I Think I have Burnout!! Now What??

Written by Raquel Nixon, Contributing Writer


In this day and age, we see productivity as the bare minimum. Whether it is work or school or another sort of extracurricular commitment, it always seems as though we are expected to put everything first at the same time. And if we do not give 110% then we are not worthy of rewards or praise.

But here’s the thing: That’s not the truth! Giving 100% is not going to look the same every single day. “Your best” today isn’t necessarily going to be equal to “your best” tomorrow.

It is this constant limbo of expectation and productivity against our own practical abilities and desires that often leads to less than desirable results and eventually, burnout. 

Herbert J. Freudenberger describes burnout as “A state of fatigue or frustration brought about by devotion to a cause, way of life, or relationship that failed to produce the expected reward.”

With this definition in mind, you can burn out from nearly anything. Work, school, a way of life, relationships, anything that takes effort. And burn out doesn’t just affect a person’s mind set, there are physical, emotions, and mental consequences (mindtools.com, 2020).

In the long run, the consequences of burnout can even end up hurting your physical well-being just as much as your mental well-being.

What to do? First of all, it is important to know the three “R’s” of coping with burnout; “recognize, reverse, and resilience” (helpguide.org).

Recognizing Burnout

It is important to recognize the difference between burnout and stress. Stress is typically accompanied by over-engagement and hyperactivity while burnout is characterized by disengagement and lack of motivation or meaning (helpguide.org, 2020).

An important thing to note about burnout is that it occurs in a situation in which someone was originally very hopeful. Dashed expectations, lack of clarity, lack of control, and a dismissal outlook on work, are the main things that contribute to someone eventually burning out. 

Reversing Burnout

When it comes to recovering from burnout, it takes a conscious effort. In a sense, what it takes to recover from overworking is essentially. . .more work. But not the same work that put you in the situation. This is soul work. 

Start with recognizing how you feel. Then begin to unpack what caused you to feel that way. You may need extra support. It is beneficial to tell those closest to you (whom you trust with your feelings) how you’re feeling and ask for help where you need it.

Focus on yourself a lot. Take good care of yourself. Put some extra effort into your diet. Schedule out some time for exercise. Really focus on improving your mental and physical state.  Speak with a therapist for support. 

Reevaluate your priorities. Remember what initially excited you in the first place. Focus on what you can improve. Take some time off if you are able, or at least separate a time dedicated to taking a break from it. Connect with a group or a cause that is meaningful to you (helpguide.org, 2020).

Reinvent your environment. Make some new connections.  Engage with some new people. Organize things in a different way. Decorate your space with things that inspire you.

Find clarity. Organize your roles and expectations so that they are clear and plain. This way you know what you can and cannot control. Offer new insights and ideas. Find genuine value in what you can do.


Resilience is the ability to recover.  Burnout can have significant consequences that can impact your health and well-being and the length of time it takes to recover can vary.  Tune into your own resilience, by listening to yourself, your body, and your needs. 

Progress won’t come over night. It takes a constant and conscious effort to reverse the effects of burnout. But it certainly can be done. The sooner you start, the sooner you can be back to the best version of yourself. If you feel yourself starting to lose interest, motivation, or energy in something you once were passionate about, remember: Recognize, Reverse, Resilience.


Rossi, A. M., Perrewe, P. L., & Sauter, S. L. (2006). Stress and quality of working life: Current perspectives in occupational health. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Pub.

N., M., Gh.a., A., & L., G. (2013, January 01). THE RELATIONSHIP OF SELF-CONCEPT AND ACADEMIC BURNOUT WITH ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF GIRL STUDENTS. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from https://www.sid.ir/en/journal/ViewPaper.aspx?id=318651

The Mind Tools Content Team By the Mind Tools Content Team, Team, T., Wrote, M., Wrote, G., & Wrote, Y. (n.d.). Avoiding Burnout: Maintaining a Healthy, Successful Career. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/avoiding-burnout.htm

Melinda. (n.d.). Burnout Prevention and Treatment. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm

Council, Y. (2020, June 19). 13 Ways the Busiest People Ever Avoid Burnout. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from https://www.themuse.com/advice/13-ways-the-busiest-people-ever-avoid-burnout


Published by Counseling With Leslie

Leslie Stevens, M.Ed., LCMHC is a North Carolina and Virginia board-certified licensed professional counselor. She co-owns a successful practice in Carrboro, North Carolina. Leslie specializes in helping adults navigate stress, depression, anxiety, and perfectionism. Additionally, she is a life strategist, spiritual coach, and writer.

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