Home LifestyleHealth Arriving at Burnout? Here’s How to Cope — From a Local Therapist

Arriving at Burnout? Here’s How to Cope — From a Local Therapist

by Heather Rafanello
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The term “burnout” has been thrown around quite a bit, especially over these past few years. Everyone has heard about it, and possibly even experienced it to some degree. Despite its rise in occurrence, burnout can still be difficult to identify, particularly in the midst of an overwhelming season. The transition from year-end into a new calendar year can be a particularly difficult time for many, not only in the workplace but in their personal lives, too. Managing a holiday calendar, balancing work and home life, all while staying physically and mentally healthy. Phew, that’s a lot. Keep reading for how to identify burnout and what to do about it.


What is Burnout?

Burnout is different from typical stress. Stress has a purpose, it’s a motivator. Stress tells us to get going, or run fast. Stress often manifests itself as over-engagement, increased reactivity, a sense of urgency, and leads primarily to physical damage.

Burnout, on the other hand, is the result of chronic stress, or being stressed for too long.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) describes burnout as “a syndrome … resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” WHO also describes symptoms of burnout to include “energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, feelings of cynicism related to one’s job; and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.”

Some common symptoms of burnout include:

  • Decreased or loss of productivity
  • Increased stress + anxiety
  • Increased isolation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low or depressed mood
  • Decreased creativity
  • Decreased motivation + energy
  • Low mood, feeling detached or defeated
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Physical illness

Let’s take a moment though to consider the natural function of this burnout. This is the body’s extreme effort to show a person that it needs a break. Your body is basically throwing a temper tantrum to wake you up to the reality that what you’re doing is too much. People are not machines, some of the most basic human needs are for food, water, shelter, safety, and sleep. We quite literally need to slow down, recalibrate, ask for help, and take breaks so that we can show up as our best selves.

As with most things in life, burnout impacts everyone in different ways. The good news is that with some self-awareness and reflection, individuals can learn to monitor their levels of burnout and tailor their wellness plan accordingly.

Many professionals identify using the Three R’s to combat burnout but there’s some controversy over what those R’s stand for so let’s list them all. Take what you need from this list and tailor it to make it work for you.


No matter what other two you choose, these are a must. Nothing will change if there is no awareness, or understanding of the problem. Recognize the symptoms that you’re experiencing. Reflect on how this feels. How does this burnout manifest for you? The answers will allow for resolution.


This step requires an understanding of the problem, and action items. Create a plan to manage stress, delegate, ask for help, and commit to consistency.


Rewrite your life goals, and reevaluate your priorities. As Dr. Melinda C. Joyce said “Burnout can be an opportunity to rediscover what is most important to you and to move toward that goal. Rather than being negative, burnout can be the opportunity to redo your life and help establish proper work-life balance.”


This is one’s ability to bounce back, their toughness. Focus on your strengths, consider what has worked for you in the past. These are all clues for what you might need now.

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This one seems pretty straightforward, but keep in mind it might not be a spa day or a facial, rather relaxing might be letting calls go to voicemail, putting your phone on do-not-disturb, or having a family game night.

Arriving at burnout is never fun, but you don’t have to let it be a final destination either. Learn from the journey that led you here. Learn the warning signs, and use this as an opportunity to really make a change for yourself moving forward.

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