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It’s Not Just Work That Burns Us Out

Written by: Ellyn Schinke, 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.


This morning, I answered a question for a subscriber inside of my Burnout Membership and my answer included, “we can burnout on our burnout recovery journey…”

I stand by those words…

You see, most of us think of burnout as something that is specifically related to our careers. We burnout at work, right? And nowhere else…except that’s not true. The first thing I say in damn near every talk I’ve ever given is this: burnout is holistic.

Not only is it holistic because most of us are not capable of compartmentalizing work burnout away from the rest of our lives, but it’s also holistic because, well, any part of our lives can truly burn us out. And I mean any.


And we can do that in any part of our lives, but today, I want to talk about the main parts of our lives that I think are the biggest non-work threats to our burnout.

  • Our relationships

  • Our workout routines

  • Our goals

  • Our environment

  • Our social lives

  • Our mindset

Firstly, relationships. I’m not going to talk about this one too much today because I posted an article on this topic last week. All I’ll say is this: our relationships burn us out when we feel undervalued and underappreciated in them. Just like the boss that doesn’t appreciate us at work, our other relationships can burn us out in a similar way.

Our workouts. Our workouts can also burn us out. And it’s not just me that thinks so. The National Association for Sports Medicine (NASM) literally has an entire article published on their website all about exercise burnout. Exercise burnout comes from various factors over time and, well, when we don’t listen to it, it can derail us. Even when we have the best intentions.

We burnout out from exercise and working out when we’re not adequately recovering, which can lead to physical burnout, when we do workouts that we found boring, uninspiring, or unenjoyable, or when we’re sick of being inside. That last one is actually a big reason why I’ve given myself permission to swap my workout for a walk when it’s really nice outside. I’m not a big runner, but I want to enjoy the sunshine, you know? Hell, it doesn’t happen a lot in the Seattle area!

It’s not just our workouts, though. It can be our very healthy habits. I have seen so many well-meaning members in my membership or former clients who set this beautiful plan for themselves and their health habits. They’re going to wake up at 6 am, meditate for 15 minutes, read 2 chapters, do a 45-minute workout, stretch for 15 minutes, do gratitudes and affirmations while cooking a delicious breakfast and sipping on coffee, all before 8 am and the start of their day. Then, at the end of their day, they’re going to wind down with some yoga flow, do their 2nd daily meditation, before doing some reading and journaling in bed. Oh, and they meal prep every morning while drinking celery juice and matcha.

It sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? Aspirational almost, right? But…it’s a lot. And the problem for most of us is that a) we go from 0 to 60 (from no habits to all the habits) and b) we refuse to accept imperfection. Not only that, but health habits like this don’t allow for the day where your manager meeting runs long, keeping you at the office for an extra 2 hours or for when your baby won’t go down for a nap. Health habits like this don’t allow for life to happen, and we certainly don’t either.

That’s what I mean when I say our health habits can burn us out. Sometimes we have so many and we expect ourselves to engage in them so perfectly, sometimes the mere act of trying to keep up with Sally the YouTube Influencer (who—btw—is kidless and has someone else prepping her meals that she doesn’t tell you about) or the crazy expectations she’s implanted in our brains of what’s “necessary” to be mindful and stress-free? That can drive us to burnout as well.

My recommendation? Keep it simple. Keep your workouts simple. Keep your habits simple. Keep your routines simple. If you want to build on your habits, build one new habit at a time and if it doesn’t work, don’t force yourself to keep it! A habit only works if it works for you.

Our goals. This is high-achiever 101. We love goals. We love projects. We love accomplishing and achieving things, right?! So, what do we do? We put too much on our plates. And because we can be unforgiving and perfectionistic, with expectations and ambitious that far achieve reality, we run ourselves into the ground doing too much. I literally did a newsletter to my list not too long ago about exactly this: how I got over-ambitious and put too much on my plate this new year because I was just legitimately so excited about doing all of these different things.

It’s not a bad thing to be ambitious. It’s not a bad thing to have high standards! But, what we need to do is bring a little bit more practicality into things! What we need to do is to constantly ask ourselves, do I actually have enough time to do these things that I want to do? Are there enough hours in the day? And, as I hinted at in a recent podcast, YES! There are!

There’s always enough time in the day, but if we’re finding that there feels like there isn’t, that means a) we’ve overcommitted ourselves and b) we need to adjust our timelines. Our goals are never too big… our timelines are often too short. And if we let our inner perfectionist get in the way, those timelines and unrealistic expectations are going to drive us into the ground and burn us out just as much as anything.

Our environment. This is a little bit of an abstract one, but speaking as someone who is planning on moving apartments at the end of her lease because her environment isn’t conducive to good rest in any of its forms, I definitely believe that our environment can burn us out. But that’s also not the only way that your environment can burn you out…

In my memberships, I have discussed the tidying movement and how many people are living with less. Marie Kondo. The Home Edit. Tiny Homes. Minimalism. Hell, I’m doing a no-spend challenge right now because I’m just recognizing that a) I don’t need more stuff, and b) I tend to shop for stuff I don’t need to numb and deal with my emotions. But, it’s not just me waving my hands and connecting seemingly unrelated dots. There’s research that backs me up too (science bitch). There was a DePaul University researcher, aptly named Dr. Joseph Ferrari, said:

“The more clutter one has on one’s desk, in one’s office, the less productivity they have, the higher the rate of burnout, the more emotional burnout will experience...”


