or BURNT out?

Your enthusiasm has evaporated. Your passion is pffffft! How can you reconnect with your career and yourself? 

Ah, burnout. Nature’s way of telling you “something’s gotta give.” 

In medicine, effective treatment of an ailment must be preceded by an accurate diagnosis. Not all burnout is the same, any more than all headaches or backaches are. The source of the trouble holds the key to its remedy, and it’s important to know what’s causing your disorder. 

Burnout can stem from one of three general areas, or a combination of the three in varying degrees. 

The mind, body and spirit all need to be in balance for peak performance. And while balance means different things to each of us at various times, the fact is that balance is fluid: it isn’t something that is achieved once, and kept.  

Mind Every day we’re expected to: generate ideas, solve problems, and communicate in a multitude of media. Add  the array of day-to-day demands we face and it’s a wonder we’re able to get anything done. Burnout in the mind area generally comes from “too much,” for example:  

  • Working too many hours 
  • Too many projects and details to track 
  • Competing priorities
  • Self-imposed, unrealistic pressures
  • Too much free time, resulting in boredom 

Body As we age, body balance requires more effort to maintain. People in their 20s, for example, have an uncanny ability to “work hard and play hard” with no visible ill effects, while a middle-aged person with a hangover may suffer for two days. Enthusiasm for life is harder to muster up when you don’t feel well, and feeling well means having a healthy body. Burnout that comes from a disconnection with the body typically stems from: 

  • Poor diet
  • Use/abuse of alcohol and drugs, including caffeine
  • Lack of quality sleep, insufficient movement
  • A chronic infection or undiagnosed illness
  • Being in an unhealthy environment, such as a “sick building”  

Spirit Not necessarily related to religion or dogma, the spirit area deals with feelings, gut instinct and intuition. The spirit balance is threatened by: 

  • An atmosphere where integrity is not valued 
  • An environment that is not supportive or appreciative 
  • People who do not hold the same values 
  • A feeling of lacking – time, money, energy, confidence 
  • Excessive competition 

To help figure out the root of your burnout, take the time to make some honest observations. Try to identify the source of your distress by asking some frank questions, such as: 

  • How long have I felt this discomfort? Did something seem to trigger it? 
  • When do I feel poorly? Only at work? All the time? 
  • Is there a pattern to how I feel? Is it worse after I eat? More intense on Monday mornings? 

Finally, you may find it helpful to document your feelings and patterns of behavior. Keeping a journal for a month will give you good insight into what may be precipitating your bad days. Try to journal when you first wake up in the morning. Writing in the morning when your thoughts are not jaded by the day’s events will yield the most insights. Jot down what you ate the evening before, and what time you went to bed. How do you feel in general and specifically about the day ahead? What are you worried about? Looking forward to? Rate your energy and enthusiasm levels on a scale from 1-10.  

Don’t look at your entries until the entire month has elapsed, then read your journal, with an eye toward finding the root of the problem, or at the clues to when it seems worst.