Beating Burnout and How to Effectively Manage It

I get it. Beating burnout feels really scary.

To many people, it feels like the end of the line. Burnout occurs when you’re fed up and exhausted and need something to change right away.

It can feel like your current circumstances are unsustainable, and when you’re the breadwinner or have been at the same company for decades, burnout feels like the worst thing that can possibly happen.

Take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay.

When my clients start spiraling, I like to tell them about a gift I got from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). When I was training for my certification, they gave everyone in our class a rock. The word “PROBLEM” was etched on one side, and on the other, “SOLUTION.”

In other words, every problem has a solution. Your solid and unshakeable foundation comes from that understanding. It’s your rock. If you have a problem, there’s a solution. You just have to find it.

Burnout is just another opportunity. It’s a problem to solve.

Problem-solving starts with awareness. Get curious about burnout. Understand exactly what you’re dealing with so you can manage it healthfully.

Did you know there are 3 types of burnout? It shows up in different ways for different people.

Keep reading. I will cover the 3 types of burnout—overload burnout, under-challenged burnout, and neglect burnout—plus simple and actionable ways to overcome them.

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Overload Burnout

Researchers have identified 3 types of burnout, with overload burnout the most common. When you think of beating burnout, this is the type you’re likely most familiar with.

Overload burnout happens when you’re overwhelmed and feel unable to keep up with life’s excessive demands. You have too much on your plate, and adding one more task or item to your to-do list can feel like a tipping point.

If you’re still unsure whether you’re suffering from overload burnout, here’s an example (the “problem”) as well as some strategies to keep burnout at bay (“solution”).

Problem:

Jessica got right to the point:
She desperately needed something to give.

From the outside, it may have appeared that Jessica had the “ideal life.” By day, she was a high-achieving executive. On afternoons, nights, and weekends, she was a dedicated mom.

The problem? She felt like she was drowning. Jessica didn’t feel like a very good employee. She found it difficult to focus at work. Her calendar was packed, and her to-do list seemed never-ending. She was beyond frustrated and lived for the end of the day when she would get to go home.

And… then guess what happened at home?

Instead of enjoying her time away from the office, Jessica felt swamped at home too. She spent her afternoons and evenings driving her kids to and from sports practice. Then, it was helping them with their homework and arranging their events and appointments. AND while doing all these things, she answered emails and extinguished little fires at work.

Even if her schedule at home didn’t feel overwhelming, she wasn’t there for it. She wasn’t wholly present for her children. She was too busy worrying about work and working after hours.

This is a classic example of burnout overload. Jessica’s burnout was extreme, and beating it wasn’t something she could take lightly.

Solution:

During our work together, Jessica quit her executive job, took some time off to reflect and regroup, and started her own consulting business. Those are the specifics, but what happened behind the scenes? What did Jessica actually do to heal from overload burnout?

Beating burnout, especially overload burnout, comes from restoring balance in your life. You’re overloaded at work and may even be overloaded at home.

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To heal:
Take a step back. Get some distance from what you’re feeling.

It can be challenging to make sense of things in the thick of it. Try journaling or talking to a friend or coach for new insights to help you move forward. Of all types of burnout, overload burnout often requires removing yourself from the situation—temporarily or, if it’s extreme, for good. Get some distance and watch new insights flood in.

Identify your problem areas.

Overload burnout happens when we devote so much time and energy to one or two areas of life we seriously neglect the others. Sometimes, we don’t even know there are other areas we might be neglecting. That’s why I refer nearly all my clients to The Wheel of Life.

The Wheel of Life identifies eight buckets or areas of life. These buckets include career/profession, family/parenting, personal development, spiritual awareness, fun & enjoyment, relationship, health/aging, and personal finance. What feels most neglected if you’re pouring everything into your career bucket? You may feel especially bereft without meaningful friendships, good nutrition, sleep, or any sort of spiritual practice. When you know what’s lacking, you can address it. 

Start small.

Ironically, clients who are experiencing overload burnout may feel too overwhelmed to do something about it at first. It becomes yet another thing to do—ANOTHER task they don’t know how to fit into their jam-packed schedule.

