.


The Heart Loop

There is an additional loop we could make, however, to keep ourselves more authentically aligned and to help keep those stories positive. This would help us navigate our world more positively and, in the case of already feeling burnt out, realign back to who we are.


  1. Situation: An event happens in the outside world. Which by essence is “neutral”.

  2. Thoughts/Stories: We make sense of the situation by filtering it through our thoughts (the negative, neutral, or positive stories we hold about ourselves and the world.)

  3. Emotions: The interpretation we arrive at from that filtering determines our emotions.

  4. Heart: We take the time to connect with our hearts and check in with ourselves to see how the emotions, stories, and situations sit with us authentically.

  5. Values: We then filter what we’re feeling through our value system. Does this feel right to me or wrong to me?

  6. Behavior/Thoughts/Stories: Next, we respond with intention according to our alignment with ourselves and rewrite our stories.

  7. Self: Your behavior then evolves your identity (for good).


Img by author


Taking action to get unstuck

Stuckness is our way of avoiding the things that we fear. We are never truly stuck in any given situation. We are either fearful of the change we know we should make or unsure of which direction to take.


Either way, checking in with yourself through the Heart Loop can clarify your next steps.


Combine the Heart Loop with your burnout sources and symptoms


  1. Run through each of your burnout sources and check in with yourself. Put your hand on your heart, sit still and listen. When you think of that source, what comes up? Dig a little deeper and consider the physical and emotional symptoms you feel as a result of this source.

  2. What is coming up for you?

  3. What negative stories do you hold about yourself or your job about these?

  4. What is one story you can rewrite today?

  5. How could rewriting that story change your perspective, emotions, and behavior?

  6. How would changing your behavior impact your sense of self?

  7. Change one behavior.


Reconnecting to yourself after burnout takes time. This is especially true if you can’t quit your job and move on.


Ditching burnout is more about small daily acts of rebellion against it. You must rethink how you engage with and respond to everything in your life.


Instead of instantly reacting to the world’s demands, pause. Check in with yourself. Move forward only when you know what feels right for you.


It is then and only then that burnout loses its grip on you. You’ll be surprised at how quickly change happens when you use this approach.

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