Burnout 101

Understanding burnout is the first step to doing something about it

The things you need to know, made simple and clear.

The signs and symptoms of burnout

Despite affecting a startling number of people of all ages, burnout is not well defined and notoriously difficult to identify. Burnout is hard to define because it is ultimately a subjective condition — it doesn’t show up on a blood panel or through an MRI. Complicating things even further, the symptoms of burnout have significant overlap with other conditions, particularly clinical depression.

Often times burnout is described as a depressive episode triggered by prolonged external stressors, not through a major traumatic event or abnormalities in brain chemistry. At Flourish, we’ve developed the Flourish Model of Burnout based on hundred of hours and counting of in-depth research. The diagnostic component of the model consists of a number of statements — if you think you might be burned out ask yourself if any of these resonate with you:

  • You no longer feel motivated and energized by your work in the same way you once did – and are uncertain if you ever will
  • You’ve tried different things to get unstuck (maybe a vacation, job change, exercise), it provides some temporary relief, but you end up back in the same place after a month or two
  • You dread going into work
  • You feel depleted or emotionally drained throughout the week.
  • You feel depleted or emotionally drained throughout the week
  • The boundaries between your work and the rest of your life have blurred
  • Social interactions feel like a chore and it’s taking a toll on important relationships in your life

What is burnout and what does it mean to have it

At its core, burnout is a state of emotional exhaustion that leaves you feeling drained and overwhelmed by daily life. It can be accompanied by physical and/or mental exhaustion. We’ve uncovered the three most common forms of it. If you can understand which category you’re in, it’s easier to understand the source of your burnout and address it.

Life felt like a black hole, and I felt like a blob of nothingness. It was a slog… I dreaded going to work so much that I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. The worst part? Nobody who was close to me knew what I was going through. I was ashamed of who I was. I felt so alone.

Sarah, 32

The toxic work environment

We’ve found that about 10% of burnout cases are caused by a toxic work environment. It could be due to a bullying boss, or an extraordinarily demanding work culture such as those often found in finance consulting, or law.

The short burst

About 30% of burnout cases we’ve studied fall into this category. It’s when people go into an intense experience for a short period of time, such as starting a new business.

The achiever

Naveed fell into this burnout category, as do about 60% of burnout sufferers. This happens to hard workers and high-achievers who, despite outward success, aren’t happy. It’s the most common form, but it can be the hardest to address.

What you can do to alleviate burnout

When you’re feeling burned out, it’s hard to know what you can do to feel better. We’ve developed and tested a process rooted in psychology that will help you feel re-energized, motivated, and back in control. It consists of 5 steps:

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