Prevent Burnout: Your Guide to Eliminating Stress At Work + Life


Feeling burnout is often likened to slamming into a brick wall. You can be working tirelessly trying to accomplish something and then, bam! You're burnt out and you have no desire to get out of bed. Why does this happen? How can you tell if you're about to get burnt out? What can do to prevent burnout? We've put together a mega guide on all things burnout so you can finally get your questions answered. [bctt tweet="Burnout is a real killer for career success. Here's your guide to eliminating it from work and life. #career" username="les_naly"]

Why is Prevention Important?

You can't create what you're meant to create in the world if you keep pushing through all the stress and burnout. At some point, your body is going to stop functioning and then you'll be left with nothing. Preventing and treating burnout is essential for your mental, physical and spiritual health. Yes, it takes time, but it's an investment you simply have to make.

Think about taking your car to the shop. If you don't get your car serviced, at some point it will stop working. There is no question about it. Your body is the same way. We aren't meant to run constantly. Sometimes we need to get ourselves to the shop and get the service we need.

Once you learn the dangers of burnout, you'll really start to take burnout seriously. Our society is so hustle-centric, we don't take the need for self-care seriously until we hit rock bottom. Don't let yourself get that far. Take this education to heart. This is your health we're talking about.

What Really Causes Burnout

"I think that burnout happens because of resentment. That notion that, 'Wow, I worked 100 hours last week, and I couldn't even have this thing that I really wanted."

-Marissa Mayer

Unbalance of Needs and Demands

Burnout is caused by an unbalance of a person's unconscious needs and the demands of the workplace, a study on wellbeing by Frontier revealed. For example, if you're a really social person and your job has you communicating via email all day, you're going to feel off. Or if you love the limelight and the leadership that comes with it but you have no opportunities to lead anyone, you're going to feel a building sense of dissatisfaction.

"Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion from work, which results in a lack of motivation, low efficiency, and a helpless feeling."

Recent research has seen more and more of the importance of unconscious needs or 'implicit motives' in a person's wellbeing. In simple terms, when you're striving to reach a goal that's important to you, like making personal connections or becoming the leader of a team, and you're working really hard to meet that goal but it's very challenging in your current position, burnout starts to form.

No Awareness

What's scary about burnout is that if you're not really looking for it, you might not see yourself getting burnt out until your body quits on its own. A study by the British Psychological Society revealed that even mental health care workers don't recognize their own burnout. It seems that because burnout makes it more difficult to function in a work capacity, it also reduces your ability to analyze what's going on in your own body.

Don't give up yet. Burnout is something we're just starting to get a good education on (and you're in the right place for that). As we as individuals and a society begin to realize just what impact burnout has on our health and success, it will be easier and easier to spot the signs.


The Warning Signs of Burnout

Here's where self-awareness comes in. As you start to recognize the signs of your body turning to burnout, you'll be able to more quickly course correct. While the signs for each of us may differ slightly, these warnings will get you on the right track.

Burnout manifests itself as chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, feelings of ineffectiveness and worthlessness, according to Psychology Today. What does that look like in plain terms? Well, if you have insomnia, forgetfulness, more sickness, loss of enjoyment, and lack of productivity, it may be time to take a step back.

Besides these symptoms, your environment or personality can be a warning sign.

Long Commute

A long commute can be a stress factor that leads to burnout if you aren't careful. The Université de Montréal discovered that long commutes often make people feel less effective at work. How this affects someone individually depends on the conditions of their commute, their workplace, and the way they react. This research shows why flexible workplaces are so important.


The Society for Personality and Social Psychology has linked perfectionism to burnout at work, school, and sports. While studies have shown that perfectionism isn't all bad (It actually helps you feel more accomplished), there's also a darker side. When perfectionists turn to perfectionist concerns and overwhelm themselves with worry, burnout can occur. Knowing this can help perfectionists recognize when they're going too far into burnout.

Stress at Home

Burnout isn't all about work, it also comes from inside the home. New research shows that your partner is just as important as your boss. With less work/family conflicts, you're less likely to reach burnout. That is how important it is to balance your love life and career!

The Dangers of Too Much Stress

We all know that burnout doesn't feel good, but why is it really bad? You're about to find out and it's quite a doozy.