My recommendation is to start small. For example, if you’re working every single night after leaving the office, not working nights at all can feel like too big of a leap. You have too much to do. It’s not practical. Start with setting aside one or two nights and commit to not doing any work. You can add more over time!

Under-Challenged Burnout

Most people don’t think of burnout as not doing enough or not being challenged enough. Yet many people experience it that way. It’s one of the least known types of burnout, yet it can be just as frustrating and debilitating as the others.

Beating burnout is different when you’re dealing with under-challenged burnout. Under-challenged burnout is the flipside of the coin. Instead of feeling overwhelmed or like you have too much to do, you feel like your knowledge, wisdom, and skills aren’t being put to the test. It feels like your talents are wasted. You’re withering away for the sake of a paycheck. You don’t feel fulfilled by what you do.

Problem: 

Lynn approached me because “she couldn’t take it anymore.” Her job paid well enough and gave her reasonable security, but it was the same thing repeatedly, day after day.

Lynn did not feel challenged by her work. She didn’t feel engaged. Worst of all, Lynn felt underutilized. Lynn prided herself on being a lifelong learner and having a solid work ethic, but her corporate job just didn’t ask that much of her. It felt like a job anyone could do.

Leadership positions were few and far between. Lynn didn’t foresee solving her problem by moving up the chain, and she didn’t even know if she wanted to. More than anything, she wanted to get out of that environment entirely. She couldn’t imagine finding meaning there.

Solution:

After some soul-searching, Lynn decided to return to her passion, freelancing writing and started her own writing business.

Under-challenged burnout, like overload burnout, requires serious inner work. Turn your focus within and ask questions. Why is your work so unfulfilling? What challenges you? What do you need to feel challenged at work?

Get really honest about the answers and your personal needs. Some people thrive when they have a routine. Other people need to mix things up. They need variety to succeed. Write a list of things you need from a career to feel happy and motivated and search for opportunities with your “must-haves” in mind.

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Neglect Burnout

The final type of burnout is neglect burnout. Neglect burnout involves constantly doubting yourself and your abilities. It’s closely tied to imposter syndrome.

It might arise when you get very little feedback at work. Maybe your boss is mainly laid back, or your role lacks structure. Any of these things can fuel feelings of doubt and lead to neglect burnout.

As you can imagine, beating burnout is different when it’s neglect burnout. The other types of burnout, overload burnout, and under-challenged burnout, deal with what you do (too much or too little) and how you feel about it. Neglect burnout is all about your perspective.

Problem:

A client recently got an offer for a well-paid, competitive role—a role most people would be tripping over themselves to get—and he turned it down.

His reasoning is that he didn’t think he was full of doubts. He doubted his ability to do the job. He felt underqualified, too disorganized, and “too old.”

Solution:

Together, we slowly peeled back the layers until we discovered what was at the heart of his problem. It wasn’t about the job he turned down—or any other job he’s had. For him, it was about “failing” to meet his father’s sky-high expectations.

Once we unpacked that and could see where his true motivations were coming from, we were able to poke holes in them. Did he want to live his whole life that way? Was he falling short of his dad’s unreasonable expectations? Ask where your doubts are really coming from. Is it you? Is it a parent, boss, society, or your peers?

If you’re experiencing neglect burnout, I highly encourage you to get clear on what YOU want and what’s important to you. Complete a values exercise. Decide what truly drives you. Forget about what other people think.

When you do this work, you can pinpoint what makes you proud. You will build your self-worth and feel more comfortable in your skin. Your motivation will come from YOU. I know it can feel like it, but burnout is not the end of the world.

More and more workers report feeling underappreciated and unengaged. In other words, burnout is a common problem—and it’s becoming even more common.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of overload burnout, under-challenged burnout, or neglect burnout, cultivate awareness and return to what you know. Learn about the different types of burnout and think about your rock (“every problem has a solution”).

With some deep introspection, self-reflection, and intention to restore more balance to your life, beating burnout is very possible. Anyone willing to put in the work can do it. Beating burnout is an opportunity. It’s your call to honor all parts of yourself. It might not feel like it right now, but it can be a beautiful and eye-opening stepping stone on your path.

If you need an extra loving nudge to reframe your current experience and get the most out of it, I’d love to be your coach on this journey. Set up a call and introduce yourself.

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