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How To Overcome Burnout And Build Resilience – How To Recognize And Overcome Chronic Stress

Written by: Adam Markel, 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.


Over two million people left the Dust Bowl states in the 1930’s. This migration was one of the largest in American history. The story of the Dust Bowl teaches us an important lesson about burnout. Just like the farmers who continuously planted crops in the same fields and burned out the soil, chronic burnout can deplete our resilience and make it more difficult for us to recover from unexpected challenges.

Young attractive woman at modern office desk feeling stress

Leading up to the year 1930, farmers toiled away in the same fields. Year after year, encouraged by economical shifts from WW1 and record wheat prices, they were depleting the very soil they depended on for their survival. By the time 1930 rolled around, conditions were already set for a disaster that would rock the dust bowl states. This burnout of the soil led way to giant dust storms, thus giving the era its unique name. The dust bowl situation is similar to the rampant burnout afflicting our workforce currently. Chronic stress, leading to burnout, depletes our resilience, making it nearly impossible to recover from unexpected challenges. According to a recent survey by Indeed, employee burnout has worsened over the last year, with more than half of respondents reporting feeling burned out and more than two-thirds believing the feeling worsened over the course of the pandemic. Even those working virtually are not immune. These results are consistent with the findings of our Resilient Leader Assessment, which showed that many of us are anxious with uncertainty and hovering precariously close to depletion. This 16-question survey was developed to measure participants' resilience on a scale from 0 to 100. The assessment measures resilience in four different zones: mental, physical, spiritual and emotional. With more than 5,000 professionals and leaders having already participated in this assessment, this is what we know:

  • Vulnerable to acute events due to chronic stress:34%

  • Aggregate resilience score overall: 64.2 out of 100 (this is the statistic that shows us the majority of participants are hovering dangerously close to burnout.)

  • Potential productivity gains from recovery skills: 35.8%

Burnout can manifest as emotional and physical exhaustion, a reduced sense of accomplishment, and activity devaluation. In the most simple terms, burnout is equivalent to exhaustion that touches every part of your life. Suddenly, simple tasks or tasks you used to enjoy seem pointless or worse, impossible.

Burnout and depletion often create new problems we never could have foreseen. This alone makes prevention so very important.

The key to rectifying depletion is what the dust bowl farmers learned the hard way. We must employ regenerative practices to recharge and replenish what has been depleted. To do this also means avoiding burnout - of the soil (and, of ourselves) - in the first place. Taking care of oneself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually is not selfish, but rather creates a model for others to follow - and then it becomes cultural. Resilient individuals create resilient teams and resilient teams have the capacity to change anything for the better.

If you want to become change-proof – a term I coined that means you can utilize change to accelerate success, rather than becoming burned out - it’s important to be honest with yourself. Even if you are in a position of leadership, being able to say, “I’m burned out. I need to change” is wildly important to your long-term resilience and success.

Burnout is the enemy of resilience and early detection is difficult because the symptoms can remain unnoticed for a long time. Admitting that you feel depleted and seeking support from those around you is the first step to recovery. With the proper support, burnout is solvable. With the proper resilience training, burnout is preventable.

Remember that burnout is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign that you need to take a step back and reevaluate your priorities. By taking care of yourself and building resilience, you can overcome burnout and thrive in all areas of your life.

At WorkWellwe like to say that “The better version of you is better in everything.” Put another way, if you want your people to work well, they need to BE well.

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Adam Markel, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Bestselling author, keynote speaker, workplace expert and resilience researcher Adam Markel inspires leaders to master the challenges of massive disruption in his new book, “Change Proof — Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-Term Resilience” (McGraw-Hill, Feb. 22, 2022). Adam is author of the 1 Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller, “Pivot: The Art & Science of Reinventing Your Career and Life.” Learn more at



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