Another UCLA study showed that clutter is directly tied to stress levels, especially in women.

Think about how peaceful it feels when your kitchen counters are clean, there are no dishes to do or dishwashers to unload, the carpets are vacuumed, the laundry is folded, the bed is made and the clothes are all put away. This honestly sounds so peaceful it seems like a dream (just me?!)…but that’s what I mean! When our environment is clean, decluttered, calming, peaceful, etc. (or at the very least conducive to these things)(, it makes a difference in our stress and on our ability to recover at the end of the day.

But, I don’t think it stops there. I think our environment outside of our physical living space matters to. If you don’t live in a space where you feel safe, it’s going to impact your stress and your ability to unwind. If your basic needs—a grocery store, gas station, doctor’s offices, etc.—aren’t easily accessible to you in your environment, it’s going to impact your stress and burnout. If you don’t have connections and close relationships nearby to you, it’s going to impact your environment. Hell, it’s even little things like “do I have a trail nearby that I can go walk on?” that impact my burnout and stress levels.

Our environment and the ways it impacts our burnout and stress are nuanced and complex. So, don’t sleep on your environment. It matters.

Our social lives. I said in the last point that not having easy access to loved ones and close relationships can impact our stress, but simultaneously our social lives can impact us and burn us out if we’re overcommitting ourselves socially. You see, it’s not just about taking on too much and doing too much on our to-do lists or in our personal goals. Sometimes we have too much happening socially, and that can burn us out too.

I think of everything that we have going on in our lives as a plate. Our goals. Our workouts. Our habits. Our relationships. Our work. Our sleep. All of those things go on a plate and for most of us, our plates are like American Thanksgiving all day, everyday—and that’s just not sustainable. Instead, we need to adapt our social schedules to our season.

If we’re in a hustle season with our goals and work, then we need to back off on the social commitments for a while. If we’re not and things are a little bit lighter and a little bit easier, then beef up the social calendar.

The bottom line is that we don’t want our social lives to add to the burnout and stress we’re already feeling. We don’t want to feel like our social lives are taking from us and our sanity, and if we do feel that way, we need to do less. Say no more. The people who love you will understand.

Our mindset. So much of the work I do is about shifting our mindsets away from perfectionism, away from always doing more, away from hustle, away from busy-ness as the only avenue for success. So much of my content in my coaching has pivoted away from “achieve more with less burnout” to helping us “work less and live more.”

So many of us have been rewarded for doing “more” our entire lives. We’ve been rewarded for being overscheduled and busy since we were teenagers. We’re praised for all the things we can juggle and all the plates we can keep in the air—the ninja who can handle 80 bajillion projects and the supermom who can do it all and make it look easy. We’re praised, validated, and rewarded for that, and some of us thrive in that external validation.

I’m an Enneagram 3 and my love language is words of affirmation. I’m externally validated to boot. It’s kind of a perfect storm. And I had to question for myself, “yes, I’ve been validated for this, but do I want this in my life anymore?” I may have been validated for these things my entire life, but is the lifestyle I want anymore? Sure, I can do it and I can succeed doing it. I can make it look easy, sure. But the fact of the matter is, I don’t want that anymore.

That’s where the mindset shift comes in. That’s where awareness comes in—to have the ability to look at your life and say “yes, I could do this, but I don’t want it” becomes so powerfully impactful. And until we can step into that and give yourselves permission to do less. So many of the mindset shifts we make in our lives come down to that: can we give ourselves permission to want something different, to do something different and to have different values? Until we can give yourselves permission to make that shift, burnout will persist.

You may have heard me say that “burnout happens, but staying burned out is a choice.” This mindset component is where that statement comes from because, for many of us, the burnout in our lives is coming from the choices we’re making in. And sometimes we make choices because we feel like we have to. Like we’re forced to because of the external circumstances of our lives. But we’re not. We have more choices than we think we do. We’re not as trapped as think we are. And as soon as we can realize and accept that, that’s when the massive changes start to happen—and start to shift!

So much of my content is about learning to recognize these mindsets are that are holding us back and learning how to work around them.

If you need support with this, check out my memberships and my coaching options! I also offer single coaching sessions which you can book on my scheduling page.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Ellyn Schinke, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Ellyn Schinke is a former scientist turned top coach and international speaker specializing in burnout and stress management. After burning out while pursuing her Ph.D., Ellyn was sick of all the cookie-cutter, BS burnout tips online and sought out the real, tangible tactics that would actually make a difference in her life. As a result, burnout when from being her lifestyle to her passion. Now, she's focused on helping corporate professionals and businesses free themselves from burnout and take back their lives. Ellyn is the founder and CEO of Coach Ellyn LLC, one of the top burnout coaches on Google, host of the Burned Out to Badass podcast, and more. Her mission: Make burnout a choice.



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