Poor Heart Health

At Tel Aviv University, researchers have found that burnout is a major cause of coronary heart disease. Working longer hours with no vacation and a whole lot of stress can lead to the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries which causes angina or heart attacks. Yuck! Present habits that lead to burnout can harm your health in the long run. You've got to go easier on your heart.


When you're working at full steam and you hit burnout, depression can come out as a result. When you feel like you have no energy, having the desire to do anything is a challenge. Psychologists from the City College of New York found a strong connection between burnout and depression in a study of more than 5,500 school teachers. When you're depressed with little motivation for your work, impostor syndrome is quick to follow.

It's Contagious

Would you believe burnout is contagious? That's exactly what researchers from Michigan State University discovered. If you're working in a culture of burnout, taking care of your self can be really difficult. Burnout becomes the social norm and drives out all intention of self-care. When you're surrounded by people who are burnout out and feeling down, or if you're that way around others, burnout can spread.

This is just the beginning. The health effects of burnout include anxiety, immune disorders, and insomnia. Not to mentions problems with absenteeism, employee turnover, reduced productivity, and medical, legal, and insurance expenses due to burnout and general work-related stress, according to Frontiers.

Real Stories of Burning Out

“I am my own experiment. I am my own work of art.”

- Madonna

Wonder if you're the only one experiencing burnout? I don't think so. Marie Claire shared stories upon stories of celebs who burnt out.

Remember when Rihanna was hospitalized after her album, Talk That Talk? After staying up until 5 am to finish the album, she got just a few hours of sleep before her phone started going off and that led up to a major breaking point.

Beyonce isn't an exception. She canceled a concert in Belgium due to exhaustion. She wrote her fans a heartfelt letter explaining why she postponed for the first time ever. Even Queen B can control when burn out occurs.

Celebrities aren't the only ones burning out, of course. Fast Company shared the stories of several women entrepreneurs who faced the challenge of burnout.  Tina Martini, Partner at DL Piper, revealed that wearing too many hats was wearing her down. To take a step back, she made sure to power down from technology and even hired an executive coach to get an outside perspective.

Jane Wurwand, Founder of Dermalogica and FITE, was getting overwhelmed with all the traveling she had to do for her global company. She set out to start following the 3 R's (Reset, Rest, Recharge) to manage the craziness of constant travel.

No matter where you are in your life's journey, burn out can occur. That's why it's so important to know how to avoid and manage it on a day-to-day basis.


How to Avoid Burnout

“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.”

-Deborah Day

Early studies have shown that women are at greater risk for burnout than men, so it's time to get your act together.


The number one solution for burnout caused by fatigue is sleep. You can only go on so long before this will catch up to you. It's simply a necessity for survival. Working less won't do you any good unless you're using that time to rest. You could even treat it as a staycation!

Take Short Breaks

When you feel your energy begin to drain to a low level, pause what you're doing and take a break to restore that energy. Practice doing different things during your breaks like walks, reading, and meditation to discover what gives you the most energy. This is like recharging your batteries on-the-go!

Be Mindful

The University of Wisconsin-Madison found that mindfulness training could reduce stress and burnout. Interestingly, mindfulness stems from ancient meditative practices. If it worked for them thousands of years ago, why not you? Modern mindfulness is designed to heighten your attention to the present moment and bring your awareness of external stimuli to the forefront. Sounds fancy, right? There are many simple ways to bring mindfulness to your day. You could start a simple practice of taking three deep breaths and describing what you feel from your 5 senses. If you're intrigued, why not pick up a book on mindfulness and incorporate it into your daily routine?

Increase Self-Efficacy

Psychology Today teaches that the more you believe in your ability to accomplish a task, the less burnt out and stressed you'll feel. You get to decide how much you believe in yourself, so why not make it easier and decide that you can do it? Practice affirmations and positive thoughts to keep yourself going.

Your Life Sans Burnout

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”

- Maya Angelou

As you take steps to prevent burnout, you'll show the women around you that it's a positive thing to do. One day at a time you'll fight against the hustle culture to show that there's more to your wellbeing. If you see a friend of colleague falling prey to burnout, stop and ask her how she's doing. Give her some friendly advice or point her toward an article like this one. In today's age, we have to work together to fight burnout, so we can keep doing what we need to be doing in the world. And we can only do that if we are healthy and whole ourselves. 

When have you experienced burnout? Share your story with women everywhere in the comments below.