Burnout 101 🧠
Learn how to identify & deal with burnout. (7min Read)
What does burnout do to our brain?
Who gets burnout?
The 3 signs of burnout
How to beat burnout
Webster defines burnout as,
“Exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”
Simple enough, but burnout is more sinister than this suggests. It doesn’t just happen all of the sudden, even though it can feel that way.
Burnout happens over time and can be prevented and treated by understanding how it works.
Today we will be covering how burnout affects the brain, its 3 signs, and what to do about them!
Burnout & the Brain
I’ll be as clear as possible here. The bottom line is that burnout damages your brain.
If you look at this brain scan, you can see less white matter inside of a burnout brain…
This is bad... Losing white matter can cause things like:
The speed of information processing to decrease
Diminished attentional capacity
Scariest of all, it speeds up the aging process...
Luckily, our brains are more resilient than we give them credit for. This damage can be healed, and reversed!
We will talk about some of the best ways to do this in a moment.
Who Get’s Burnout?
Everyone can get burnout, but there are some patterns in the types of people who suffer from this more often.
Types of People & Personality Traits that can Contribute to Burnout:
Perfectionists, nothing is ever good enough.
Pessimist’s who have a negative view of themselves and the world.
People who need to be in control and are reluctant to delegate to others.
People with Type A personalities or high-achievers
People pleasers who struggle to set boundaries or to say no
There are also career types that lead to burnout more often than others.
Top Ranking Career Field that Experience Burnout:
Emergency Response (Police, Firefighters, EMTs)
Sales & Business
These lists aren’t all-inclusive, but they capture a large portion of those who are at a higher risk.
If you have any of these traits, and happen to be in one of these fields becoming aware of this kind of information can help you get ahead of burnout!
The Binge-Burnout Cycle
Now that we understand what it is, and who’s most likely to experience it, let’s figure out how to identify it.
First of all, burnout is more of a cycle than one specific thing!
Let’s take a look:
Look familiar? It has two main parts, the Anxious Binge to keep busy, and the Burnout Phase where you crash.
In the Binge, you juggle all of the balls effectively, which can feel like hyperfocus, but eventually, you lose interest in the project, you don't want to work anymore, and you question if you're even smart enough to be doing the job.
Sometimes, this burnout phase can even lead to varying levels of depression…
This is an easy loop to get caught up in, especially in today’s world.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to know the cycle ✅ and to learn the 3 Signs of Burnout!
The 3 Signs of Burnout
Here’s an easy graphic to understand how these signs progress.
Let’s break them down!
This isn’t the “I worked out hard today so I’m tired” type of exhaustion. This is the type that you're still tired no matter how much sleep you get or how many breaks you take.
Your energy seems to be permanently low, almost like every day is a groggy journey.
It can be hard to put in any effort at all, and you may want to just sleep.
This is the part of burnout that can start to feel like depression!
After a long enough time, you begin to become more of a cynic. You have a negative filter on life, everything you take in is framed negatively.
Even if you’re typically a positive person, the overwhelm, stress & anxiety have a way of beating you down over a long enough period.
This creates this negative filter because it’s less painful for our brains to expect the negative than to hope for something better, and have nothing change.
As we continue down the spectrum your feelings become blunted, and you start to feel helpless.
Finally, Purposelessness sets in… You don't see a point in what you're doing anymore. Your job, career, relationship, etc has lost it’s “why”.
This is often the lowest part of the cycle.
It’s at this point that varying levels of depression are often felt the most, and your tired, cynical brain starts to give up and shut down.
You’ve lost motivation and the emotional toll of burnout hits its hardest.
As we’ve done today, the first step to beating burnout is awareness!
Bringing your attention to these 3 feelings in your own life can be a great measuring stick.
Another great resource is the Maslach Burnout Inventory.
This is a link to the PDF version of the quiz so that you can print it out, and take it anytime you need it!
This was created by Dr. Christina Maslach, who is one of the leading researchers in the world on the topic of Burnout!
The quiz goes even further in-depth on some of the early warning signs of burnout and is a quick and easy way to test where you are at!
You won’t be surprised to find out that we’ve written about lots of ways to beat burnout already!
Here are some of the best Heroes Digest blogs for beating burnout:
In this blog, we cover the 6 lifestyle areas to focus on if you’d like to improve your Mental & Emotional well-being.
It should be no surprise to you, that improvements in these 6 areas are key if you’d like to prevent burnout.
The Logical Levels Problem Solving Tool
We recently published this blog and inside of it you’ll find a framework for solving any problem, burnout included!
A large contributing factor to feeling burnout is the feeling of overwhelm.
In the Beating Overwhelm blog, we discuss how to break down overwhelm into manageable pieces, and teach you a prioritization technique so that you can move into action more effectively!
Next up are some books I believe will help you along your journey as well.
The Burnout Challenge: Managing People’s Relationships with Their Jobs
Finally, if you’re struggling, ask for help! Burnout is one of the main problems we solve for our clients.
If you’d like to chat, feel free to book some time with us using the button below!
Beating burnout is not about magically erasing it from your life, it will take consistent effort to pull yourself out of this cycle.
Society isn’t going to help you, you’ve gotta help yourself!
I hope this blog has given you some tools to do exactly that.
Good luck, and until next time, live heroically!