How to Recognise When Burnout is Eeking its way Into Your Life

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April 7, 2016

I believe, when broken down to its simplest form, burnout results when we turn away from ourselves consistently, away from our deepest needs and desires and how we truly want to be expressing ourselves in this world.

Growing up, I feel like the information coming to me dictated that satisfaction, fulfillment, and acceptance were to be achieved from looking outside of ourselves. I think I launched an internal rebellion against this notion at an early age.

It makes sense though if you think that as a baby, we are completely reliant on our mothers and fathers. As a child, we look for our parents’ approval as we learn right from wrong. As we grow into adolescence, we learn from the media and potentially society and those close to us, that success and fulfillment can be reached by buying a beautiful home, driving a flashy car, finding a beautiful and successful partner, and collecting clothes and other possessions.

It is up to each of us as individuals to work out what and how much of the external we ACTUALLY need to live a good life and to also pay heed to cultivate a rich internal world that will support us when the external gets shaken as it inevitably does in the day to day of life.

The key, therefore, is in finding the balance between doing what we need to do in the external world and making sure we take the utmost care of ourselves internally in order to enable us to do what we need to do in the external world, it’s a virtuous cycle.

So how can we tell if we’re on the path to burnout?

Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North have divided the burnout process into 12 phases, in a Scientific American Mind article (, these stages are outlined as:

1. The Compulsion to Prove Oneself;
2. Working Harder; an inability to switch off.
3. Neglecting Their Needs; erratic sleeping, eating disrupted, lack of social interaction.
4. Displacement of Conflicts; problems are dismissed, we may feel threatened, panicky and jittery.
5. Revision of Values; values are skewed, friends and family dismissed, hobbies seen as irrelevant,
6. Denial of Emerging Problems; intolerance, cynicism, aggression; problems are viewed as caused by time pressure and work, not because of life changes.
7. Withdrawal; social life small or non-existent, need to feel relief from stress, alcohol/drugs.
8. Odd Behavioural Changes; changes in behaviour obvious, friends and family concerned.
9. Depersonalization; seeing neither self nor others as valuable, and no longer perceive own needs.
10 Inner Emptiness; feeling empty inside and to overcome this, look for activity such as overeating, sex, alcohol, or drugs; activities are often exaggerated.
11. Depression; feeling lost and unsure, exhausted, future feels bleak and dark.
12. Burnout Syndrome; can include total mental and physical collapse; time for full medical attention.

I can relate to at least 9 out of the 12 above from my personal experience of burnout (and resurrection – if you didn’t catch that yet, you can do so here: There was a surefire theme in the feedback from the personal story I shared when I asked you: what three things needed to come into place when you experienced burnout to get you to the other side?

The consensus was:
1. Space,
2. Time and rest,
3. And a support network – that you can call on for emotional support (people who you can safely share with what’s going on for you) and also instrumental support (asking for help and support with the day to day tasks of your life)

All simple but crucial elements we can look to cultivate more of in our lives.

This world needs people who are living their best lives and contributing to the planet in a positive and meaningful way.

Thank you so much for reading. If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends.

Here’s my challenge for you – review the list of 12 stages above and let me know in the comments below how many you can relate to (or have related to in the past).


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