4 important lessons we’ve learned about burnout


We write about burnout quite a bit here because we know it’s a challenge many changemakers face. Over time, certain patterns and lessons emerge about what burnout looks like and how we can deal with it. Here are a few things that have stood out:

Burnout isn’t just about being overwhelmed

You can also burnout from not being challenged or not being able to cope with stress, even if you don’t have a lot of demands placed on you. Once you identify the kind of burnout you are facing, it’s much easier to craft solutions.

A powerful way to prevent burnout is to set aside time for yourself

Of course, this is easier said than done. However, there are several ways to carve out time for self-care. Pick up a hobby outside of work, surround yourself with supportive people, and learn how to say “no” in a way that won’t hurt your career.

The sector has to address burnout

While focus a lot on what we can do as individuals, organizations have a role in this, too. How do we start thinking in terms of “communities of care“? And how do we encourage each other to think about our work and impact outside of our 9-5s?

Job seekers can suffer from burnout, too

We often think of burnout as something that happens while we work. However, it can also happen while job hunting, as we get bogged down by applications yet feel as if we’re not getting any closer to great opportunity.

What tips or resources do you have when it comes to dealing with burnout? Share them below.


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Former Editor and Creator of Idealist Careers, a publication of Idealist.org. Follow me on Twitter @ajlovesya.
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    • cat
    • June 25, 2014

    Sometimes words can be misleading. “Burn Out” sounds so final. I like to think of my body as a highly skilled interpreter of what I need, to enjoy the art of living. So when something has got me frozen in the headlights I use a “do list” Marking the things I like doing, and feel …Interested in, succeeding at, and enthusiastic about. Include things like enough sleep, good lunch and maybe gazing out the window, just those general life supporting events that make it all worth while for you. Lunch? big one, am I bolting down some junk food ruminating over a problem project, while running back to work ? One can pump gas into a car that way but precision equipment, like the body will not respond well to this abuse. Number the events according to priority…1 2 3 as “my responsibilities” (what I feel I have to do). Now, distill by personal preference. A…like driving the forklift, B…am neutral when it comes to safety meetings…F can’t stand doing paperwork. Bingo! “burn out potential here” Question, why not? Now it gets deeper…Too much of it….overwhelmed…I do all of it….resentment….I’m not good at it and always get it wrong…frustration, limitation, anger, even fear of rep-remand which attacks your sense of yourself and your security. Once I have the list in front of me I can further distill where the brain fatigue is coming from…Ask, am I board with routine or do I like a regular schedule? So maybe next week I take a full lunch, bring or eat a sit down meal, make an effort to not think about work and taste my food for the enjoyment…Then I plan a time to discuss with my supervisor the difficulty with paperwork and ask for training to do it better and more effectively or trading off more forklift work if possible. If your supervisor is “business smart” they will appreciate your position and understand the potential benefits gained by your clarity. Often just such an approach will make things better for you, others and the company. “BO” avoided. Something else…if the meeting does not go well for you and your supervisor is still living in a “master slave” reality. This would be a good time to re-evaluate your job/career. Forty hours a week in a poor environment is bound to cause BO…do it long enough and your body will sicken. Better to walk away then be carried out by a loving body that has made it clear too much is too much.

      • Brenda
      • June 27, 2014

      I don’t have burn-out, at least not yet, but I do get what I call brown-outs. Those moments when I want to close my eyes and wish that stack of work on my desk away. Of course, that’s not going to happen, but I remind myself that I am the best at what I do, and that I will get through it. And I always do. Keeping a positive attitude works quite well.

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