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8 Ways To Avoid Work Burnout

Written by: Aurée de Carbon, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


The global pandemic, which started in 2020, as well as natural disasters and the impending global economic crisis, have impacted everyone. All these factors are having a snowball effect and contributing to increased stress and anxiety in people, affecting them not only personally but also professionally. Last year alone, 25% of women in the UK considered quitting their jobs due to burnout, even though they recovered for a short time, only to fall back into stress and discouragement.

stress looking woman holding her head

In 2016, I had already published an article on this topic that is close to my heart, having survived 2 burnouts myself when I was working in the private sector. It's quite incredible, I'll share with you, that since I've been working 7/7 for the nonprofit sector, with extremely stretchy hours, I haven't been on a single day of sick leave or burnout! I'll come back to this a little later.

2023 could be another year of burnouts. According to a recently published book entitled "Burnout: A Guide to Identifying Burnout and Pathways to Recovery" by Gordon Parker, Gabriela Tavella and Kerrie Eyers, burnout can lead to depression and decreased performance in the workplace.

But what is burnout? This word is often used nowadays. The question is to know what it really means, because we must now differentiate between burn-out, bore-out and brown-out. Let's try to find out.

According to the World Health Organization, "burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic occupational stress that has not been successfully managed. Its characteristics include three dimensions:

  • feelings of exhaustion or lack of energy.

  • increased mental distance from their job, or feelings of negativity or cynicism about their job; and

  • reduced professional efficiency.

A little history... The term is found in one of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets in 1599, a poem that refers to the love of a woman who is exhausted.

In 1869, the New York neurologist George Beard used the term "neurasthenia" to describe a very broad condition caused by exhaustion of the nervous system. The concept became popular The rest cure was a commonly prescribed treatment (although there are many others), which is equivalent to the sick leave of varying lengths that companies generate by ignoring the warning signs of quiet, high-performing employees who are straining for recognition.

The 3 Bs: etymologies and translations

Each of these pathologies corresponds to a form that burnout takes. However, in French, burnout syndrome only refers to burnout because it is the first pathology to have been identified.

Bore-out and Brown-out, derive their names from Burn-out.

  • Burn-out comes from burnout: to burn, consume, exhaust, extinguish, overwork. At the origin of burn-out, we find an overload of work combined with an over-investment (need for recognition)

  • Bore-out comes from to bore: to bore, to weary, to which the suffix-out has been added. Bore-out comes from underwork and the chronic boredom that can result, a classic tactic used in some companies to try to get rid of an employee. Of course, it can also happen in companies in decline or crisis, whose order books are empty, generating a lassitude within the team.

  • The brown-out for him is a borrowing from the vocabulary of energy. In English brown-out means a drop in the voltage of the power supply. Here, the loss of commitment causes a decrease in commitment and efficiency.

Now that we see more clearly the difference between these three conditions, let's try to better understand together what leads to Burn Out and how to overcome it. Here are some simple but effective mindset changes to deal with feelings of burnout.

1. Focus on things you can control

Feelings of exhaustion, pessimism, and lack of accomplishment are reminiscent of disempowerment and usually occur when we consider things that are beyond our control (e.g., the global economy, increased workload, and job uncertainty, among others). As the loss of control increases, so does our stress and anxiety. If we do the opposite, our sense of empowerment increases, we begin to feel in control again, and we fill our spiritual, mental, and emotional reservoirs.

2. Set realistic expectations

Setting unrealistic expectations leads to high stress and burnout. Think about what you can accomplish in each day or week, with achievable goals. Try to prioritize and focus on the most important tasks rather than doing everything at once. By being reasonable in your expectations, you will be less stressed, and your chances of success will increase. It is normal not to accomplish everything. This way, you can manage your time and energy more effectively, which will reduce the risk of burnout.

3. Learn how to say no

People who please people tend to be extremely at risk for burnout. If you don't learn to say no, you can always say yes, even if you are no longer able to perform the task to the best of your ability. You tend to over-promise and under-deliver. However, a person must learn to say no politely. You can't just say "no" and leave people hanging. There are many ways to refuse requests without creating tension in the workplace.

