How to know if you’re burned out and what to do.

Are you feeling burned out? Certainly many working in Universities all over the world are. But how can you truly know, and what should you do if so?

With passing months of chronically altered work and home lives: there are compounding harms that influence both the efforts required of us and our capacity to meet these demands.

As with many challenges to our mental health: burnout does not self-identify. It can be difficult to know then when we are personally at high risk or even be experiencing burnout. Certainly, in our careers we’ve both experienced forms of burnout before. While we made a clear commitment to channel learning from these challenging experiences into our own subsequent efforts supporting colleagues and academics through various platforms—the actual experience of burnout is more a fog than crystal clear.

What does burnout feel like? What characterizes burnout? How can I recognize burnout or its risk in myself when I am also a person who may be burned out? There’s simply no way of stepping out of myself. Burnout may feel as much like being chronically lost or even confused as exhausted. It can be reflected in the big things—major health events that may even be life threatening—or the small things, like feeling a vacuum of nothing as you face your working week.
While some people are blessed with the emotional literacy or ability to step back and find true perspective around burnout—for most of us, this is really challenging. Our personal optimism can act to reassure us that everything’s going to be okay. Or our harsh self-judgement can trick us into thinking we’re weak, misplaced, or lazy.

This month’s remarkable resource can help you identify and address the real risk of burnout in your life. As we struggle to understand and interpret our own experiences, these insights can help us distinguish when we’re burned out from when we’re not. Understanding better what is really wrong with us is the necessary and vital first step to addressing what ails us. Not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.


Are You Burned Out? Or Is It Something Else?

by Kandi Wiens and Peter Loper

In her recent book, “The Burnout Epidemic”, Jennifer Moss concludes that burnout is characterized by energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from ones job with heightened negativity, and reduced professional efficacy. The most common causes of burnout based on research, Moss concludes are: workload, perceived lack of control, lack of reward or recognition, poor relationships, lack of fairness, and values mismatches. [read article in full]


Many varied experiences in the workplace are being labelled as “burnout”—real burnout is hard to recognize in ourselves, and distinguish from other common negative work views or patterns.

Key questions to determine if you’re burned out, based on research, are:

Do I deserve more?

Many of us expect to feel more valued in our workplace—but red flags for burnout extend from this to high disengagement and strong and enduring emotional depletion, and pessimism.

Is this what I signed up for?

Many of us feel we’re asked to do work tasks that are not well aligned with our preferences. However, burnout is signaled by stress stemming from deep misalignment with the organization’s values, culture, other colleagues, or sector / profession.

Do I work to keep up or to escape?

Being tired, working long hours, or even being that textbook ‘workaholic’ themselves don’t signal burnout. However, if you overwork to avoid reflection on your own difficult emotions about your work or life—this is another sign of burnout.


Do you think you have ever experienced burnout related to your work? What signs were there that burnout was or is present, or a likely risk for you?

What can or have you done to address burnout in your life? We encourage anyone who thinks they may be burned out to seek help from their health professionals, occupational supports, or evidence-based resources, such as from the Mayo Clinic.

Is there evidence that your colleagues or team may be burned out? If you think burnout is common in your workplace, how are you encouraging team members to address and reduce their burnout risk? Harnessing workplace approaches to burnout may be helpful.