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Burnout in One's Life and Overcome It

Burn out – the art of refusing do something for oneself that we would do for others at the drop of a hat.  Okay that is my version, here is the Webster’s definition: exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.


Empirical studies and investigations into what professions have the highest rates of burnout, depression, suicide and stress levels, show that these jobs all have one central element to their jobs: public contact/service.


These are ten of the most stressful professions in the United States overall:

  1. Enlisted Military Personnel – The men and women of the United States Armed Forces are tasked with protecting the entirety of the nation, both domestically and abroad, and often are placed in harm's way.
  2. Healthcare Workers – This includes doctors, nurses, therapists, and other professions that attract people who might end up giving a lot without saving a little for themselves. Health-care workers can have long, irregular hours and days in which other people’s lives are literally in their hands.  In other words, the stress can be off the charts.
  3. Social Service Workers: social workers, therapists psychologosts, pscys - It’s probably not a huge surprise to find social service workers near the top of this list. Dealing with abused children or families on the brink of every imaginable crisis—combined with bureaucratic red tape—can make for a demanding, stressful job that’s often 24-7.
  4. Law Enforcement  - The motto of police officers’ work is, “To protect and serve.” It’s a mantra that clearly defines the stress related to the job, as police officers are asked to protect citizens while at the same time serving their communities’ best interests.
  5. Firefighter - Firefighters face dangerous situations in ever-changing conditions, and their work is not limited to battling blazes. Firefighters also assist with medical emergencies and natural disasters.
  6. Artists, entertainers, writers - These jobs can bring irregular paychecks, uncertain hours, and isolation. In men, it’s the job category most likely to be associated with an episode of major depression (nearly 7% in full-time workers).
  7. Retail and Fast Food - Burnout is not limited to occupations that require a significant amount of training and preparation prior to entering the field. Market Watch, a publication of the Wall Street Journal, indicates that the low pay and monotonous tasks associated with working in the fast food industry leads to extremely high turnover among employees and that turnover for non-managerial retail jobs runs about 60 percent among full time workers and 110 percent (meaning that, on average, ten percent of positions have to be filled twice in a single year) among part-timers.
  8. Legal – According to an article in Law Practice Magazine, a publication of the American Bar Association, burnout among attorneys tends to be higher than in many other professions. Burnout among attorneys may result from the nature of working in a field that focuses on problems as well as extreme competitiveness for clients and among associates.
  9. Teaching - According to THE Journal, teaching "has the highest burnout rate of any public service job," attributed at least in part to problems with working conditions and access to technology. THE Journal cites studies that indicate that the occurrence of burnout may be worse among the youngest teachers, with teachers under the age of 30 choosing to leave the profession at a rate 51 percent higher than those who are older.
  10. School Principal : The National Association of Elementary School Principals indicates that principal burnout is on the rise. As many as 75 percent of elementary school principals experience serious symptoms of stress associated with the ongoing and constant pressures of their jobs.

  • Professions I have been employed in my lifetime.


How to Overcome Burnout and Stay Motivated

1. Figure out which kind of burnout you have.

The Association for Psychological Science found that burnout comes in three different types, and each one needs a different solution:

1. Overload: The frenetic employee who works toward success until exhaustion, is most closely related to emotional venting. These individuals might try to cope with their stress by complaining about the organizational hierarchy at work, feeling as though it imposes limits on their goals and ambitions. That coping strategy, unsurprisingly, seems to lead to a stress overload and a tendency to throw in the towel.

2. Lack of Development: Most closely associated with an avoidance coping strategy. These under-challenged workers tend to manage stress by distancing themselves from work, a strategy that leads to depersonalization and cynicism — a harbinger for burning out and packing up shop.

3. Neglect: Seems to stem from a coping strategy based on giving up in the face of stress. Even though these individuals want to achieve a certain goal, they lack the motivation to plow through barriers to get to it.

2. STOP saying “Yes” all the time and Schedule Downtime– Learn to stay no and set perimeters for your home and work life.  Make downtime a daily ritual.

To help relieve pressure, schedule daily blocks of downtime to refuel your brain and well-being. It can be anything from meditation to a nap, a walk, or simply turning off the wifi for a while:

When my children were small, they knew that the first 30 minutes after I arrived home from work, was “Mommy’s Time Out”.  I would shower (since I worked in the medical field), grab a cup of coffee, headphones, book and close the door to my bedroom, with a sign on it that said: Momma Bear Hibernating – Enter at Your Own Risk”.  This gave me the time to relax and transition between my work environment and my home life. 

3.   Stop being a perfectionist; start satisficing.

Trying to maximize every task and squeeze every drop of productivity out of your creative work is a recipe for exhaustion and procrastination. Set yourself boundaries for acceptable work and stick to them:

Consistently sacrificing your health, your well being, your relationships, and your sanity for the sake of living up to impossible standards will lead to some dangerous behaviors and, ironically, a great deal of procrastination. Instead of saying, “I’ll stay up until this is done,” say, “I’ll work until X time and then I’m stopping. I may end up needing to ask for an extension or complete less than perfect work. But that’s OK. I’m worth it.” Making sleep, exercise, and downtime a regular part of your life plays an essential role in a lasting, productive creative career.

4.  Take long weekends -
Feeling mentally and physically exhausted may also be a sign that “you need to take some time off,”. The break need not be a two-week vacation; rather, when it comes to stress-reduction, “you get a much greater benefit from regularly taking three- and four-day weekends. While you’re away, though, don’t call the office or check your email. You need to let go.  Each of us is a little less vital than we’d like to believe.

5.   Remember Your Inner Child

We do not have be grown responsible adults all the time.  Remember simple things that you enjoyed as a child and act silly.  I loved to play in the rain as a child so when it is raining, I put my leash on Big C (he loves water) and we head outside to splash in puddles and play in the raindrops and make mud pies.  I dress up at Halloween and hand out candy to the children and scare one or two adults at the same time....I loved the zoo so I head down to our local zoo and visit the animals.  All stress reducers.


Principles to Remember


  • Set boundaries around your use of digital devices during off-hours
  • Incorporate regular breaks into your workday
  • Focus on why the work matters to you if professional obligations preclude a vacation


  • Check your email when you’re taking a vacation or long weekend
  • Spend all your downtime vegging; engage in activities that challenge and interest you
  • Mistake constant fatigue and apathy for a temporary case of burnout; if you feel ineffective on a daily basis, it might be time to look for a new job



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