4. Compete with yourself and not with others

We all have that one friend who always seems to have time on his hands. The friend who can afford a vacation in Europe or somewhere else in the world. Being interested in others can inspire some people to have big dreams, work hard and become the person they aspire to be. However, some people fall into the trap of comparing themselves to others to the point of ruin and dissatisfaction. We must remember that everyone has their own pace and time to shine. Just because someone you know or see on social media is doing very well in a short amount of time doesn't mean you should do the same. It may take time to achieve success. You just need to stay motivated, persevere and commit to YOUR goals.

5. Always set vacation time with family

Most people do not set aside vacation time for their families. Researchers report that 48% of workers feel better and more positive in the workplace after taking a vacation. Taking a vacation keeps you positive. In most cases, your family will support you, no matter how serious, difficult, or challenging your situation is. Friends, colleagues, and acquaintances come and go, but family stays. If you have annual leave, use it and take your family with you. Make time for them and create happy, lasting memories, which will lift your spirits and give you a positive outlook.

6. Develop other non-work-related skills, hobbies, and interests

People whose identity is based solely on work are likely to burn out. A person will be happier and more fulfilled if they spend their time on interests and hobbies outside of the office. You can always go back to the things you enjoyed as a child or teenager. You can even try new things like learning a foreign language, volunteering in a mission, or joining a sports team. Your life doesn't have to revolve around work. If you make your work life the center of your universe and things don't go as planned, you'll quickly burn out and feel like the world is ending. Having new skills, hobbies, and interests allows you to escape stress, anxiety, and even depression.

7. Recharge

It would be best to recharge during the day. You can still be healthy by taking walks that will help you stay in shape. You can also ask a colleague to join you for a coffee. You'll be happier and live longer if you build positive relationships at the office. If you feel stuck on a task, you can take a short break. Stay away from the screen. Try to clear your mind. Sometimes the clearest mind brings the most creative ideas. However, sometimes breaks are not enough to cure your burnout. Outside of vacationing with your family, you can take some "me time." Give yourself time to relax, unwind and recharge.

8. Evaluate your career path

If you are staying in the same position in your job and are experiencing symptoms of burnout, you should take time to reflect on your career. You should consider whether your values have changed since you started in your profession. You may be overloaded or not sufficiently challenged. You need to ask yourself these questions to determine what is right for you. Getting stuck in a situation and not doing anything about it will leave you feeling dissatisfied, frustrated, and disappointed. Only you can get out of this situation, so consider other career options to stay motivated, challenged, and happy at work.

It is normal to feel tired or bored at times. What is not good is to over-invest in a function in the expectation of recognition or to flee from an aspect of personal life that is not very fulfilling, because, far from solving the problem on which we throw a handkerchief, this headlong rush prevents us from taking advantage of a chance to be happy. Calling an expert, or talking to a doctor about your condition, is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it is a healthy reflex. The support and advice of family and friends can help, as long as you are willing to open up to others, to share your weaknesses without considering them as weaknesses. Break down the armor that swallows you up under mounds of files to appear to others, to try to be valued. Because everything we have just discussed is about one thing: self-esteem, overestimation, underestimation, the esteem that others have for us or that we want them to have for us. So, drop the armor, be yourself, trust yourself and if you are not recognized at your true value where you are, change your objective, your goal, and your work!

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Aurée de Carbon, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Aurée is the founder and the owner of CARRHURE, an Executive Search Firm specialized in the Not-for-Profit sector. A French native, Aurée has 30 years of professional experience. Her exceptional empathy, expertise in identifying and assessing candidates as well as her servant leadership style make her approach unique. Prior to establishing CARRHURE, Aurée was Director International for several retained executive search firms where she directed engagements for large NGOs specialized in Agriculture, Climate Change and Health. She began her career managing sales and marketing efforts for French medias and the banking sectors (BNP and HSBC) as Wealth Management Advisor. She holds a BA in Arts from University Paris X and a degree in Communication and Marketing. She is a certified professional Coach, PNL technician and she is certified in several assessment Tools, such as 360° and DISC Model. Aurée is fluent in French and English.


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