What is Burnout?

Casey Mazzotti

June 09, 2021

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Burnout seems to be a hot topic these days, but what does it actually mean? And how do you know if you're experiencing it yourself?

Defining the Term

According to the APA (American Psychological Association) dictionary, burnout refers to "physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes towards oneself and others".

What Can Cause Burnout?

Burnout is a cause for concern because it can lead to health issues for the person experiencing burnout, and it may also lead to mistakes at work.

When someone's work involves a lot of stress but little recovery time, or if someone has a lot of difficulty in finding a work/life balance due to the nature of their work, that may contribute to feelings of burnout, especially if that person's workplace does not align with their values.

How Can You Address It?

There are strategies you can use to manage feelings of burnout. However, if you feel you may be experiencing burnout, it may be most helpful to get in touch with a mental health professional who can help you better understand and navigate your individual experience(s).

One way you might be able to reduce feelings of burnout is to delegate tasks where you're able - taking some of the weight off of your own shoulders and decreasing your workload may be helpful in reducing feelings of burnout.

Seek out support from friends, family, colleagues, or trusted mental health professionals. You may want to find a mentor who can understand your experience and feelings and may have experienced a similar situation.

Prioritize your wellness. It's well-known that a healthy lifestyle can have a positive impact on general health - mental health included. This goes hand-in-hand with prioritizing your self-care.

Take breaks. It's necessary to take breaks throughout your day - even if it's 5-10 minutes at a time. You may use that time to do a little mindfulness, meditation, or deep breathing exercise. Or simply go for a short walk away from your workstation.

Take time for yourself. Set your phone down, step away from your computer, and engage in something you know relaxes you. Maybe that's reading a book, discovering new music, sewing, etc. - finding a hobby that you can get lost in might help you relax from your everyday stresses.

Evaluate your goals and work situation. If you feel that your work environment simply does not align with your values, goals, or lifestyle needs, it may be worth assessing what type of work will actually be a good fit for you.

If you're experiencing burnout, you're not alone. There are ways in which you can work to reduce those feelings. However, if you're feeling serious feelings of burnout, or any other symptoms of anxiety or depression, don't hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional. They are there to help you better understand your feelings and navigate your experiences.

To learn more about burnout, check out this WITI Summit talk.


APA Dictionary of Psychology. Retrieved 8 June 2021, from https://dictionary.apa.org/burnout

Are you burned out?. Retrieved 9 June 2021, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2018/02/ce-corner

Avoid the burn. Retrieved 8 June 2021, from https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2011/03/corner

Burn-out an "occupational phenomenon": International Classification of Diseases. Retrieved 9 June 2021, from https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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